Monday, 9 April 2012

Avoid looking like an A**.... just ASK!

Was inspired by a Charles Adler radio show discussion earlier this week about older workers and the difficulty many are having finding good jobs. I wrote this in response:

As a self-proclaimed Career Matchmaker, my favourite work revolves around helping people reinvent themselves and, ideally, find really enjoyable and rewarding work (whatever that means for them!  Everyone is different).  As luck would have it, I developed a very strong speciality working with transitioning workers when I became the first civilian Career Transition Counsellor at CFB Esquimalt, where I worked for 8+ years with retiring (40-50 something) military members.  Many of those folks created their own beliefs around why it would be hard for them to find jobs when they left the military, but most of those beliefs could often be banished with the right information and an open mind.   

As a result, I have many stories of clients who thought they were experiencing age discrimination.  And, often, with some perspective shifting and by pro-actively seeking feedback after (or before) their interviews, this misconception could also be turned on its ear.     

·         One of my newly IT-certified career changers tried and tried to get a job but to no avail and he was feeling pretty hopeless.  He was certain it was because of his age (and he was all of 45!).  Not that he’d ever actually asked anyone but, still, he was convinced.   I encouraged him to check out this assumption during his next interview (with a little coaching as to how to ask a possibly delicate question).  As it turned out, there was another unchecked assumption happening in the busy HR manager’s mind.  And, indirectly, it did have something to do with age.  Or more correctly, my client’s numerous years of experience.  The interviewer assumed he would be bored because their job was an entry level position.  Once he knew this, he was able to address the unspoken question and quickly got a job which was exactly what he’d been looking for. 

·         Another client had applied to Canadian Tire for a bookkeeping job that he felt he could easily fulfill.   After he received no reply to his application, he did go and ask why he hadn’t been shortlisted, as he was certain he had the skillsets required.  He was told that they didn’t bother calling him because they took it from his resume that they wouldn’t be able to pay him what he was used to.  Again... assumption city!   

Communication and clarification of expectations is a critical piece that is often left on the curb by both the job seeker and the interviewer.  Therefore, I teach my clients how to ask these types of questions and I attempt, whenever possible, to anticipate objections before the interview.  Cover letters can also go a long way to heading assumptions off at the pass.     

A resume overhaul is often a worthwhile endeavour, as well... because job seekers can get kicked off the top candidate pile merely because they haven’t downshifted their resume to match the career requirements of a lower-levelled job.  Many feel they have to include EVERY job they’ve ever had.  And they show levels of expertise far and above what is being asked for.  This doesn’t always work in their favour, and leads to many disappointments.   

Just to add another perspective, many older workers lack certain modern workforce skills and, sadly, some tend to resist updating those skills.  Often, the company they were employed by for many years neglected to offer them upgrading, too, which is unfortunate.  I encourage all my clients to invest in themselves and keep their skills ‘pumped up’ so they can compete with the more techno-savvy younger generation.  You don’t have to Tweet every hour of the day, but you should be conversant enough with the concept of social media to ‘sound’ like you understand it.  There are oodles of free online tutorials on the web that you can teach yourself everything you need to show you’re ‘in the know!’   

Attitude is everything!  And keeping abreast of the times (ie. in technology and a few other basic modern workplace skills) is also really critical for older workers to be seen as viable candidates for more jobs.   

In closing, here are a few of my favourite news stories on people working happily and well into their  ...

A year or so ago, I spoke at a conference on this subject.  Here’s an abridged version of the PowerPoint presentation I gave in case you want to delve into it deeper. 

Stay tuned for more specifics on how to find work by thinking “outside the box”!

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