Job hunting for the older professional

If you are trying to find a professional position in an organization and you are 50 years old or older, you need to adopt a different strategy because you will have extreme difficulty finding work through conventional means.

Conventional job search includes sending out resumes, responding to ads, and working through a headhunter or professional placement agency. These are pretty much a waste of time unless you are a prime candidate with current experience, no health issues and show interest and enthusiasm … and are as young as the other candidates for the position.

There are job opportunities for older applicants with the right qualifications. But this is the typical scenario:

You get the interview with Human Resources instead of the hiring manager with the live job requisition. The HR person is probably your daughter's age. She will be very polite, but it will be difficult to bond with this person and your experience probably started when she was in grade school. She will probably feel sorry for you but you will not meet any of the requirements she is looking for. The interview has nowhere to go but down.

If you don't know what the situation is and you walk in cold for an interview, you are not doing yourself any favors. I want to emphasize that your biggest enemy is exposing yourself to situations where you will get rejected for reasons you cannot control.

Repeatedly exposing yourself to rejection will damage your self esteem and will eventually cause you to doubt your suitability for any job. The conventional job search procedure is a real confidence killer for the older job applicant. Save yourself a lot of grief and avoid the conventional job search entirely.

Most positions are still filled through personal recommendations. This means that you need to know someone who knows where there is work and is willing to introduce you to the right people who can help you get the job. This is where you must learn to make new friends through the friends you already have.

This is called networking and is done daily by all successful people. It is a process of sharing information about job opportunities and potential clients with others. If you can connect people to people who can help them, they will manage to find ways to connect you to people who can help you.

Almost all job opportunities are discussed informally with employees and their families before the organization places an ad for the position. You need to meet and become connected to people who are employees of organizations that are hiring. To get started, you ask your friends who these people are.

If you network wisely, you will have already had several informal discussions with the hiring manager or his very close friend or wife before you show up to "apply" for the job. At this point, you only have to show competence to the interview team and that you will probably do very well.

I was 62 years old when Sun Microsystems hired me as a Project Manager, and it was because of a friend's recommendation, so I know that networking works. I became a Senior Project Manager and I was 67 years old when I was laid off, so I know that experienced older people do command high salaries.

By that time I realized that I needed to start my own business to get the hours and benefits I wanted. I had finally realized that control of my time and freedom to work on interesting projects was more satisfying than being a highly paid cog in a giant machine.

If you have been looking for work for more than a year, you should seriously consider creating a job for yourself rather than looking for a position created by others. I will cover this on future articles.

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