How to Start a Job Search at 55: What I've Learned

This is Part IV of Glen Bradley's blog series. Read Parts I-III here.

I’m now a little over two months into my job transition, at least from a focused perspective. Since there are so many times for reflection in this process, I was recently thinking about some of the lessons that I’ve learned from this experience that I will now take into my work as I land in a new career. It never occurred to me at the beginning that I would grow in areas through this process. That it would make me a better leader at my next company. How to Start a Job Search at 55: What I've LearnedHere are four areas where I feel I will be improved:

1. With all of the work I’ve done to understand and articulate my value proposition, I’ve realized that I can be better about communicating the value of work proposals. Whether developing a business case for the C-suite or simply gathering support within my team for a new company initiative, I think I may have assumed that my audience saw the proposal, its value and possibility, in the same way I did; without really ensuring the communication was fully presented. I will be better at the sales pitch in the future.

2. While I was always a believer and encourager of networking, both personally and with my teams, I really understand the importance now. In my last role, I insisted that my customer relations managers have a performance objective around their networking actions i.e. so many contacts made while attending a trade show, etc. However, because my job was so spread around North America and even Europe, I had a dearth of contacts in my own city. I have since began to “think global but network local”.  Networking is as critical to those employed.  Whether it is benchmarking, needing a reference for a service provider, learning about needed partners or competitors - having trusted advisors to discuss business is crucial. I have vowed to continue to join local organizations and attend events despite the busyness of a new position.

3. The development of resilience. Wow, this is a big one. I now understand that being an executive in a global iconic company buys you an often rapt audience both internally and externally. If I left voice messages, I did get a reply. If I made proposals that weren’t accepted they were at least listened to and considered.

Welcome to my new world! Applications made to online postings are basically ignored by software programs and in some cases HR gatekeepers, who count keywords rather than connect the value on resumes. To be fair, I realize there are too many resumes submitted to be handled much differently, but rejection seems to be the dish that HR serves cold.

Additionally, LinkedIn “inmails” to recruiters or hiring managers are returned unopened. Gaining contacts within a target company is both tenuous and tedious. I could go on but the point is that job seekers have learned to pick themselves up off the ground on an almost daily basis. There is no choice but to persevere and carry on to the next opportunity. I know that my resiliency in my next role will be considerably stronger than when I was accustomed to ongoing success.

4. This leads into the final trait to take forward: empathy. I am somewhat embarrassed to think how I came across to others seeking work, information, etc. when I was always employed. The old adage of walking a mile in another person’s shoes is true with the job seeker. I now know the frustrations, the roller coaster ride, the daily “twenty-mile march” that is required to find new employment.

Again, I have resolved to be accessible and willing to help where I can in the future as a job seeker comes my way. The Southlake Focus Group (networking for those in transition) uses the acronym of HOPE – “help one person everyday” as a way of maintaining the right attitude and spirit while in the job search.  The attitude shouldn’t stop with the job landing. If we can all take that charge into our next workplace, cube by cube, we’ll see a difference in our offices. Stephen Covey calls the ongoing learning process the “sharpening of the saw”. Never thought it would apply to the job search but there you go, the blade is a little sharper.

About the Author: 

Glen Bradley is an executive with a diverse background in IT, Logistics, and Commercial Operations. He is passionate about getting stakeholders aligned to deliver the strategic goals that help companies win in the marketplace. Learn more about Glen or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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Job Seeker

It’s Summer - Is Your Career on Vacation?

School is out, everyone is either on or going on vacation, and something other than work is calling your name. Sound familiar?

It’s Summer - Is Your Career on Vacation?Aside from seasonal jobs and internships, summer isn’t known as the high season for career moves. Most professionals just aren’t focusing on their careers in these months - but business still goes on. In fact, our data shows that job postings increased by 5% in the past eight weeks. On the flip side, candidate applications actually decreased by 14% - meaning that, at least for us, there are more jobs available, and fewer candidates to fill them, right now.

So while everyone else is working on their tan, it’s your opportunity to retool, get noticed, and land that killer job/career you covet. 

Below are a few simple steps you can take today to get started:

Focus

Not saying you have to be all work and no play. Want to get some sun? Grab your iPad and work on your resume while you do. Don’t miss out on the summer, but make sure your career doesn’t take a backseat in the meantime.

