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Job Search Basics

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The good news is that you can find a new job at virtually any age. The bad news is that some employers don’t yet recognize the value of workers over 50.

The good news is that you can find a new job at virtually any age. The bad news is that some employers don’t yet recognize the value of workers over 50. Start by crossing them off your list (at least mentally) and focus on those who might. Of course you don’t know which is which until you actually get out there, but don’t assume no one will hire you because of your age. And keep in mind, that if you think nobody will hire you, you are probably right. To a great extent, a job search is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you have a plan and work the plan, despite the obstacles, you are very likely to succeed.

Before you start your search you need a plan. Here is one likely approach. Know your strengths and weaknesses. As an over 50 worker you have the advantage of a good work history. Identify the times when you were particularly successful and enjoying your work. Identify the major skills that you were applying and enjoying that made you successful. Identify the industries and markets you have been exposed to and the functional areas where you have experience (finance, sales, marketing, operations, etc.), and look particularly for unique skills or combinations of skills that you now have.

Using this skill set as a foundation, try to identify two or three scenarios that would have you jumping out of bed in the morning and would draw on the skills you have identified. In narrowing your focus, you might also look at your outside interests, the underlying values you possess, particularly those that might relate to a personal mission, other factors such as income requirements, geography, travel restrictions, etc. Also, look at trends in business and employment opportunities. You want to ride the horse in the direction it’s going, an apt statement for the job search.

The next step is to do some research, test your career focus by talking with people who are already doing the job. Is it what you expect, are your skills transferable, does it look interesting, what are the disadvantages?

If you are looking for career continuation, working in the same industry in the same type of position you had most recently, you can do a traditional style job search. Contact employment agencies and search firms, surf the web and ask around to see if contacts know of opportunities.

If you want to change careers, functions or industries, you must network into opportunities. Traditional search strategies (ads and search firms) are typically career changer unfriendly because they are able to generate so many perfectly qualified candidates they don’t have to take a chance on training someone.

However you plan to search, you will need a resume or profile. There are books, articles (see ours) and web sites with virtually infinite variations on the perfect resume. Start writing your resume by assuming it won’t be perfect. Get it done and get on to the next step, which is to line up your references. You should have three to five people who know your work, are guaranteed to say wonderful things about you and who might be willing to introduce you to some of their contacts, as well as taking phone calls to vouch for you from potential employers.

There are also articles, books and web sites about interviewing. The good news is that interviews are open book exams. You know the questions you will get and can prepare for them. In particular, prepare for the questions you are afraid you might get. These are the ones that tend to put a damper on your search effort. And remember, enthusiasm sells.

In executing your plan, establish goals, set metrics around numbers of phone calls, letters, web responses, networking meetings, etc. as if it were a typical work project. Be positive, assertive and persistent in your execution, and if you follow these basic steps, you will succeed. If you are stalled, not achieving the results you want or have other questions, there are a number of career consultants (possibly including those at your alma mater’s career planning office) available to help.

John C. Decker is an Executive Vice President with TMI Executive Resources. He has successfully implemented and completed job search campaigns for over 1,000 senior level managers, executives, professionals, and entrepreneurs. He is a frequent speaker on executive career management topics.

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