Are you 50+ or thereabouts and looking for a job? Do you feel that recruiters look the other way when they receive your resume? Are you not passing through the phone screens and the phone screeners who seem like they could be your kids? Are you frustrated in your search? You are not alone. A lot of people in there 40s and especially 50+ feel left out of this job market. Don’t worry. I know because I work with all age groups and demographics but I work directly with many 50+ jobseekers and have done so since I was in my 20’s some 20 years ago when I started Career Pro Inc.
What’s going on today? A statistic that goes against conventional wisdom just posted recently by Fortune, suggesting that government employment data analyzed by Challenger, Gray & Christmas suggested that, by age group, going back to 2010, “researchers made an interesting discovery” and that discovery suggests something that cuts against the grain. Out of the 4,319,000 jobs created in the U.S. over the past two–and-a-half years, about 70% (2,998,000 jobs) went to people aged 55 or older. In the research for this group unemployment fell from 7.1% in May 2010 to a current level of 6.5% which is well below the 8.2% rate for the workforce as a whole, and a lot lower than the 10.2% unemployment rate for workers between the ages of 20 and 34 in the same time period. Now those statistics could be eye opening good news for you if you are 50+.
So why is this information not known and why do my 50+ jobseekers feel disproportionately singled out as “old”, “outdated” and “not hirable” based on the market and not, in their opinion, their skill set? Many people whom I talk to, including executive recruiters and C-suite executives suggest that older workers may not be counted properly in these numbers. Some people I know argue that older workers have decided to take lesser jobs or drop out of the job search altogether. Fortune and Challenger call this statement to question. In fact, Challenger states, “employment gains for those 55 and up have occurred among managers and professionals.” What could be good news often is not good news to people looking for a job and who feel they have faced overt or covert age discrimination. Just last week we devoted our Triangle Executive Careers Group workshop to issues related to age bias and what do about it with one of North Carolina’s pre-eminent employment law attorneys, William Joseph Austin. Austin spoke about issues related to age and how hard it can be for an existing employee or even a jobseeker to make a charge of age discrimination and win in court.
So it’s obviously a very hot issue whether you are 50+ and looking for a job or worried about your job prospects at 50+. It’s a hot button issue no matter where you land on the spectrum – searching, thinking about searching or just plain worried about your job prospects and income prospects at 50+.
What can you do about the situation? Last week I addressed a group of financial executives at the largest chapter of North Carolina’s Financial Executive Networking Group about online networking and branding. I made a number of of points about the perception vs. reality for the 50+ age group. Although the group of financial executives represented many of the generations now in the workforce it certainly had a predominantly 50+ look. Out of this group at least 80% of the crowd was “looking for their next assignment. Distilled from my message and exhortation about branding and marketing yourself as a financial executive here were some of the 50+-job search, personal branding and online networking suggestions.
Here is the core breakdown of on an on and offline brand elements. For the 50+ jobseeker it is no longer okay to possess a quiet reputation especially when you are thinking about or looking for a job. You need to communicate your value proposition in everything that you do and every electronic communication or media you are involved in now. Even if you have a job you need to be communicating your value properly, consistently and regularly. Typically and traditionally brand elements can make up your personal brand like they would a company. These elements of a brand can help as you think about updating your 50+ brands for the job market:
Name: The word or words used to identify a company, product, service, or concept. What are the words that come up when someone finds you on Linked In, views your resume or mentions your name? What would you like them to be and are you reinforcing this message in all of your communications?
Logo: The visual trademark that identifies the brand. In personal branding this is your picture and the picture and any other visual elements of you. What pictures are associated with your headshot or of you in action on any media channel or online channel? How do you dress and how do you look to others? How would others describe you? Does your visual brand say what you want it to say?
Tagline or Catchphrase: “Can you hear me now” is an important part of the Verizon brand. How would you like to spoken of in key conversations? What would you like others to say about you? Think of a short sentence or a line that you can back up with facts, achievements and metrics. Make it easy for yourself.
Graphics: The dynamic ribbon is a trademarked part of Coca-Cola’s brand. You are associated with the brands you represent so associate yourself with your company, volunteer work and your past employers through powerful recommendations and making yourself known as a solution provider for each organization you represented. Many 50+ have out of date brands and achievements because the date of their last problem solved may be years ago. Update your achievements on Linked In and as you speak!
Shapes: The distinctive shapes of the Coca-Cola bottle are the trademarked elements of those brands. It’s the physical you, how you look and dress. You must update your appearance and show yourself to be current, leading edge and at least demonstrating an up to date look that is age-appropriate.
Colors: Owens-Corning is the only brand of fiberglass insulation that can be pink. Colors matter. Believe it or not the 50+ crowds should know what dress or suit or “look” supports their brand. I have a lot of 50+ folks outfits say “I don’t care anymore” so if you don’t expect an employer to grant you care either.
Sounds: A unique tune or set of notes can denote a brand. NBC’s chimes are a famous example. This depends but we talk about your voice, how you answer questions and how you discuss key issues.
Scents: The rose-jasmine-musk scent of Chanel No. 5 is trademarked. Yes. It matters that you don’t smell musty. In person, the 50+ jobseeker must look, feel and smell vibrant, clean and professional. Let me pick on guys here. If you are wearing English Leather, think again!
Tastes: Kentucky Fried Chicken has trademarked its special recipe of eleven herbs and spices for fried chicken. Think broader. What brands do you promote or look to support? What volunteer causes do you support or that you would want to be known to support? Express this online and offline. Use it to network and communicate the whole part of you to look current.
Movements: Lamborghini has trademarked the upward motion of its car doors. How do you walk and carry yourself? Are you going somewhere or dragging? What do you drive? It just needs to be clean.
So let me leave you with some questions to ask about yourself and your brand at 50+:
– How Do I Want to Be Known Now and in the Future to Any Employer?
– What Do I Want People to Say About Me When I Am Not There?
– What Would My Reputation Be Without My Title or Company?
– How Will I Be Held Accountable to My Proposition?
Let me also suggest Five Good Reasons to Brand:
– Creating and Cultivating Your Value Proposition
– Career Insurance
– It’s Long Term vs. Short Term
– To Create Your Career Destiny
– Reputation Management and Growth
What are your reasons to tweak and update your brand for your career future or career search? Find out what you need to do and create your new destiny at any age.