The Over 40 crowd — and especially the Over 50 crowd — needs to know what I didn’t know until today!
A PRELIMINARY ASIDE:
A week ago, I scheduled an interview with Career Coach Randy Block, of Block & Associates, and immediately prepared a list of questions I planned to ask.
In the following days, as I continued my personal journey of learning things related to finding a job in today’s market, that list of questions changed. By the time of the interview today, I’d scrapped all but a few basic questions.
The point? Just when I think I know what I’m doing, I discover that I don’t.
That’s not to say that any of my prior blog posts regarding “how to find a job” are somehow wrong. It’s all been worthwhile and accurate advice — I promise! But, as with so many things, it’s not enough. The intricacies involved are as endless and varied as the number of job seekers and hiring authorities, it sometimes seem.
So … join me as I continue to discover those intricacies. Hopefully they’ll help you, too, on your own journey to find the perfect career opportunity.
Getting started means that you need the right mindset. So, let’s get to it!
Q: Where do we start?
A: By changing our mind-set! And …
YOU NEED TO STOP LOOKING FOR A JOB!
What? Seriously? Well … yeah, sort of.
I asked Randy Block something like, “What’s the biggest obstacle for those seeking to return to the workplace after a long absence?” As we talked, we detoured. But that detour was extraordinarily valuable.
What follows is Part 1 of a series I’m doing as a result of my conversation with Randy Block. And, it’s a paraphrase: Randy’s ideas. My words (mostly). It is the point that matters most, so clear your mind of your preconceived notions about how to pursue career opportunities, and listen closely:
We were talking about obstacles, and you mentioned something about the employer’s motivation?
Corporate has no motivation to replace a current boomer — one who is qualified for a promotion to VP — with someone on the outside. It makes more sense to promote and then fill the new mid-level vacancy with an outsider. If you’re looking for a full-time job at a senior level, the odds are strongly against you after 40, and especially after 50. It’s not age discrimination; it’s supply and demand.
If people like us aren’t in demand for these full-time career positions, what CAN we do?
Stop looking for a job! Instead, market yourself as a problem-solver, an independent contractor who is available to come in, short-term, and solve whatever problem Corporate is up against.
And how do you know what those problems are?
Here is an example: 9 out of 10 in the sales industry would say — if asked — that they do not currently have anyone bringing in sufficient numbers of new clients. If your skills include being an “Evangelist,” being able to drum up new business and open doors that will lead to potential sales, you have found your golden ticket. Use it. Then, after you’ve built a new network for the company, you are in a better position to turn it into a long-term or permanent position. But, start with the short-term, offering to build a new network of clients over, say, 6 months.
That works for sales, but what about those of us who are allergic to sales?
Same principle. Look at your skills. If you have 12-15 skills, for example, and you otherwise qualify at an executive level, it’s going to be tough to find a corporation who can justify bringing in a new VP rather than promoting in-house, right? So now your mission is to discover what Corporate needs, show how you can fill that need — short-term. You might say, “Here’s what I do. Now, what do you need?” Depending on their answer, you then say, “I understand you can’t justify bringing in a new VP, but I have the skills to handle that need. Let’s discuss a short-term contract to knock this project out!”
Interesting. But, how do you get to the point of a sit-down to even have that conversation?
It’s a process. A 3-step process: First, you need to build your network of contacts. Next, you need to do what I call, ‘listening with understanding.’ Last, you’ll connect the dots.
We love steps to follow! Can you expand, please?
Well, I don’t include this as a step, but it bears stating: Stop sending out résumés. Sending résumés in response to job board postings will get some people some jobs, but it is extraordinarily unlikely to help the senior executive professionals.
And stop waiting for your phone to ring. Instead, you need to do the dialing. Everyone sends out résumés, and waits for a call. It’s the wrong approach.
And what about those steps?
The first step is about networking. I work with my clients to develop a very strategic plan for networking. We target certain contacts, carefully planned. It’s not about how many you know; it’s about who you know. As you build your network, stick to a very designed, focused plan that is going to fit into a narrow framework of contacts.
That makes total sense. Absolutely. Then what?
Don’t just list these folks on your Linked In profile. Actually connect with them. Make a phone call. Schedule an appointment. Meet for lunch. On average, you should actively meet with your strategically chosen contacts in your network 3 times per week. That’s 3 different meetings with 3 different folks each week.
When you make your calls, don’t say, “I’m looking for a job.” Do say, “I’d like to sit down with you and brainstorm some ideas. Where can you fit me into your schedule?” Something like that.
The picture is beginning to get clearer! So, once you’ve got the right network of connections, you begin scheduling face-to-face meetings. And when you are actually sitting in this person’s office, you …. ?
You listen. Ask questions to start a conversation about the needs of the company, and listen. Sometimes you have to read between the lines. Your résumé says you are “innovative,” so prove it. If you see a gap that your lunch companion hasn’t articulated, make a mental note. It’s all about finding the problem(s) and determining if you can offer a solution.
Which leads us to the 3rd step, “connecting the dots.”
Right. You’re in a face-to-face, you’ve listened closely and asked pertinent questions; now it’s time to connect the dots. Point out how you have the skills necessary to knock out whatever the project is that will solve Corporate’s problem. And, again, you are offering to solve a problem in the short-term — not looking for a permanent place within the company.
You have to first define the needs of the company, then offer your skills as a solution to those needs — even if you use only 4 of your 15 skills. You connect the dots for the employer; you don’t assume that he’ll connect them by himself.
Your skills have no value until they are sold.
Wow. This is a totally new concept for me, personally. Like so many, I’ve been pounding the pavement “looking for a job.” I can see how the Over 50 crowd, especially, will benefit from this! And just so we’re clear, I am NOT 50, I have several years to go. But many of my readers are 50+.
You know, I can also see how a person can quickly build a reputation as a strategic problem-solver, someone who a company can’t wait to get their hands on to come in on a short-term basis. They’d pay a premium, I would think, for the service!
In the long run, a senior executive professional could actually make more money this way, once he or she is in demand. And, as a side benefit, hopping from corporation to corporation every 6 months or so — whatever length of time is needed — would totally eliminate the problem with “career burn out” often experienced by the more mature professional. Right?
You’re absolutely right. And brilliant! That’s something even I hadn’t thought of!
(Okay … Randy didn’t say that. I completely made that last part up!)
What’s the bottom line, Randy?
The bottom line is that the mature crowd needs to realize the value of selling their skills rather than “finding a job.”
Remember: Your skills have no value until they are sold.
When we finally ended our conversation, I knew I had enough material to write several blog entries. But, more importantly, I learned much more about this career-seeking business for Professionals over the age of 40. I like learning. And I like sharing what I’ve learned. Hmmm… Perhaps I’m on to something — something marketable! 🙂
If you’d like to contact Randy Block, just click on the link. He has an excellent website, and is the consummate professional. You won’t be disappointed. And, stay tuned for the additions to this series, coming soon!
Until next time,