Having recently gone through an employment change at 55, I battled my own demons as I thought about the possibility that somebody would actually hire me, versus the options a potential employer has to fill their openings with someone younger and cheaper.
It wasn’t just about finding a job. It was about finding a job I wanted. It was about taking whatever steps necessary to “stand out” among the candidates being considered for the role I was interested in.
Whether by choice or necessity, many of us who may have wanted to retire at the age our parents did could be facing another 10 years of employment, with retirement more likely closer to 70 years of age instead of 60, particularly if we want to live comfortably in our “Golden Years.”
There are many things you can do to strengthen your candidacy when you are faced with finding employment in your fifties or later.
Here are four areas to focus on:
1) Research the market rates for the positions that you plan to apply for. You need to understand what the market is willing to pay for a person with your background and experience. Know that your most recent total compensation package may not represent what the market is willing to pay. While you may feel you deserve every dollar that you made, you need to understand that if your goal is to earn “not a penny less” in your next job, you may be searching for a job for a long time.
2) Maintain your Professional Networks. It may be overstating the obvious to remind you that who you know is more important than what you know. Don’t confuse this point, because what you know is in fact important, it’s just that who you know is more important first.
Today, the internet is an easy and effective way to identify employment opportunities (Monster, Dice, CareerBuilder, Indeed, etc.). Research the companies offering the jobs by perusing their websites. Find out who is employed at those companies by scouring a source like LinkedIn and research what is being said about the quality of those firms as an employer. (Glass Door is a good site for gathering this intelligence.) Once you have done your research submit your resume and cover letter.
3) Don’t become Obsolete. As you age, you must embrace technology and its rapid daily evolvement. Today’s companies embrace technology and use it to their advantage when competing for business. Don’t allow yourself to be eliminated from consideration for a job you desire because you have lost touch with technology.
4) Preparation, Preparation, Preparation. The great basketball coach John Wooden said, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” I couldn’t agree more, nor could I give better advice.
Here are several key components to being prepared:
- Have your resume professionally done for you. There are dozens of companies willing to help you with this, many of whom will do it for free. Most employment companies have a “resume production” team or capability, and can work with you to create a resume that is germane to your experience and highlights your greatest competencies.
- Check your wardrobe. Have you been working in a “business casual” environment for years? Does your suit or blouse no longer fit the way it did when you purchased it? Is the style of your clothing representative of a different time? Spend a little money to make certain the first impression you make is a quality one.
- Research the company you will be interviewing with. Do you know what their annual revenue is? Do you know what their primary product and service offerings are? Are they a public company? If so, what is their stock trading at? Do you know where their primary offices are? Do you know who their main competitors are? Have you read their website? Do you know who the members of the leadership team are? Take the time to learn this information, as it may distinguish you from your competitors during your interview.
- Interview your interviewer. This is a must! When the interviewer finally asks you if you have any questions, it is not ok to say, “No, not at this time.” Be prepared to ask your interviewer two or three questions. Asking questions expresses genuine interest on your part.
Here are a few you can ask:
- What are the strategic plans for growth for the company over the next three years?
- Who are your main competitors, and how do you go about beating them, in the markets where you compete with them directly?
- What is the company’s commitment to community service?
- Does your company have a Mission Statement or Core Values statement?
- How would you describe the culture of your organization?
While the baby boomer generation is more inclined to seek permanent employment, the workplace has evolved to a point where most companies now employ a mix of consultants and contractors as a strategic component to their workforce. Many staffing companies work with their clients to place both permanent and temporary workers with them, and can be a terrific resource in helping you find that next great job. These tips are equally useful should you desire to pursue contract work instead of permanent employment.
Hopefully I have given you enough information to encourage you to tackle the employment marketplace with confidence.
Great luck and success in landing your next big role, even though you’ve moved well through your 50s and your 60s are fast approaching!