Conquering the Job Market at Any Age

I get questions all the time from senior level executives in career transition wanting to know the same thing, in one way or another: Is my age that’s keeping me from finding work?

Some senior level managers, executives and professionals think it’s too late to change fields, and often worry they’re too old. This will surprise you, but I give them the same advice every time, regardless of their age or profession.

Don’t Forget What Matters Most

First off, there are some differences in your potential markets. But that holds true no matter what you think your “issues” are. Fortune 500 companies are not great destinations for older workers. They tend to hire younger and less expensive employees on the “upswing” of their careers. So if you’re older and you know this, you don’t want to fight widely held perceptions. And, frankly, why would you want to work for someone who doesn’t want to hire older people? Would you feel comfortable in those environments? I wouldn’t. Naturally, you want to work where you’ll fit in and be appreciated for your strengths and competencies. The same holds true for companies not interested in younger, less experienced workers. You want to work at a place where you can be appreciated for your wisdom, expertise and hard work-ethics.

Target the Markets Where You Have a Real Chance of Success

The real issue is targeting. I recently heard from a job seeker who said he told his friends and contacts that he was “willing to do anything” and that he was ”industry agnostic” just to find work. I understand the feeling. But, trust me, you should never make those types of claims to anyone and think that’s productive networking. Think about the response to that wishy-washy and vague kind of self-promotion. Most likely the person hearing you wouldn’t know what to do with you, or how to help you? The pitch is way too non-specific and nebulous. You need to be able to better help people – help you! It’s your job to make it clear exactly what you want, or, better yet, exactly what you can do!

A successful job search of any kind, at any age, involves “Smart Targeting”. You need to answer questions of What CAN you do? What do you like? What matters most at this time in your life and career? and Where are the job market growing trends? That takes research and informational conversations with successful people who are connected and know these trends.

I don’t mean to make this sound so complicated. It really isn’t. But you will need to figure out what a Plan A (corporate track) might be, and what your backup Plan B (entrepreneurial track) might be as well. Then, you learn how to network and expand your “Key Influencer” contacts, how to market (not sell) yourself, how to interview and eliminate the competition and all the other mechanics of conducting a professional job search campaign.

Don’t Limit Your Options

Your goal is to search for the next chapter of your career that will yield fun, rewards flexibility, freedom, control and the genuine satisfaction of knowing you are making a difference in other people’s lives. Career strategies that work are the basic concepts that most executives never were taught or learned. Don’t limit yourself to only one choice or plan, be prepared with a backup choices if that first one turns out to be unfeasible (like the older worker hoping to break into a Fortune 500 company).

And don’t limit yourself further by telling yourself there are no jobs for someone your age, in your field, with your experience. Not only is that not true, those kinds of thoughts can dampen your enthusiasm and send the exact wrong message. In other words, if you lament that you are too old, then you will be perceived as too old. The perception of enthusiasm, energy, vitality, optimism and having a positive attitude is critical, at any age.

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter!” Mark Twain

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