Learn a New Skill / Get Certified

If business is slow right now, then it’s a great time to get that certification that’s been on the back burner. Or maybe there’s a new skill out there that would make you more marketable. Be proactive with the spare time that you have.

Reach Out to a Recruiter

If the thought of looking for a new job is overwhelming to you, just remember that there are people out there who get paid to do it for you. Reach out to a recruiter specialized in your industry and fill them in on your situation. Maybe you’re comfortable in your current position, but would like to know if there’s something better out there. A recruiter can get a good feel of what you’re looking for, and find out if there’s a better match for you. For experienced IT professionals, you can update your job status here and engage with MATRIX.

Say YES to Happy Hour

There is a high volume of after-work events happening in the summer. Pick out a few groups (check out the MATRIX Events Calendar for some suggestions) that could be beneficial to you, and get out there and network. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 70% of all jobs are found through networking. You can’t ignore that number!

Automate your Job Search

This one doesn’t have to be daunting. Job boards, staffing agencies, and many direct employers have search agent technology built into their career portals and job boards. Spend five minutes crafting the perfect search, save it, then sit back and wait for relevant positions to land in your inbox. And don’t forget, many companies now allow you to apply using LinkedIn or Indeed.com profiles. And some (like MATRIX) even allow you to upload resumes and cover letters via Google Drive or Dropbox.

Lastly, don’t get too caught up that you forget to take time for yourself – after all, that’s what summer is all about. By adopting even a few of the tips above, you can keep your career on track without derailing summer plans and fun.

About the Author: 

Jennifer is the Digital Content Specialist for MATRIX. Her primary mission is to understand what information our various communities want and need from MATRIX, and to deliver it to them in ways that are enlightening, engaging and in sync with who we are as a company. She loves pop culture, Oklahoma football and the great state of Texas. Feel free to connect with her on LinkedIn.

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Job Seeker

Make July Your Month of Independence

In the United Stated we have just finished celebrating the 4th of July. It’s a special time to Americans. Not only are there picnics and parades, there is an understanding that over 200 years ago people got fed up with the way things were and pledged their “lives, fortunes, and sacred honor” to making the changes they saw necessary for long-term success as a nation.Make July Your Month of Independence

July is also halfway through the calendar year, six months away from the hopeful exuberance of New Year’s resolutions. This makes it a perfect opportunity to make July a month to declare your personal independence from the things that are standing in the way of your resolutions and goals. Revisit those grand dreams and declare your independence from the tyranny holding you back – pledging with the same revolutionary fervor as the patriots did to make the changes necessary for your success.

Declare your independence from failure.

How are you doing on the goals you made at the first of the year? Have you fallen so far behind that you have shoved them back into a corner, pointedly ignoring them because you feel that you have failed?

This is the tyranny of failure. It stalks along beside you, assuring you that each and every time you try something new it will not work out and you will not be successful. Often it has helpers – your friends, co-workers, possibly even those closest to you. Regardless, the largest ally of failure is the voice inside of you. Before you listen to all these voices, ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Have you given this goal your best effort?
  2. If you have – what are the reasons you could not be successful? Is it a lack of resources, knowledge or skill?
  3. How can you learn from where you are and make a plan to acquire what is missing – the resources, knowledge or skills – to allow you to be successful?

The great Roman general Marcus Aurelius asked the question a different way: “Does what’s happened keep you from acting with justice, generosity, self-control, sanity, prudence, honesty, humility, straightforwardness?” In other words, does what you perceive as failure change your basic nature as a human being? If not, don’t waste time being held back by the failure. Instead use it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Take that learning and growth into the future and continue on to achieve your goals.

Declare your independence from fear.

Television personality Mike Rowe tells a story when he stood before the camera to begin his first night as a host on the shopping channel QVC. He had a product he knew nothing about, he had no experience in live television, and he knew that QVC was not interested in on-air personalities who could not sell products.

In his story, Mike points out a key in declaring your independence from the tyranny of fear: Don’t hide your fear. Acknowledge that you are scared to yourself and to those around you. In Mike’s case, he started out his segment letting the entire television audience know that it was his first time, he didn’t know anything about what the product did, and then he asked them to get involved and help him out.

The audience responded by filling the phone lines to talk about their experience with the products, encouraged by Mike’s willingness to be truthful and authentic with them. Most importantly, they were willing to purchase the products being pitched.

