Over 50 and Job Searching
How to Save the Displaced Older Executive

Are you over 50 and job searching? In this article, Pierre Daunic provides valuable suggestions for job-hunting executives age 50 or older.



"I was hit with a double-whammy!" Henry lamented. Henry, 53, was not only let go at the peak of his earning years as a telecommunications executive, but also at a time when his industry was in a decline.

At first he wasn't really worried: he'd weathered similar situations before. This too would pass, he thought. Unfortunately, it didn't ... and many months later he was still looking for a job, his savings running out as fast as his hopes. Over 50 and job searching is a tough situation in which to find yourself.

Henry, alas, is not alone. As noted in a Fortune magazine article ("50 and Fired," May 10, 2005), more and more executives like Henry are faced with longer and longer job hunts. And more than a few are driven out of the job market completely. Furthermore, older workers' pay is often significantly reduced. Even more disturbing, perhaps, the number of older workers aged 55 - 64 will have increased by 18 million by 2012 - just that much more competition among our older population!

Why such gloomy predictions? Because older executives are being hit with a significant increase in negative factors:

  • Age discrimination
  • The continuing rise in health care costs (older workers cost more)
  • The availability of cheaper labor from abroad
  • Their sometimes obsolescent technical knowledge
  • Slower economic growth

The Reasons Don't Really Matter

All of the above explanations are of little comfort to executives like Henry. He and his peers are interested not so much in causes as they are in solutions for their state of unemployment or underemployment. So what are you and they to do? Here are some suggestions:

Raise your level and quality of activity. If you want to shorten your job hunt, your goal should be to generate as much job search activity as you can, as quickly as you can, and as intelligently as you can. For a variety of reasons - e.g., procrastination, apathy, ignorance, or other responsibilities - most of us don't do this. Consequently, our search lasts far longer than it should and sometimes we either give up or settle for something beneath our abilities or desires.

Increase your Exposure. If a prospective employer or recruiter doesn't know you exist, you obviously will never be hired. Make it a point, therefore, to go after every conceivable possibility in every conceivable way. That usually takes work, a lot of work. It means learning what and where your options are and how best to approach them - but it can be done.

Move outward from your strength. Go after what you have done best, but at the same time, look for variants either in different industries or in different roles. For example, if you have been a CFO, consider Controller positions - they can be just as rewarding. Or if you have been a Controller, consider going after a CFO position.

Look for "interfaces." The more experience we have the more likely that experience interfaces with other career fields, industries, or customers. For example, if you are a Pharmaceutical Sales Executive unable to find a job in your geographical area, then look for companies that sell other products or services to your present or past client base. Why? Because you are already a known presence in that client environment, regardless of what you might be selling.

Sharpen your tools. Typically, those of us who have held executive positions, especially as we grow older, tend to think we know how to market ourselves, how to write an effective resume and cover letter, how to interview, etc. But quite often, we are not the great "do-it-yourselfer" we think we are and our job-hunting tools and techniques not as good as they should be. (Oh, and by the way, just how good do you look? Are you as fit and presentable as you could be? If not, work on it—your self-esteem and energy level will both rise dramatically.)

Seek professional career help. Don't we go to a mechanic if our car breaks down, to a CPA for help with our taxes, to a dentist if we have a toothache, to a lawyer if we have legal problems? Yes, professional help costs money, but trying to do everything ourselves is foolish when highly experienced and trained career coaching and resume writing consultants are available to help you gain the exposure to jobs and careers that you need. Don't let pride or stinginess get in the way of achieving your career goals in a timely, effective fashion.

"Attitude is everything" is an old adage, but nonetheless true. Regardless of what difficulties you've faced up until now, don't give up! Intuitively, you know there is a satisfying job or new career out there for you, and that there is one way or another of acquiring it. So believe in yourself, be positive, and go get it!

About the Author: Pierre G. Daunic, Ph.D., CCM, is a Senior Services Consultant with R. L. Stevens & Associates. http://interviewing.com/

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