Over 50 in the job hunt

by Salpeter, Miriam Friday, October 29, 2010
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I recently received a note from a prospective client. An executive in his late 50¡äs, he took early retirement from his company and was looking for his *next* thing to do. He explained he had applied for hundreds of executive positions and almost as many minimum wage positions with his resume, but that he had not been called in for one interview. His frustration, ¡°I can¡¯t help that I am over 50.¡±

What a frustrating situation. I can imagine how difficult it must be for a job seeker who has not been in the market for some time ¨C applying for jobs ¨C even minimum wage jobs ¨C and no one being interested.

If this sounds like you¡­Stop and think about this: Is it really your age or experience level that is preventing you from landing interviews, or is it your approach to the job market?

Start with the minimum-wage jobs:

Put yourself in the shoes of people at McDonald¡¯s who receive your resume detailing your executive-level experience. If you were doing the hiring, would you hire you? What experience on your resume suggests that you would be good at running the cash register? Or that you have experience serving food to impatient customers? They can¡¯t understand why you would apply for the job, and they aren¡¯t going to stop and try to figure it out. Yes, maybe you are thinking of a franchise ownership, and want to learn the ropes, but have you said so? Regardless of your goals, have you tweaked your resume to suggest you have the skills they need to serve their customers?

McDonald¡¯s just needs to put someone in the job who can manage the responsibilities. If you can do it, the onus is on you to explain how; you need to send a customized resume for the job, not the same resume your outplacement firm created to help you apply for executive positions.

As for the executive jobs:

If you are not landing interviews, there is a problem, either with your resume or with the way you are conducting your search. If you are applying to hundreds of jobs, are you really focusing on each position and company and tweaking your materials appropriately? I¡¯m guessing not. Companies are interested in someone who has exactly the experience they need. They want what they want, and they are unlikely to spend a lot of time trying to analyze your materials to identify where the overlap between your skills and their needs might be. That is your job.

Target your resume. Identify organizations of interest and make inroads by networking. Use social media channels to expand the number of people who know and take an interest in you. (The side benefit of this for over 50 workers is that they look in touch and prevent themselves from being labeled out-of-date.) Use what you learn to improve your materials and help hook your targeted organizations.

Sorry to yell, but: DO NOT SEND THE EXACT SAME RESUME TO HUNDREDS OF JOBS. No matter what the jobs may be. You need a resume that you know how to tweak slightly and adapt for different positions. You also need a cover letter that makes it clear why you are qualified for the job. In a few special circumstances, I have written cover letters for clients who really didn¡¯t have the exact skills and qualifications for the targeted job, but the letter earned them calls and generated interest. While I am not a fan of applying to jobs without having the qualifications, these successes show that a persuasive, targeted pitch can make the difference.

Take the time to focus your search. Don¡¯t look for a scapegoat (your age, too much experience, the economy, etc.) Instead, use your skills, market your experiences and accomplishments to the right organizations and people and give your search a fresh, new start.

Of course, my job is to help people navigate the job search maze. Maybe I can help. Contact me for a quote. It might be the best investment you could make.