How to Start a Job Search at 55: Part I

This is Part I of Glen Bradley's blog series. Read the rest of the series here.

I have always had a job. That is, until six weeks ago. I came from a blue collar family in Kentucky that had never produced a family member that went to college. I was to be the first. Of course, no money had been set aside for college, so the first Monday following my high school graduation I went to work for a road construction company to begin to pay my way through school. The summer construction waned as fall approached and I went to work for an apparel manufacturer loading trucks during the day and going to the university at night.

For nearly 37 years I worked for that company, finally ending my career there as a Vice President in the Commercial Operations area. I was part of a company restructuring, and I still have intentions of working some additional years. But for the first time since high school, I was out of work.

On the one hand, after that long of a career, I was happy to take a break and just enjoy not having a deadline or fire to put out. On the other hand, after a couple of weeks, I was already feeling a bit antsy and decided to at least begin the journey to find my next career move. So, let’s frame the difference from my last job search. I was 18 and am now 55. In 1977, there was no Internet (or at least available to the public,) there were no personal computers, no email, no…. well, you get the picture. Today, I am learning that social media is the key to finding a job. I am in a new place!Find a Job

I always had this feeling that if I were ever looking for a job, my considerable network of colleagues built up over the years would spring forward with all types of positions, allowing me to choose from multiple offers. My first learning is that while my network is helpful, and supportive, they haven’t been sitting on jobs, waiting for me to become available. There has been the consulting offer or two, but I now realize I’m going to have to actually work at finding my next opportunity.

With some trepidation, I now begin the job search process. I’ve already learned a lot about an industry I wasn’t really aware that existed. I am absolutely blown away at the number of professionals and specialists that exist just to support and help people find employment. There are experts for resumes, interviews, LinkedIn, recruiting, etc. It’s a bit overwhelming to someone essentially going through this for the first time, and after already enjoying a long and fruitful career.

The irony for me is that while it seems to take a village to gain that elusive job, it is also very much an individual process. As an executive, I’ve been accustomed to having a team to actually execute the work.  Now I find I am my own administrative assistant and IT support desk. I have to go to Staples and search the shelves instead of having someone lay the administrative solution on my desk. I shout out loud at Word when it doesn’t format intuitively (at least intuitively for me,) but the only help I get is the mournful stare from my golden retriever who at least shows sympathy (or maybe pity) in her eyes. I’ve been the expert at my work for some time. I now find that I am constantly head scratching at the cacophony of advice (usually divergent) from the experts.

This is my new world. And despite the baby steps I am now putting down, I also have the anticipation that, in the end, this will work out for the betterment of my career and work satisfaction. I will continue to blog on what I experience and learn. I’ve found there is quite a society of fifty-somethings out of work for the first time in years and our encouragement for each other means a lot. Now if I could just find that darn stapler.

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

Why This ME Became a Software Consultant

Fifteen months ago this week, I started my new occupation as a technology consultant. I spent the previous 16 months in the R&D department of a thermoelectric company as a mechanical engineer. What would cause a mechanical engineer to unexpectedly quit his job and change industries entirely? This is my story.Why This ME Became a Software Consultant

I have three degrees from Dartmouth, all with the word "engineer" on them. None of them have the word “software” or “computer”. Nonetheless, every job offer I received after college involved writing code except the one I accepted. I wanted to give mechanical engineering its chance, to see if the industry could reproduce the culture I had found and loved during my time in school. Here is what I discovered and why I changed occupations to software consulting.

1) Timeline: I'm impatient. We take the Predictive Index at my current employer and my overwhelming trait is low patience. Mechanical engineering works differently. The timelines are in years or decades. Prototypes could take weeks or months to arrive meaning the iterative process is at least that slow. Contrast: I'd go home at night and turn out a brand new feature on an app I was writing in a matter of hours. I could see results instantly. It was gratifying and addictive.

2) People: In engineering, I worked with mostly people in their 40s or 50s. No one was in a rush to get promoted and most were happy just to have a job. There were no misconceptions that we were doing anything cool that would change the world. We were mostly there just to design some new stuff and hope somebody bought it. Contrast: all my co-workers are my age. Our managers are in their 30s. Our Principals and VPs are in their 40s and 50s. This means I actually enjoy hanging out with my co-workers. We're similarly minded and career-driven. Our management arrived at their position because they were too, making them great resources. Additionally, we get to build some really cool stuff and, as a result, we're excited about what we do.

3) Corporate Structure: I had been working at my engineering company for 16 months. My direct manager had been there for 10 years. His manager had been there for 35 years.  Needless to say, I wasn't going anywhere fast. The path before me was to take cost of living increases for years until someone retired and then we all moved up. Contrast: I'm up for promotion every 12 months. My promotions are based on my performance, not the actions of someone else. My earning potential and the demand for my skills are both much greater.

You combine these three things and you get drastically different cultures. I still love mechanical engineering, but more in the pure sense rather than the industry implementation. If you're thinking about what to major in, choosing your first job, or contemplating a career change, think through these three things and what culture best fits you. For me, I’ve found software consulting to be a perfect blend of consistency and new challenges, security and new opportunities. I get to work with great people solving hard problems for interesting clients and it’s hard to ask more from a job than that.

About the Author: 

Scott Decker fell in love with writing code in college. He had a brief foray as a mechanical engineer before taking a job at Pariveda Solutions in Dallas, TX in 2013. He blogs here, tweets here, and is emailed here. You can also find him on LinkedIn. If he’s not writing code, he’s probably exploring the closest mountain range with his wife and dog.

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Job Seeker

You Won't Find These Things On Our LinkedIn Profiles

LinkedIn recently posted this blog where they filmed recruiters talking about jobs, experiences and skills that are not on their LinkedIn profiles. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to make a special MATRIX edition.

