Some things I’ve realized about job hunting in your 50s
I’m a 56-year-old white male. I obtained my MBA in December 2000. In September 2007 I was earning over $100,000 per year in a full-time IT job, with full benefits and paid vacation.
I lost my job in September 2007. And I was hit full on, front and center, by the 2008 Great Recession. From June 2008 – November 2012 I worked 6 – 7 days per week, including stints as an independent AFLAC agent, a bartender, a house painter, a courier for two different companies, a technology entrepreneur, and as an umpire for softball tournaments. The most I earned during that period was about $15 per hour. I had fewer than 6 days of vacation (unpaid) during that 53 month period.
By July 2009 I had liquidated my savings and retirement funds and filed for bankruptcy protection.
Since November 2012 I have been back working in the IT industry, first as an independent contractor and now as a full-time employee with a $65,000 salary plus benefits. I have not only survived, I believe I have thrived. Money isn’t everything. I’m healthy and my daughter is at an elite east coast college. I believe I’ve got the experience, scar tissue, and credibility to share some lessons learned about finding good work in your 50s. Because generations matter.
Age discrimination is a state of mind
I refuse to acknowledge being “old” as a part of who I am. There are 80-year-old people with the attitude and spirit of someone in their 30s, and there are 25-year-olds who act like they are already in a nursing home. How old is your spirit? I beat out 150 younger applicants for the bartender job. The owner asked me, “You’ll be the oldest person working here. Will you be able to move kegs of beer?” I looked at him and simply asked, “Do I look like a wuss?”
In the workplace, you will be as old as you feel. A young spirit, with the value of 30 years of work experience, is an unbeatable combination. It’s said a dog can smell fear. I think that’s the same dynamic in the work place – bosses can smell old, and that’s what they’re not hiring.
The usual job hunting approach is INSANE
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein
How many responses to online job listings are needed to get a single acknowledgement? To get a first interview? To get an actual job offer? Sending out hundreds (thousands??) of resumes and filling out hundreds (thousands??) of online job applications is definitely an activity, but it’s NOT productivity. It’s busy work, and nothing more.
What to do?
How, then, to get a job? In three words: Work Your Network. A very successful friend was asked during a panel presentation, “What do you look for in a resume?” His answer? “The name of the person handing it to me.”
Solid job hunting tools are still needed, of course. A well written resume and a clear explanation of how you will deliver value to an organization. There are solid resources available to help you build these tools, and it’s time well spent to get them built.
I’ve learned that the right spirit, the right tools and the right relationships, all together, will keep your sanity and get you back delivering value in the workplace.