Sunday, September 12, 2010

Older, Healthy and Out of Work...You Too?

According to my interpretation of recent facts and figures, never before have there been so many talented people out of work.  And for us Baby Boomers, you know those folks resulting from their parents happily reuniting after World War II, there are a lot of us and, thanks to medical advances, we're healthier and living longer than ever before.  

So if you're also unemployed, well you're like me - healthy, older and out of work.  At a time when employers are hiring two 25-year olds for the price of one 50 year old, you're probably running into some incidents of age discrimination.  Does age discrimination really exist?  Well it's a bit like asking if there's such a thing as ghosts and equally hard to prove. So rather than feeling afraid or defeated I try to remember that I'm not old.  I'm experienced.  

When I take this mind set, it helps me in several ways.  First, when I prepare my resume, I format my work information around the job requirements. I don't date events like college graduation and my masters degree. I don't go back to my beginnings with Westinghouse Broadcasting implementing proprietary systems either, unless it's pertinent.  In short I focus on the aspects of my work history that are relevant to that particular job and as much as possible eliminate dates.  

More importantly, recognizing that I'm experienced, reminds me that I'm also accomplished at what I do.  And today's employers are all about accomplishments that deliver positive financial results.  For example in my top line summary I say; "grew an insurance company's prospect sales from $800K to $6M, took an unprofitable marketing and event management agency to most profitable of 16 nationwide."  Your experience shows that you can either make money or save money for that employer. So if you can translate your actions into contributing to sales and revenues or avoiding costly mistakes, this is where you have it in spades over those younger folks with no experience.   

There is one last tip, that I've only tried once recently.  And although it didn't win me the position, I did come in the second of two finalists.  After my third round of interviews, this time with several executives who were fairly high up the command chain, in my thank you emails, I suggested a solution to a business problem they voiced during our session.  I've also heard of candidates recommending a 30-60-90 day action plan to their would-be employers as part of an agreement and alliance building strategy.  Here's the advantage for us, we have the experience to understand the journey, draw a map, plan for the unexpected and appreciate the possibilities.  

The bottom line? Remember back in 1962, Neil Young drove, "Mort" (a.k.a. Mortimer Hearseburg), his beloved Pontiac hearse from Toronto to Los Angeles?  That's when he met Stephen Stills, formed Buffalo Springfield and wrote this song, a song he'd sing 48 years later at the close of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.    

This post is dedicated to my friend, Tony Swan, the good old boy at Car & Driver no, errr I mean the Old Boy Racer at Car & Driver.      


  1. Marion - is there anything wrong for someone to want out of a job at a time when so many, including yourself, are without work? I resent having to feign appreciation for a job that is an excellent example of the old saying, you can't judge a book by its cover. I desperately desire a career change but all job descriptions that I read are so specific about qualifications, that they never seem to allow for the possibility that someone from outside the traditional career path for the job could possess the skills and education to successfully transition in mid or late career. Any tips or advice?

  2. Tangent-man, be careful. If you need your income you don't want loose your revenue stream. The specificity that characterizes today's job market is a result of the flood of talent in the market. I think this tendency will pass because business is changing to meet the "new" consumer with that one appliance in his/her pocket. In the meantime, is there a way you can integrate and support the new methods that your company will need to adopt?

  3. Hi Marion,
    We are not old - we are experienced. The body may not compare favorably to a young adult's anymore, but our minds have been trained way beyond what youngsters can offer, and we are well versed in the soft skills. These same soft skills that takes a fair amount of time to develop. We have lost the rashness of youth, and have learned our life lessons well. And as the saying goes: experience is something you get, but only after you needed it most. And this is the biggest plus point for the older person - we know what to do, how to do it, and can draw up the most realistic timeline for achieving it.
    After being unemployed for some years, I now am back at doing technical work, that which I last did many years ago. 38 Years of IT experience - been there, done that. Isn't it funny how the basics stays the same, and you do know the basics very well, and get up to speed very quickly, yet most employers will not consider you for employment if you are unemployed? If a more "experienced" person is appointed, it may be that such a person may not deliver instant maximum productivity, but that same person brings lots of other knowledge and skills, which may just be worth more in the long term, than the short term goal of instant maximum performance.
    Who would you rather have as the pilot flying your aircraft - the pilot that just finished his training at the academy, or the "older" pilot that has successfully dealt with a crisis or two, and thus has the experience?