What Mike Rowe did was eliminate the best weapon of fear, which is the uncertainty that comes with doing something that you have not done before. By openly acknowledging the fear he made it clear that he was committed to success, and was able to tap into those who were waiting for an opportunity to make that success possible.

Declare your independence from going it alone.

The story that Mike Rowe tells also shows the futility of trying to go it alone. Many people set goals – whether they are related to education, fitness or career – then attempt to achieve those goals in the absence of any type of support system.

The self-made man is a myth. Throughout history, leaders who have been successful have had carefully developed support systems around them. Whether they are formal advisors, technical assistants, or just sounding boards who can help in the development of ideas, a support system is invaluable in helping you reach a goal.

Make yourself accountable to those who care about you. It does not have to be a formal accountability framework; something as simple as online social media can be very powerful. When I first started a fitness program, I posted each day’s run to my Facebook account. This was not so much that I wanted to be sure that my friend saw me run, rather, it was my motivation when I did not want to go run.

Declare your independence.

Make this July your personal “Independence Month” – a month to recommit to the goals that you want to achieve this year. Adjust where necessary, learn from the attempts of the first half of the year, banish your fear, and re-engage with your support system. You have the second half of the year to make your goals a reality, and the experiences of the first half of the year to get you there.

About the Author: 

Kevin Dunn is a technology strategist, speaker, and thought leader with over 20 years of experience in highly available infrastructure, e-commerce, mobile application and payments, BYO Enterprise strategies, and the leadership of technical teams. Currently in independent practice, Kevin assists clients in creating innovation through a combination of people, process and technology. Follow him on Twitter @KevinTechExec and connect on Linkedin.

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Fun

The Three Hardest Words in the Job Interview

Joe was knocking the interview out of the park. I was a part of one of those abominable panel interviews and Joe had nailed a few hard analytical questions I had aimed between his eyeballs. The interview was less than half complete and in my mind, he had the job.The Three Hardest Words in the Job Interview

Then, it happened.

One of those traffic wrecks that you watch unfold in what seems like old-time, stop-motion cinema. Fenders crushing under the momentum of panic. Brakes squealing. And as quick as a Red Bull guzzling Mongol’s scimitar, Joe’s future with my company was lopped off unceremoniously.

And it wasn’t what he said: It was what he didn’t say. Joe could not say those three irksome words. The three words that separated him from where he was, and where he wanted to go: “I don’t know”.

The question was actually a pointless question from someone who had no business conducting an interview. But there it was: a soul-crushing, unfair question that should never have been asked, but it was Joe’s lot in this interview.

I am far from the first to suggest that admitting “I don’t know” is difficult. Just Google it. It’s hard. REALLY hard. I did my best damage control on Joe’s behalf because I can look past a few dents on an otherwise pristine Porsche, but his panic had sealed his fate with the others.

Don’t let this moment pass without trying it yourself out loud. Say it firmly and add a little staccato: “I. DON’T. KNOW.”

That didn’t feel very good, did it? It doesn’t feel very good for anyone, least of all me.

I’m asking you to commit yourself right here and right now to embrace this discomfort. Think of it like that tie you overpaid for at Brooks Brothers (yeah, you aren’t the only one): Once you get past feeling like the tourniquet is about to turn you into worm food, your step has a little extra spring because you not only are the right person for the job, but you look the part as well.

It’s like that, but harder.

If Joe had answered, “I don’t know”, he would’ve had a new job. And if he had some relevant insight, and was calm because he was prepared, Joe probably could have negotiated more money than what was on the table.

Listen to the power of these three difficult words when framed with the kind of wisdom any competent professional has inside: “I don’t know. But, if I understand your question clearly, here is how I would approach solving the problem…”

Joe was the most competent person that panel interviewed—by far—but that did not get him the job. Lack of preparation left him powerless. My passion is to help you find power through preparation. Wielding power with those three tongue-incapacitating words is a good start on mastering one of the most critical job skills you have never been taught.

In the rest of this blog series, I will share more techniques to help you interview with confidence. To interview with the confidence to speak those three despicable words.

The confidence to get the offer.

