No one ever said it would be easy. And, when it comes to finding a job after the age of 40, it can easily become a demoralizing situation. For those of us who are even older, like in our 50’s or 60’s, it can be extremely difficult.
Let me start you out with the idea that you are no longer the least expensive product out on the market. You bring a wealth of experience to the party, and those on the other side of the desk feel obligated to pay more to you than for someone earlier in their career should they decide to hire you. It’s true, of course, that they should pay more, but what is often missed is your value proposition. Your value proposition is where you have to focus your persuasive energies.
Oscar Wilde once said that a cynic is a man who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing. In job search terms, it is often true that if the salary to be paid is $150,000, the hiring manager wants to pay this sum to someone who will find himself well paid and happy. Interestingly they don’t appear to be as concerned about getting the greatest value for their money, like hiring someone who previously earned (and was worth) $175,000. Their concern, valid or not, is that you will not be happy and leave at the first opportunity.
The secret of personal selling, which is what you do as a job seeker, is handling customer objections. Often times the customer objection is like an 800 pound gorilla sitting in the room. Everyone knows it’s there, but no one wants to talk about it.
Typically there are about 20 viable candidates presented to a hiring manager. Out of these 20, he/she will select 5-10 to interview. ALL of the candidates presented will, at least on paper, be fully capable of doing the job. If the search firm or human resources department has done their job well, the candidates will have varied backgrounds and bring slightly different things to the party. No two human beings on the face of the earth are identical and/or perfect substitutes for one another.
Simply stated, the product we sell is “been there and done that.” While you want to avoid the trap of talking only about past achievements, your years of experience should give you a leg up if you present them properly. The “knock” is 20 years of experience – 1 year of experience repeated 20 times. My sales approach is that there are lots of things that only happen once a year, and you have done them 20 times. What this means is you won’t be seeing a situation as new and try to reinvent the wheel. You will see it as a variation on a theme you have solved many times.
The perception of the hard working young executive is true. They work hard because they have the energy of youth. (Oh, how I remember my 30’s, but it was a long time ago.) That said there is an element of “digging ditches and filling them in again” that is not entirely obvious to the rest of the world.
My suggestion to all of us who still want to work is to accept the fact that you need to fight even for a job that is in a sense “beneath your dignity.” There are more than enough qualified candidates at all times and for every job that even if you could do it and would do it (with one hand tied behind your back) for the money on the table (and be happy to have it), you will have to dispel the myths and make the sale to get them to offer it to you.
The competition may be fierce, but if you enjoy a good fight as much as I do, have at it and give them your best shot. (By the way, sucker punching is permitted. It is one of those “all’s fair in love and war” things.)