Cracking the Job Market at Any Age
I get questions all the time from students, clients and readers writing in to Ask Ellis wanting to know the same thing, in one way or another: Is it my age that’s keeping me from finding work?
Students say they’re too young, mid-career clients think it’s too late to change fields, and readers often worry they’re too old. This will surprise you, but I give them the same advice, regardless of age or profession.
First - yes, there are some differences in their potential markets. But that holds true no matter what you think your “issue” is. Fortune 500 companies are not great destinations for older workers. They tend to hire younger, less expensive. 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. You want to work where you'll fit in and be appreciated. The same holds true for companies not interested in younger, less experienced workers. You want to work at a place where you can grow.
Target the markets where you have a real chance of success
The real issue is targeting. I recently heard from a reader who said she’d told her friends and contacts she was “willing to do anything” just to find work. I understand the feeling. But, trust me, you can never say to anyone, "I'll do anything," and think that's networking. Think about the response to that 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 nebulous. 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, and where's the market. That takes research and informational conversations.
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 might be, and what your backup Plans B and C might be as well. Then, you learn how to network, how to market yourself, how to interview - all of the mechanics of the search.
Don’t Limit Your Options
I go into greater detail in my book, In Search of the Fun-Forever Job: Career Strategies that Work, but the basic concept is this: Don’t limit yourself to only one choice, be prepared with 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. The perception of enthusiasm and energy is critical, at any age.
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