About the Author: 

Tony Plank is a polymath with an extremely diverse background including Information Technology, Law, and professional coaching. Three decades of success on both sides of the interview desk gives Tony a unique perspective on how to not just succeed in professional job interviews, but to master and control these critical career milestones. Mastering the interview demands preparation and planning. In an evocative series of blog posts, Tony will provide you with the basic elements of what it takes to walk into that next career changing event with confidence and walk out with the offer you want.

Posted in: 
Job Seeker

What It Costs When You Don’t Hire

Businesses operate on money and people. Hiring good people to fill your most pressing IT vacancies is a challenge that every hiring manager faces. It takes a definition of job requirements along with good interviewing skills and reference checks to recognize high-performance team players when you see them. It also requires teaching this skill to hiring managers throughout your organization. Recruiting is a vital function that could determine your success or failure as a manager or supervisor.What It Costs When You Don’t Hire

You have two main goals as you prepare to hire:

  1. Hire the best people available.
  2. Contain costs, but consider what a lost opportunity is costing you or a manager within your organization because of a failure to hire.

To help you evaluate the tangible and intangible costs here are several things to consider when making the decision NOT to hire:

  1. The impact of a shortage of employees could put pressure on the rest of your team members to the point that they become unhappy less productive. Some frustrated employees will quit.
  2. Employees could become vigilantes and they will secretly undermine you in an effort to spite you for being insensitive to the fact that more people are needed to do what’s expected.
  3. When you don’t have the people you need to handle the workload, you run the risk of losing your position in the marketplace to your competition.
  4. Look at every person on your team and ask yourself: What is the financial impact of this individual? To prove a point, try moving an untrained or unskilled worker into a vacant position and watch that person “weaken” your entire team.
  5. What if you don’t get your merchandise to the customers or marketplace on time because you don’t have enough of the right employees to get the job done? Maybe the production department has to shut down a line or cut a shift.
  6. Think of hiring as an investment in the future of your department rather than a liability. It’s a pay now or pay later task. Make sure that all of your hiring managers understand this critical concept too.
  7. Ask yourself how your team could change and become more effective with the right people. Ask your staff what they think it would take for them to become more effective.

Consider this four-step process when you are tempted NOT to hire:

Step #1
Calculate how much work you and your employees are doing right now that is “above and beyond” what’s expected and outside of their regular job responsibilities. Prepare a list of the tasks and then estimate the time that it takes to complete each one. Identify the work that could be handled by a newly hired person and thus relieve the others from the pressure that is mounting. This is easy to do and it will help you clarify in your own mind what makes the most sense in terms of hiring versus NOT hiring.

Step #2
Identify the new opportunities that would be possible if your current employees were relieved of the added burden they are now facing. For example, oftentimes clerical work falls on the shoulders of your professional or managerial level employees and it keeps them from doing their jobs.

Step #3
Make a list of the savings generated by hiring someone to pick up the slack. You might even prevent turnover and the associated astronomical costs generated by an employee who quits because he or she is fed up with what you are asking them to do.

Step #4
Ask yourself what it will cost to NOT hire in terms of your health and the health of your employees. Overworked employees are prone to illness and accidents and they often don’t take time to exercise and relax.

In summary, some of the cost savings and benefits that you have identified are concrete and measurable, while others are intangible. Your actual cost to pay the salary and benefits of a new hire should be weighed against the intangible benefits of hiring the people you need when you need them. Before you make the decision NOT to hire, evaluate the risks as well as the benefits associated with your decision. There are times when NOT filling a vacancy is the best, most logical thing to do. There are other times when the decision NOT to hire is a foolish, costly mistake that could impact your profitability for years to come. Think about what speaks for your decision and what speaks against it. Then do what you need to do.

About the Author: 

Carol Hacker is the former Director of Human Resources for the North American Division of a European manufacturing company, Employee Relations Manager for the Miller Brewing Company, and County Office Director for the US Department of Labor. Headquartered in Atlanta, GA, Carol has been the President and CEO of Hacker & Associates since January 1989. She specializes in teaching managers, supervisors, team leaders, HR professionals, and executives how to meet the leadership challenge. Carol is the author of over 400 published articles and 14 books including the bestseller, Hiring Top Performers-350 Great Interview Questions For People Who Need People. She earned her BS and MS with honors from the University of Wisconsin. She can be reached at www.carolahacker.com or 770-410-0517.

Posted in: 
Hiring Manager