What a wake-up call I got the other day! I had approached my bank of 40 years to extend a loan to complete a small property development I have been doing. Let me say right up front, I’m into my 60’s now. Financially I’m OK, don’t have any real borrowings, am still working in a profession I love, and frankly have no real intentions of throwing it in until my clients tell me I no longer add value.
Anyway, back to my story. I received a note from my banking Relationship Manager saying I needed to provide a whole lot of additional information. Now, they know my financial state of health very well and so I went back and asked why I was being put through this particular mill. In writing she said I needed to understand that, although financially secure and with a squeaky clean track record I was…..well……older (and she even mentioned my age!)
I sat there in front of my computer screen shocked, amazed, and annoyed. After all, the face that stares back at me from the shaving mirror each day is still that of the 38-year old I am inside. My health is great, I still bring in a lot of work to the business, my colleagues (reasonably politely) look to me for advice, and my clients have made it clear that they still value me. Apparently, the bank doesn’t because……I am too old to automatically get access to funds they would have fallen over themselves to give me some years ago.
It got me to thinking. How easy it must be for an older job seeker to give up in the face of apparent ageism. How hard it must be for them to front up to the job search merry go round thinking that they may well be automatically be rejected. So, I thought, let’s explore that subject.
There is a lot of research that shows that working on into life keeps us young and, frankly, alive. It keeps us connected, contemporary, focused on bigger things. It keeps us relevant, engaged. What many people seem to forget is that it gives us a chance to pass on knowledge gathered over a lifetime of work. That in turn helps equip a newer generation to cope more quickly, more efficiently, more relevantly, and, hopefully, with fewer mistakes along the way.
So, you’re an older job seeker. What can you do to market yourself effectively?
The Ten Rules of Selling Yourself in Today’s Employment Market
1. Keep Fit
Take care of yourself. Implement that exercise program you put off until “tomorrow”. Start walking or swimming, and stick to it. Research shows that interviewers make their first decision about you at the 30-second mark. Yes, that’s right, 30 seconds! In that time all they can do is give you the once over, so look that part. Look healthy and well.
2. Dress Contemporarily
No, I’m not advocating the “mutton dressed as lamb” approach. What I’m suggesting is making sure that when you present at any meeting you look right at home. Make sure that your tie width and suit is reasonably “modern”, the hemline of your skirt reflects the time – all things dress and grooming is noticed when they don’t fit the pattern.
3. Tailor Your Resume
Bring it right up to date and make sure it is tailor-made to address the role for which you are applying. Ensure it reflects your experience in doing the specified tasks before and, importantly, provide evidence of what you have achieved in doing them. It is your achievements, in other words, what you can prove you have contributed, that will set you apart from your competitors.
4. Tailor a Short Covering Letter
Just a one-pager, that’s all. Carefully identify the selection criteria and show not only how you meet them, but also how well you have contributed to those areas. Quantify those achievements as research shows that numbers have more impact than words.
5. Understand and Sell Your Pattern of Success
The best and most switched on interviewers are looking for the patterns that make up our life and our work. It is this pattern that enables them to predict the trend, that is, what we will be like in the job and work environment if they hire us. Make sure that your resume and interview performance highlight those successes, those ways of working overtime that has set you apart. After all, past “behavior” predicts future behavior, so let the employer see the advantages that accrue if they hire you.
6. Understand What You Have to Offer
We older workers offer employers a lot of advantages. We have “been there, done that”. We have worked in or managed businesses through the ups and downs, we have managed difficult people, we have a strong (some say old fashioned – my bank probably would!) work ethic. We turn up when we say we will. We stay back and finish what we start. We know how to prioritize and manage our time. The list goes on, and we need to know how to sell it!
7. Learn to Sell Yourself
OK, I admit it. I got angry with the bank. There’s not much to be gained from getting angry, or disappointed. There is a lot to be gained, however, from understanding those strengths that you’ll bring to a job and logically presenting a case that shows that to the employer. Understand that the interview is a game. Learn the rules and how to gently take control so you can sell your story effectively. Understand your strengths and development needs, know the numbers that attach to the roles you have had, learn to match them quickly to the employer’s need, and show them the ROI that comes from hiring you.
8. Be Flexible
Relax, I’m not talking about giving yourself away in salary terms. Look at the variety of opportunities that present. Some employers like to try before they buy these days. A contract job can quickly become permanent when you have proven yourself. Be open to the new trends in employment – multiple contract roles, ongoing contracting, short term project assistance. The main thing is to land that first opportunity that shows what you can do.
9. Don’t Give Up
The employment market right now is competitive and tough. You have to hang in there understanding it is a numbers game. The more you network, the more applications you make, the more companies you approach direct, the better your chances of winning that next job. Sure, you’ll get rejections along the way, but don’t be deterred. Remember your objective. Hang in there. The opportunities will drop.
10. Stay in Control
I’m talking about you being in control of your own job search. Don’t look to consultants as the “silver bullet”. They handle only about 30% of the available jobs. Look at making direct approaches look at extending your network and working it hard. Tap into the hidden job market. Work the numbers and the results will follow. It is YOUR job search and only you will devote 100% effort to it.
So, back to my bank. Well, I’m not going to give up on them BUT I am going to follow my own advice. I am going to explore options and look for other financial institutions for whom age is just a number. I know that there is a bank or credit union out there who will value the business I bring to them. It is up to me to take control of my search for that institution, to make my case, and sell myself as a good investment.
I can do that because I have done it before.
I am older. I know the rules and I know how to play the game.