Q: Any advice on the issue of finding work after age 45? I have recently been laid off and have several friends who have been laid off in their 40s and 50s and are having trouble finding a job. Given the current trend of online applications with no opportunity to meet or speak with someone, and the tendency to hire younger employees, what advice would you give to someone in this stage of their career?
Dear Second-half Makeover:
You need younger friends. And by that, I mean you need to network and get support from people who are younger to gain perspective. You are searching for a career in what I call the “second half of the game,” but you are working from an old playbook. It’s not your age that is keeping you from getting a job. It’s your approach. Today’s job search is really no different than early in our careers.
To get interviews and be taken seriously, we networked and asked for help writing our resumes and building our value proposition. In the “second half,” we need to do it again. Companies today are focused on culture, rapid growth, technology, and employee and team cohesiveness. In my experience interviewing hundreds of applicants of all ages, there are a few common mistakes that people with considerable tenure and experience consistently make.
Are you overemphasizing your past accomplishments (looking in the rearview mirror) and overlooking what the company vision is for the future? Are you succinct in describing the value you would add to the company? (It’s not about you. It’s about them.) Take another hard look at your resume and online profiles and make sure you don’t come across as inflexible or rigid. Do you reflect an ability to work well in many situations? Have you removed age or tenure-based indicators such as the year you graduated or number of overall years in the business? These can cause you to be passed over because it’s assumed you are overqualified or too expensive.
Are you up to date on technology that would be required for the role? Are you able to report to someone younger than you, who may be less experienced in total years, but who may be the hiring manager or executive within the company? Once you have reset your playbook, scrub your LinkedIn profile. It’s never too late to reposition how we present ourselves on social media — and consider asking a younger friend to help you!
Q: How do you handle an administrator who always claims to be slammed with work (so they can’t possibly help you), yet you hear them discussing personal things such as recipes, sleep schedules and shopping all day? This person is the personal assistant for the executive team, has a long firm history and is viewed as “untouchable.”
Dear Not Your Biggest Problem:
Let’s be honest. They don’t want to do your work. And to top it off, you don’t have any authority to do anything about it, right? While it’s not unusual to mix the work day with a few personal to-do’s, this person sounds like a huge office distraction. Regardless, I’m not sure he or she is your real problem. Focus on what you can control and let some of this go! Shared resources are always tricky, especially if they don’t technically report to you.
The executive team has ignored this for years, and it doesn’t sound like it is likely to change. If you just can’t stand the situation, then you may want to check out the July issue of Seattle Business magazine, featuring the 100 Best Companies to Work For 2019. The section highlights companies that have strong, positive cultures, empower their employees and create success. If you choose to stay, you should get in on some of those recipes — maybe you just need to engage the person, get to know them and win them over.
Beth Halvorsen is the former managing director of asset services for CBRE Inc. in Seattle, where she forged a successful career by overcoming a slew of obstacles in a male-dominated industry. She now helps others navigate tricky, complex workplace issues, including how to deal with difficult colleagues and situations.
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