Like many people, Sherri just lost her job and needed to find a new one fast. She had worked at a major bank in Los Angeles for over 15 years and, even though she isn’t college educated, had a stellar record. But the bank’s record was not so stellar.
They had to lay off over 400 people, and Sherri was one of them. She wants to work and needs to find a job, but she has three major concerns:
a. The overall job market. With over 10% unemployment and real challenges in the financial sector, she’s afraid it may be difficult to land a job.
b. Since Sherri’s no spring chicken, she’s concerned about age discrimination.
c. She doesn’t know where to find a job because she doesn’t have a four year degree.
Here are my thoughts and suggestions:
1. Age discrimination exists.
It stinks. It’s unfair. But it’s true. Even though the Employment Act prohibits bias against workers over age 40, it’s easy for companies to filter out older applicants. Sherri’s profession is full of younger people, and her job really doesn’t require years and years of experience.
For those two reasons, she’s going to run into age discrimination issues and she might as well be prepared. Since older applicants are often discarded at the resume review stage, her first step is to carefully reword her resume and not use outdated industry terminology. This will make landing a job much easier.
And when she gets a job interview, she might run into a snooty HR kid who tells her she’s overqualified. Sherri has to anticipate questions that touch on her age and be able to overcome those objections.
People in their forties and fifties are more seasoned, often approach work more professionally and have fewer distractions. These are good things. Also, people in this age group tend to have fewer babies and accidents. That can help reduce small business liability insurance premiums for the employer.
But let’s get real here. Even the most hip resume on the planet won’t land Sherri a job. Resumes lead to very few interviews and even fewer job offers.
She’s going to have to be proactive if she wants to find work.
2. Do an honest assessment.
On the one hand, Sherri’s experience is in the financial industry. She’ll add the most value to her employer in that industry and that’s where she’ll probably make the most money. On the other hand, that industry is in financial turmoil right now. If you were in Sherri’s shoes, would you start thinking about being in business for yourself? I would.
Is it reasonable for Sherri to expect to find a job in her industry? I don’t know. She’s going to have to be the judge of that, and it’s a very tricky question. (I know that if Sherri was an unemployed newspaper printer, I’d suggest she look into a different industry.)
3. Get tech training.
Now would be a great time to take short-term courses to get her vocational training skills up to cutting-edge level. Sherri needs to master Excel, PowerPoint and even Twitter. If she can demonstrate mastery in these areas, it can go a long way towards overcoming age discrimination. But training isn’t enough.
As an employer, I don’t want someone to just tell me they’ve taken a class on a particular subject. I want Sherri to convince me that she has it down cold. Before the interview, I want Sherri to think about how I would use these technologies and prove that she’s already a master at doing exactly what I need her to do.
4. Be flexible.
These days, a lot of companies hire temps before they take the plunge and bring a person on full-time. Sherri has to be ready, willing and able to accept those offers. She might even want to cold call the companies she is targeting and offer to work as a temp for them as a way to get in the door. If she does this, it will save the company a huge amount of money and it will demonstrate her ability to be proactive. Nice. Me likey.
5. Pretend she is older than she is.
The over 50 crowd (that includes me) has developed fantastic resources to help find work. She should plug into that if possible. Why?
Well…if she finds a company looking to hire folks in their fifties, do you think they might consider a young wet-behind-the-ears 41-year-old? I do.
Here are a few resources that people over 50 use to find jobs:
6. Get out there.
A job offer isn’t going to magically appear in Sherri’s inbox. And her resume, while an important support document, probably isn’t going to land her a job either.
She has to get out there and network. That’s really how to find a job when things are tough. Sherri should focus 100% on getting “information” interviews. Her goal should be two such interviews a day. Odds are good that if she does that, she’ll find a job within two months.
Have you had to deal with issues like these? What advice would you give Sherri?