This is just a small snippet of what makes up our team here at MATRIX. Thanks to everyone who shared the best (or rather, most entertaining) parts of your past!

Your turn: Post in the comments below or tweet at @MATRIXResources the things that aren't on your LinkedIn profile.

About the Author: 

Jennifer is the Community Manager for MATRIX. She manages all social media accounts and community partnerships in our different markets while assisting the marketing department. She loves pop culture, Oklahoma football and the great state of Texas. Feel free to connect with her on LinkedIn.

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Fun

Tech + Social + Collaboration = FAIL.

As a Developer, when I have an issue I’m trying to solve, I turn to Google. Most of my fellow developers do the same thing. Sites like Stack Overflow and MSDN are usually at the top of those searches. This is because the questions are public and the answers can be given either by the community at large or, in the case of MSDN, by Microsoft themselves.Solaborate

When I’m ready to start learning about the next big thing, I turn to Twitter and my long list of follows is always ready with tweets about what I need to care about.

Do we need a unified site that brings both of these concepts together? I’m not so sure. One newcomer to the Social/Collaboration scene believes they have done it.

"Solaborate is a social and collaboration platform dedicated to technology professionals and companies to connect, collaborate, discover opportunities, and create an ecosystem around products and services. Solaborate provides technology professionals a central place with the right tools and services to collaborate in real time. It's a new way for the tech community to be more productive.”

The new social network tries to merge a techie’s need for collaboration and answers with his/her need for knowledge sharing. Unfortunately, it’s centered on LinkedIn-like or Twitter-like connections. This means you’re only going to see information shared by people you connect with. Furthermore, only people you’re connected with will see your posts, even when marked “public.” This potentially solves the Information Sharing or “Social” aspect they’re trying to accomplish. They even offer video/audio calls and text chatting.

However, the same concept of connection-based communications hobbles their ability to be a collaboration center. If I can only ask my connections and can only see questions asked by my connections, how can I be sure I’m following community best practices? I need to be able to ask the entire community. Because of this, I would not be inclined to use Solaborate for collaborations on issues I’m facing; Google will still be my go-to place to solve problems.

If I’m not going to use the “collaboration” aspect of Solaborate, and am only left with the social features, I don’t need it. I already have all of those features on LinkedIn (and Facebook, Twitter, etc.) I think Solaborate has a long uphill battle if it wants to gain momentum in the market.

About the Author: 

Todd Azbill has been a software developer since 2000. His comfort zone is the Microsoft Stack, but he's flexible. In recent years, Todd has become an Agile Enthusiast and he finds himself gravitating towards the realm of Agile Leadership.

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Fun

Blog Response: Internships ARE Worth It

“Internships aren’t worth it.” When I saw this article from Forbes last week, I was surprised, and a little indignant. I grew up being told that the only way to get a job after graduation was by stacking my resume with internships throughout college. And honestly, I don’t think I would be where I am today if I didn’t have those internships.

The summer before I graduated from the University of Oklahoma, I landed a Social Media/Marketing internship at MATRIX in Dallas. The reason I got this internship was a combination of my interview and the experience I had on my resume. My boss would not have hired someone with zero experience to jump into this job that was essentially the voice of the brand.  The Internship

Granted, Henderson is generally talking about unpaid internships in her article. I was fortunate to have a paid internship with MATRIX. But believe me, it was nothing like the Google movie or the rest of these internships that pay more than the U.S. median household income. Even though I wasn’t in a high-paying tech intern program, I would repeat my internship in a heartbeat, paid or unpaid.

To Henderson’s first point: “The work doesn’t help you build useful skills”, it’s impossible to generalize here. Sure, there are internships that don’t build real skills, but I would like to think that these are not the majority. Even though I was just a college student, I was not the lowly coffee girl at MATRIX. I was tasked with building and managing social media accounts from the ground up and driving engagement. I had direction, but ultimately, I was given the reigns on really owning our online brand. My colleague, Jessi Byas, took an unpaid summer internship as a PR/Social Media rep on a political campaign in 2010. She was thrown right into the role and given responsibilities such as writing press releases, managing fundraising events, running social media accounts and more. Even though she wasn’t paid, she honed skills in this role that led her to where she is today. “As a PR major, I was able to use what I learned in my classes in a professional setting. I got a firsthand look of the inside of a campaign and even as an intern, I got to work alongside the candidate as a real member of the team,” said Jessi. There are plenty of companies out there that will treat their interns with this kind of respect.

When you get out of college, it’s almost impossible to get a job in an office without some kind of relevant experience. The most likely type of experience prior to entry-level positions? Internships. When interviewing at a company, the interviewer will look at your experience and ask what you did at your previous jobs. They don’t care if it was paid or not; they care about the skills you picked up.

Are internships worth it? I can’t speak for everyone. What Henderson doesn’t mention is how any kind of intern experience will teach you something about yourself. Maybe it doesn’t pay anything, but it shows you what it’s like to work in the business world and teaches you office etiquette before you start your real job. Maybe it trains you on taking orders well and meeting deadlines. (Actual, real-world deadlines, not like the paper you had to turn in to your English class last semester.) Or maybe it teaches you that you actually hate corporate environments and leads you to explore a different line of work. These lessons can be worth so much more than money. Maybe you’ll get lucky like me and your internship will turn into a full-time job. Are all internships going to be right for you? No, probably not. But don’t let lack of pay or articles like this keep you from getting real-world experience that can be the stepping stone to your dream job.

So what do you think: are internships worth it? Does the pay matter to you? Share your internship experiences in the comments.

About the Author: 

Jennifer is the Community Manager for MATRIX. She manages all social media accounts and community partnerships in our different markets while assisting the marketing department. 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