Job Seekers over the age of 45 take note- being older in the workplace can truly be an asset. I’ve been working with job seekers for years, and the fear of age discrimination is one of the most prevalent concerns for both younger and older job seekers. The way to overcome any negatives associated with your age, is to fight back with a strong understanding of the benefits that your age and experience lend to a future employer. Check out the great article by Laurie Kellman of the associated press that shows how being a bit older at work can often be a big plus. Here’s an excerpt:
Nearly half of those born between 1946 and 1964 now work for a younger boss, and most report that they are older than most colleagues. But 61 percent of the baby boomers surveyed said their age is not an issue at work, while 25 percent called it an asset.
Only 14 percent classified getting older as a workplace liability.
In fact, most of those who have reached age 50 noted that co-workers seek their counsel more now than when they were younger. And a third said their employer treats them with greater respect.
And then, if you’re looking for work right now and over the age of 45, sit down and make a list of the positive attributes that you bring to work, specifically the ones associated with your age and experience. Memorize those benefits, practice how to bring them up in an interview setting, talk with friends and family about them, become comfortable and confident with connecting your age with your value to an organization. If you are well prepared and truly believe that your age is a positive, you can definitely turn your age into a competitive advantage in your job search.
While there is some value in attending support groups for unemployed people, those groups are not likely to help connect you with people who can affect your career. In the following article, I’ll discuss the value of joining professional associations and provide tips on how to make these groups work for you.
While most people don’t consider this, the structure of social networking websites was built to mirror the way people network in person, particularly as it relates to groups. Whether your goal is to develop a network of peers that can help you in your job search or career development, or to become better at networking online, joining a professional association is a great first step.
One of the main benefits of a professional association is that nearly everyone involved is gainfully employed and active in their field. This means that nearly everyone you meet could potentially provide you with an inside tip about a job opportunity. Associations exist to connect people with similar interests, and to provide educational support to the members and political support to the specific field of interest. It’s important to understand the motivation behind why people join these groups. To be blunt, no one in any association has joined in hopes of helping you find a job. Generally, members join for one of three reasons: So they can put it on their resume; so they can stay up to date with changes in their field of expertise; or to make acquaintances with other professionals who they could someday do business or work with.
You can find all types of professional organizations by searching online, but you’ll want to first look for professional or trade associations that are specific to the field of work you’re interested in. This may be difficult if you live in a remote area, and if that’s the case, you may want to search instead for local groups such as the Rotary Club to join in person, and consider looking for more specific associations online.
Once you identify the association you think would be a good fit, attend a meeting before you decide to join, just to be sure it’s what you want. Upon joining, you’ll be contacted by a welcoming committee member who will introduce you to the services, events, and information managed by the association. This person is a great contact point, and one that you’ll want to stay in touch with even after you’ve become a regular member.
Here are some keys to making your Professional Association work for you.
Nearly all associations rely on volunteers to help with their events, communications, and logistics. At the time that you join, seek out an opportunity to volunteer, and if you’re using this forum as a way to connect, make sure your volunteer position gives you the most exposure possible to other members.
During your first visit, make sure to tell an association or group staff member that you’re new and considering joining, then ask for them to introduce you to some people who could be good connections. This is what the staff is for, and they truly appreciate the opportunity to introduce new members to influencers in the group. Ask for cards whenever appropriate, and send out a “nice to meet you” card or email soon after the event.
FIND THE INFLUENCERS
If you want to grow your network quickly, you’ll want to get to know the influencers within the group. It’s always a good idea to start with the staff member who provided you with information when you first joined. Often called the welcoming committee chair, this person has the opportunity to meet and speak with every new member that comes in, so is very well connected within the group. Feel free to ask who the influential people in the group are, and ask for an introduction.
Once you begin to establish a group of associates within the association, you’ll want to let folks know that you’re looking for work, but discretion is the key. Never mention your job search in a group, but rather take the opportunity when you’re one on one to mention that you’re currently in transition, and ask for any recommendations or leads on new opportunities. Before you people see you as unemployed, you want them to see you as a peer, so make sure that you don’t lead your conversations with your job status. If it comes up, casually mention where you used to work, and that you’re currently taking time off, and leave it at that.
