Well, co-Job Stalker Gordon Dymowski certainly hit on a theme close to my heart this week, the issue of being an “older” job seeker. There have been times when I've been pretty sure that I didn't get hired in situations where I was bringing to the table exactly what the company was looking for, only to lose out to a “less experienced” candidate. I've even had people suggest all sorts of bizarre things to “hide” my age (like doing a “machinima” video of my Second Life avatar instead of a live video of me in a case where this was requested), but I figure there's so much stuff out there that if somebody's looking, they're going to find it … I have been “on the web” for a quarter of a century at this point!
Anyway, Gordon raises a lot of good points, and has included a bunch of interesting links … so I hope you find it useful (by the way, the title here is from one of Jack Benny's classic punch lines).
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Sometimes, I think Jack Benny had the right idea.
For those of you who may be too young and/or too focused on other things to care about such trivia, Jack Benny was a radio/television comedian whose character was distinguished by several traits: stinginess, ego, and a seemingly eternal claim to be 39 years of age.
I write this because, like many of you reading this, I’m in the middle of a job search (although I just went on board for a part time freelance assignment, could always use more work), and I’m also....well, I took on Benny’s habit of staying at 39 several years ago, but I also face many of the unique issues of those job seekers who are 40 and over.
You would think that job seekers over 40 would be at their prime to be employed. After all, we’ve gained enough experience to navigate through some tougher workplace situations - the kind that might make our younger counterparts leave. (In fact, the over 40 set might be seen as less likely to job hop). We also have a sense of priority - after all, work/life balance is much easier to achieve when you have a life filled with children, other responsibilities, etc. (I didn’t say it was easy - just easier). We’re nowhere near retirement, but can temper our enthusiasm for a position with a hard-earned experience that can reap major benefits for a smart employer. In addition, we’re a “protected” class (according to federal law), meaning that we can’t be declined - or terminated - from a position simply because of the year we were born.
However, for many of us (especially those of us at the ripe age of 39), job seeking can be a much more stressful and worrying process. After all, since employers naturally skew young, some job counselors actually advise us to (gasp) “brand ourselves” by making cosmetic changes to look younger.. We also never know whether comments made as we’re being let go (such as “your work lacks the depth of insight that you’ve shown in the past”) or as we’re talking to potential recruiters/employers (like “you’re too senior for this position”) are valid, or are just code for “you’re too old for us.” With heightened responsibilities, it means less available time to attend networking events, or a greater reluctance to adopt new ways of job seeking (or even, when employed, to sacrifice overtime for quality time with the family. (Some companies still rely heavily on contractual talent to cut down on payroll costs, or as a friend of mine puts it, “puts the free in freelance”). Or, worse yet, a company may seemingly choose to hire younger due to a belief that older workers may “job hop” out of a lack of interest in their work.
But in my own job search, I’ve had to rely on my own sense of ingenuity (chalk it up to my non-profit, build-things-out-of-scratch experience). I’ve learned to filter out bad advice from good (and here’s an example of good advice for job seekers over 40). It also means, ironically, learning to adapt to a new job search climate where old tools are less reliable. Take, for example, the plucky resume, which has been around for decades yet now, we have to make sure is optimized for keywords and is in the proper file format. It also means knowing how the law defines ageism, if only so that we can know how to best counter it as we interview.
Finally, there’s always the advice that we may receive around starting our own business - that with our experience, why work for someone else when we can just as easily run our own business? For some of us, that is an option - I am always more than open to taking on some freelance clients. However, many of us have more immediate needs that cannot be served with part time or freelance work. “Entrepreneurs” and small business people often do twice as much work - client work to pay the bills and the networking/marketing to develop client work. In short, the process is incredibly similar to regular job seeking in that it means learning how to better market oneself as a job seeker/worker. Whether seeking a traditional job or building a business, there’s no shortcut to success in either effort.
But enough of my ranting....it’s a tough job search climate, and it’s only going to get tougher. It is easy to rationalize a lack of success by external factors and not look at changing strategies to compete in an ever-changing job search climate. For those of us at a certain age (and for those of us at 39), it means learning to do things a little differently....
…like avoiding “Jack Benny” references in the first place.
I would love to hear what you, the reader, have to say in response - please feel free to leave a comment below, and I will respond. You can also connect with me via Linked In, learn more about me via social media channels, and visit my home page gordondymowski.com. As always, thanks for reading!
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