Having challenges as a middle aged job seeker? You have come to the right place. My name is Mark Wayman, I’m in my early 50s, and I have owned an Executive Recruiting company focused on gaming/casinos and high tech for the last ten years. Compensation starting at $100,000, and last year I placed five executives north of a million dollars. So my perspective is at the high end, however most of these tips apply to all job seekers. First, let’s review the challenges in the job market.
Challenge: Depression 2.0 – In 2008 we entered Depression 2.0. Over the course of two weeks, I went from having 100+ job openings…to ten. We can debate whose fault that is until the cows come home, but make no mistake, senior jobs are few and far between. And every time a “C” level job posts, a thundering herd of candidates show up. Bottom line, there is intense competition for each and every job. Here is why:
Challenge: Gambling in the Stock Market – I regularly see resumes of 70 year old executives that got wiped out in the stock market, so now they have to get a job and go back to work.
Challenge: Companies Doing More with Less – Revenues are down, so companies must do more with less. That means less head count and more hours. As I told people back in 2008, “You can be laid off and receive COBRA, or you can stay employed and work double shifts – pick ‘em. Right or wrong, most companies want younger executives that can handle 60 to 70 hour weeks. Or as I like to say, “The daily floggings.”
Challenge: Mediocre is No Longer Acceptable – Ten years ago everybody got a job. There were plenty to go around. Most companies did not ask for college degrees. Most companies were not concerned with job hopping since there was such a low inventory of candidates. These days, most companies require a college degree and won’t interview job hoppers.
Action Plan for the Middle Aged Candidate – In my book, “The Godfather’s Career Guide: What To Do If You Get Whacked!” I state that 80% of highly qualified candidates don’t get the job offer because they don’t understand the search process or make silly mistakes. I’m talking million dollar guys that make silly mistakes. Here are a few of my tips for making yourself an attractive candidate.
- We Like Happy, Smiley People – Number one reason you did not get the job offer? They don’t like you. No one wants to hire a bitter, angry executive that is still obsessing about being laid off or terminated at the last job. I realize it’s hard to suck it up when you are unemployed, however you need to put on your happy face and be likeable.
- Education – No hate mail please. There are any number of valid reasons you did not go to college. I’m not here to judge. I’m here to get you a job. If you don’t have a college degree, consider getting one, even if it is through an online institution. Not in a position to do that? There is a simple solution; only apply to companies that are not requiring a formal college degree.
- Job Hopping – This may be acceptable at lower compensation levels, however as you go up the pay ladder, the expectation will be a minimum of three years in your current position and no more than three jobs in the last ten years. Yep, I know you have valid reasons for moving five times in five years, but next time you land, try to stay for five years.
- Dress to Impress – Pull out your best suit. You cannot overdress. For men, rumpled suits, scuffed shoes or poor hygiene are deal killers. For women, avoid short skirts and/or low-cut blouse are deal killers. Look like a million dollars – the kind of executive the company wants to hire. As mentioned previously, THIS IS A COMPETITION.
- Relationships Trump Talent – So why do so many mediocre executives get great jobs while talented people sit on the sidelines? Because relationships trump talent every day of the week. Your next job will most likely come through a friend that is a Board Member, a CEO you worked for previously, or your network. Stay in touch. Don’t be that guy that only calls every five years when you need a job.
- The Best Candidate Does Not Always Get the Job – The best prepared candidate does. Do your homework. Check out the company web site and scan the Internet for information on the company and its executives. Formulate three intelligent questions to ask during the interview process. Remember that the company is the CEOs baby, and they just love to talk about their baby!
- Ask For the Order – In this case, ask for the job! If the interview goes well and you like what you hear, make your last comment to the interviewer, “Based on our conversation, I would love to join your team.” Trust me, most people don’t do this. If you want the job, ask for it.
- The Grass is NOT Always Greener – Regularly get resumes from executives making $500,000 that want to make a million dollars. In this economy, the grass is not always greener. If you have a great job, praise God. Wait, if you have ANY job, praise God. If you are considering a transition, consider this…wait until the current economic storm passes.