The job market is tough today, especially when you consider that the government's inflated and expansive definition of a "job" includes part-time employment, temporary work and even unpaid work for the family.
We hear a lot of tales about the inability of workers over 50 to get a job, perhaps in part because of their age. There's no doubt some truth to such tales, but at the same time there's also truth to the notion that when the job market stinks, it's tough for just about anyone to find work and even lawyers are being laid off. In today's employment world it's a buyer's market and employers are the buyers.
For those over 50 -- and I have not been 50 since the 1990s -- there are complaints that job interviewers are mere youngsters who somehow do not recognize the skills, experience and outright brilliance of older potential workers, individuals inconveniently burdened with wrinkles and sags. The implication is clear: If you can't get past the Praetorian guard of youthful interviewers you'll never reach the promised land of regular paychecks and solid benefits.
This view of age-based exceptionalism needs to be re-visited. Those above age 50 looking for a job or a client must realize this is not the job market of our youth. Things are different today both for part-time and full-time employment but that doesn't mean you can't compete for a paycheck or project. Here are a few tips:
First, respect those younger than you. Didn't you regard yourself as pretty smart two or three decades ago? Why should people now in their twenties and thirties think any less of themselves? If you see people as your peers and equals you'll do a lot better in the interview process. Besides, the younger people you meet have earned their positions -- and the right to your respect. If they're so dumb how come they have desks, titles and can qualify for a mortgage?
Second, get smart. You may have 30 years of experience with the FlomThread 360 but today everyone is using the HashiButa TruePress 280, a digital machine that replaces 41 steps required under the old system. Can you use the new equipment or not? Can you learn the new system?
Third, know the employer. You can find out a lot about an organization not only from its website but also in the local newspaper and on blogs that track a given industry which includes the firm and its competitors. What are the issues it faces? What makes it a good place to work? What do other workers say?
Fourth, do you know anyone in the company or the field? Personal references go a long way and can help get you in the door. That said, personal references are not enough to keep a job. You must perform.
Fifth, do you have viral references? Can you point to URLs which feature your work, awards, opinions, or work-related recognition? If you have social media accounts make sure you have a nice head shot and remove any items which can be seen as inappropriate. Is this a form of self-censorship? You bet. Welcome to the real world, do you want a job or not?
Jobs and Employers: What They Really Want
Sixth, you routinely hear people say they want a given job because they need the money or they'll work hard. This is true of every applicant. What the interviewer really wants to hear is how you can help the employer, how the employer will benefit. Look at the job issue from the employer's perspective, you'll do better.
Seventh, learn to say yes. When someone describes a problem don't tell them it can't be done -- it will be done by someone, maybe you. Explain how to solve the problem, what steps are required and how best to approach the issue.
Eighth, getting a job is a numbers game. The odds of getting one "yes" are far greater if you apply in 100 places then if you try for three favorites. A lot of applications will not only keep you busy but if you're getting unemployment big numbers will also please state bureaucrats. To be efficient have a standard resume you can customize to fit individual job opportunities.
Ninth, think about the needs of the people with whom you're communicating. When they ask for a document or a follow-up response they mean now. Use a spell-checker with letters and email. Say thank you and compliment people who do their jobs and treat you well.
Tenth, if you've lost a job be prepared to explain why. In a fragile economy it's entirely common for good people to lose jobs because an employer has declining revenues, automated something or downsized. Never criticize a former employer, reveal confidential information or make inappropriate comments. It's enough to say that opportunities change, you've moved on and you wish the old employer well.
Eleventh, you may have clients you've never physically met because everything is done over the phone and by computer, you wouldn't know them if they knocked on the door. Alternatively, you may meet with folks as part of the interview process. Dress appropriately.
Twelfth, the plastic-surgery industrial complex won't like this but you're not going to be the kid on the beach again. You are who you are, that's okay and you must have confidence in yourself. Sure, you no longer have the physique of an Olympic athlete but employers are not hiring you to pole vault, they want your insight, experience and brains; they want a team player and someone who understands that today's workplace is very different from when you first got a job. Give 'em what they want -- and the odds that in return they'll give you what you want will surely improve.
Published originally on OurBroker.com. Re-posted with permission.