BE FUTURE ORIENTED
Don’t join an association expecting to get job tips at every meeting. Ultimately, the purpose of joining a professional association as part of your job search is to establish a network of like-minded peers. Once you’ve established yourself among a group of this type, you’ll want to quietly let people know that you’re looking for work, and before you know it, someone will be tapping you on the shoulder to let you know about a new job that will be opening up soon.
A friend sent me a link recently to a top 10 list for the top 10 Biggest Interview Killers for job seekers, which you can read here.
You may be aware of some of these tips already, but taken in their entirety, they do provide a very good overview of how to prepare for and succeed in an interview. I’d suggest it’s very much worth the read. I won’t give away all of the tips, out of respect for the author, bud did want to share one that I feel strongly about, one that I often preach to job seekers and employers: As the job seeker, it is important to enter the interview with the understanding that this is an opportunity for you to interview the company, not just for them to interview you.
There’s nothing worse than changing jobs, or accepting job offers, and finding out 2 months later that you made the wrong choice. We spend a great deal of time working with employers to help them understand the need to provide more detailed information about both the job and the company, if they hope to attract the best talent.
For the job seeker, this is a very, very important thing to understand if you are to have any chance of finding career satisfaction. Do your research, learn as much as you can about the culture, missions, values, and products/services of the company you’re interviewing with. Then, review the list you’ve created for your keys to career satisfaction and happiness (we’ll discuss this in a future post, if you haven’t taken this step yet). Next, make a list of questions that you haven’t been able to answer through your research, questions that relate to your keys for career satisfaction.
Companies will be more likely to take you seriously as a candidate if they see that you are serious about building your career with them. That is, employee turnover is expensive, and employers want to be as confident as possible that the people they hire will be long term employees.
A few weeks back, my company agreed to a proposal I put forth to offer free job hunting workshops on-site at companies that are forced to lay people off this year. We’ve been offering this content at state agencies and college career centers across New England for almost 5 years now.
With the economy affecting so many businesses, we thought it would be a good opportunity to do good, and offer assistance to those in need. Additionally, we’ve seen a real lack of quality, informed, and up-to-date information being provided by other programs. Of course, there’s no doubt it provides our business with good PR and an opportunity to stay visible despite a sluggish job market.
Within the first couple days of sending out the offer to businesses, I received nearly two dozen requests for more information. To date, we now have 4 on-site workshops scheduled in the next couple weeks. Today, I presented the first at a local insurance company. This company had decided to close it’s Maine site, to consolidate operations on the west coast. As a result, around 100 experienced insurance employees are now looking for new work… and there just aren’t so many insurance jobs to be had. So what now?
I am very grateful for the opportunity to utilize my skills in an effort to help people find success during such a difficult transition. There seemed to be good enthusiasm, considering the circumstances, and a general attitude of moving forward. I spoke to three groups, totaling around 75 employees, and most were considering seeking out completely new opportunities in new areas. One of the keys to my presentation is to establish a good rapport with the group, and do my best to steer them toward being open to new opportunities. When faced with such a disruptive force as a layoff, it can be terribly difficult to remain positive and open to opportunities. But, of course, without a good frame of mind, it’s difficult to move forward.
I go out of my way to reinforce that the first step to finding a great new job is self analysis. From my experience and perspective, I believe that success in the job hunt is related to the amount of time and effort put in to identifying exactly what you want and focusing your search on the best potential career matches, based on core values, mission, vision, and skills required. While some people advise that it’s best to send out 50 resumes a week every week, I try to steer people toward narrowing down their search, and customizing their effort for each company they apply to. In fact, I advised that no one should ever send out the exact same version of their resume twice!
The idea that hr professionals and recruiters are focused more than ever on fit and culture can be news to job seekers. I spend a great deal of time during the workshop to beat folks over the head with this idea. As a hiring manager, I want to know that you want to be part of my company, and that you’ll be a good fit. Fit leads to retention, reducing turnover costs, and increasing productivity and profitability over the long term. With that understanding, it’s vital that you seek out opportunities that you believe will be a good fit between the core values, mission, and vision of you and the company you’re seeking employment with.
Overall, I believe it was a very good day, and hope that some piece of information I shared today will help these good people as they head out on their next exciting adventure.
With our focus on providing higher level resources for job seekers, we’ve updated our job hunting workshop to include content on identifying and promoting your transferable skills. For many who have been laid off, you may need to branch out to find new types of career opportunities. Take a look at the presentation below this post. Feel free to share feedback via the comment link below.