I don’t know how many of you are aware of it, but The FENG began its life as an organization of VERY senior financial professionals. In the beginning our original core group was over 50 and a few of those folks were even older. The idea was that senior financial professionals needed more help in finding a new job than those in their 30’s. Unfortunately, this is still true.
Call it age discrimination, over qualified, or any of the other direct names you want, the effect is the same. Not even some of the softer words help. The simple fact is that a senior financial professional is going to have a harder time of it than someone more junior.
There are a lot of reasons for this. For example, major corporations rarely hire senior financial executives for jobs at the top. The reason is actually good for their business in that “parachuting” someone in at the top closes off career tracks and valuable employees leave. If the company is large enough they should be “growing their own.” If you were with the company, I am sure you would also want them to hire from within.
We also fight the perception that the job we might take doesn’t represent growth in our career. If you have already been a CFO and are looking for another CFO job, why would you be happy when you haven’t achieved a step up in your career? (I don’t know, would a steady paycheck really make you happy?)
And if these two items weren’t enough, there is another what I will call “syndrome” that your next job has to use all the notches on your key. If you have 10 specific skill sets, only a job that uses all 10 seems to fit.
While all of the above is true in some sense, I know from my many conversations with members who are older that we cause ourselves lots of problems.
For example, you may have many experiences in your background, but you may be reluctant to “go back” to one of your earlier ones. This is an issue only you can deal with effectively. In effect, you have to sell yourself on it.
I see it in other areas as well. We have had many discussions in this newsletter about the advisability of putting your college graduation dates on your resume because it gives away your age. Many of the same folks who leave off their graduation dates for this reason include their first job, so I would suggest the cat is out of the bag anyway.
The perception of “our enemies” is no worse than our own perception that our age works against us.
I would suggest to all of our more experienced members (I hope you like this code word for those who are “over the hill”) that what you are selling is “been there and done that.” The reason anyone in his/her right mind would want to hire you is that you have seen it all before and won’t be learning on the job. There won’t be a lot of wasted motion in your setting about to solve all of his/her problems the first week or so.
At times I would suggest even being a little outrageous about it.
One evening I was working with Ed Devlin, the previous Chairman of The FENG. Ed was one of my oldest friends. One, I have known him for a long time, and two, I didn’t know how old he was, but I later learned he was really old.
As I was helping him redo his resume, we were working on his summary paragraph at the top of page 1 and I suggested beginning with “Over 50 years of work experience.” Well, Ed wouldn’t go for it, but I have to tell you that it is my belief he would have gotten a lot of calls with that opener.
The point is that if you are ashamed of your age, it is going to come through in your resume, cover letter and in your interviewing. The truth is that for the right customer who needs someone well experienced who won’t be learning on the job, you may in fact be the right product. Those firms who won’t hire you because of your age won’t do it anyway, no matter how you disguise it. All that will happen is that you will waste a lot of time and go through needless hand wringing over how no one loves you. (Keep in mind that I do.)
If you think it will help when you get a call for an interview, tell them you can’t meet with them tomorrow because you are training for a marathon or something or that you are in the middle of splitting a few cords of firewood for next winter. Tell them anything you like to let them know there are still a few miles left on that odometer. Tell them you are attending a seminar on block chain. Lots of approaches will work.
But most importantly keep in mind what you are selling. You are selling your wealth of business experience in dealing with customers, employees and general business conditions. If you have been through a few business cycles you might not even be surprised to learn that the stock market goes up and down or that there are times when you can’t raise capital for good projects.