Q: After over 20 years working for a global corporation, I accepted a buyout plan. Since I went to work right after college, I don’t have an up-to-date resume and don’t know what to be looking for in a new job. I have two high school kids that will be going to college soon and need to work supporting my family. What should I be doing to get back on my feet vocationally?
A: You are not alone. “Over-the-hill” in Corporate America is getting a lot younger. There are many more Americans turning 55 in recent years than turning 25. Many of the 78 million Baby Boomers, like you, are asking the question, “What am I going to do with the rest of my life?”
These later-in-life career changers don’t care about taking it easier and often will work as hard or harder than they did in the jobs they left behind. A Merrill Lynch & Co. retirement survey of more than 3,000 Baby Boomers reported that 83 percent intend to keep working and 56 percent of them hope to do so in a new profession. Second careers are like second marriages---you are prepared to make better choices on what you want to do and whom you want to do it with.More employers are recognizing that older adults bring skills and experiences to the table that can help the bottom line.
For example, in the world of consulting, "it can be a plus to have experience," says Ms. Jackie Greaner, North American practice leader for talent management at Towers Watson. "There's not really a stigma about being older."
The same is true for other knowledge-worker jobs. For example, "the nuclear-power industry is an industry that is very hard to get people that are fully developed in terms of skill sets and capabilities," Ms. Greaner says. For employers, "it's very difficult to get that expertise."
Aon Hewitt's senior vice president for talent administration Ms. Erin Peterson says talented recruiters can be hard to find. "I find people who have a lot of life experience and professional experience make the best recruiters."
You should seriously consider taking stock of yourself and your life during this mid-course career correction before jumping into a new job or thinking about an early retirement. As Bernard Baruch once said, “Age is only a number, a cipher for the records. A man can’t retire his experience. He must use it. Experience achieves more with less energy and time.” Knowing who you are and what you want to achieve in your second career matters.
Thinking about a job search begins with knowing who you are, assessing your unique signature talents and understanding what you do best. Starting or buying your own business may be an option if you have the required skills, cash and attitude to make a go of it.
Even though you may have spent your career at a large company, your new search may lead you to small or medium-sized companies where less age discrimination and lower salaries exist. By identifying your transferable skills and packaging yourself for a new job function or new industry, you can greatly increase your chances of success.
For mature workers, the most common way to find a new job is by using one's social networks (51%) versus ads (12%), search firms (8%), mailing/direct approach (5%) and Internet (2%). However, don't make the mistake of networking too soon. If your goals are vague, the contacts you make can't help you much and your contacts may even be put off by your lack of direction.
Successful networkers never ask their network contacts for a job because they know that such a request generally doesn't produce the desired result. Just ask for an appointment with the avowed intention of seeking advice regarding how to advance your search or to seek new contacts. Such requests are harder to deny. If the person sitting across the table likes what she hears, she'll make a point of mentioning potential opportunities to you.
Here are some resume building and interviewing tips to keep you focused in your job-search makeover:
1. Narrow job goals to emphasize your strongest assets. Don't expect prospective employers will read your resume 5 or 6 times to figure out what you can and want to do. Have a focused direction--not a potpourri of "I can tolerate these other things, too."
2. Widen your list of potential employers. Don't let your personal perceptions limit your job-hunting success. Being uncomfortable with different industries or work roles can prevent you from getting to where you want to be.
3. Clarify and polish your resume. Highlight your most valuable and specific skills and competencies. Remember the summary is the most important part of the resume because most hiring managers only assess a resume for 10 seconds.
4. Hone your interviewing and follow-up tactics. Be sure to review your weaknesses, as well as your strengths, in both the interview and thank you letters to interviewers. By knowing who you are and what you do best, you will set yourself above most job hunters.