Managing a career transition and how to get a job with age and other competing factors are some of the biggest questions facing job seekers.
Employees can be lulled into the complacency of thinking they have found their Shangri-La with an employer, only to find themselves within a year or two carrying the contents of their desk out in a cardboard box. This is not to say that companies are “evil”, it is simply pointing out that as much as we “love” the company, it has a very limited ability to “love” us back.
So, it is a good idea to always be prepared for change and accept the fact that the change may not always work in our favour.
Dealing with career transitions, age factor and finding a new job after a sudden job loss are certainly hard nuts to crack for job seekers and migrants to Canada.
My name is Ashley Hockenberry. I have worked for nearly 3 decades in the corporate world. I have worked for such companies as Rogers Communications, AT&T and ORION. I have pretty much seen it all. Or almost!
There are many very accomplished people who are experts in their fields of endeavour, yet when they find themselves without a job due to a layoff or downsizing they feel lost and paralyzed.
I have seen situations where very confident and competent people go for months and even years without getting the next job assignment. It can be devastating to the individual as well as the family.
Finances can become depleted and marriages strained under the weight on unemployment. Bad habits can be formed – addictions to alcohol or drugs or other unhealthy pursuits.
It is important to understand that the old days of having a company that would create a life long career path for you are over. Companies are no longer in a position to make such lofty promises. Employees have to a large degree become expendable.
We live in a new world with a changing landscape, one where most young people entering the workforce will have perhaps a dozen different jobs in their career. And maybe even change careers entirely a few times. This involves a significant amount of uncertainty and anxiety.
It is important to set aside myths we have held on to for years.
We all want to believe that we matter, that the world is a nice place and that everything will work out for us in our career pursuits, if we simply put our mind to it and work hard.
Hard work is indeed important, but that alone will not secure our future.
We have to be aware that as times and organizations change, so do the social contracts that once held everything in place. My father only worked for 3 companies during his career. Many men his age only worked for one company until their retirement.
The companies of yesterday had a magic camaraderie. Employees looked forward to the annual Christmas party, Employee Summer Picnics and golf tournaments. You often worked with the same group of people for decades. Relationships were close and many lasted lifetimes.
The story is different today and the sands have shifted. In the current office environment, it is not unusual to see instead of offices, a sea of cubicles with workstations – each one just like the next. And instead of a whole bunch of personal effects – pictures of family, kids and credentials displayed on the walls, there are blank walls.
It is very disconcerting to be summoned to a mandatory meeting only to find that you are in a room with dozens of other employees, all of whom share the same fate – receiving a letter from the HR Department which says that you are no longer an employee of the company. I know how hard it is because it happened to me.
I have learnt my lessons. One big lesson is that you cannot afford to be comfortable in any position or any company. Ironically, I had excelled in my job, and had received a number of raises and retention bonuses. When our company was purchased by a larger entity, I was targeted for termination in large part due to my substantial base salary.
Another lesson learnt is that you can do well, even excel and lose your job. You may know all the right people and do everything right. You can show up early and leave late. You can help others be successful in their roles and even do things outside your job description. You can have years of outstanding performance reviews and still lose your job.
So, whatever happens, it is important not to take it personally, unless you are at fault and fired “for cause” in which case there should be some reflection and soul searching.
When we find ourselves unemployed, it can be a lonely desert. Our former colleagues may temporarily mourn our loss,but quickly move on and we become a memory. This process is a lot quicker than most of us would like to believe.
How do you deal with a job loss shocker, career transition or even the age factor? How do you find a job in between careers?
Here are 12 helpful tips on how to find a job in challenging times:
1. Invest in your network of people
Perhaps the best thing we can do to improve our chances of consistently getting a job is to have a healthy understanding of our industry, the various players and have a solid network of friends and acquaintances who could potentially support us and help us in our finding the right job.
Failing to invest in a relationship is a huge, career-limiting mistake. You will need someone to vouch for you, your work ethic, your experience, your knowledge, your problem-solving skills – people who are respected in your industry. These relationships have to be built, nurtured and maintained.
There is a persistent belief that the most “qualified” person gets the job. This is FALSE. Actually, in most cases, the person who is hired is the person who represents the least amount of risk to the company, has the fundamental qualifications, and has others who speak from experience about the candidate.
2. Invest in yourself.
If you want to be successful in your role, and handle career shocks, you will need to invest time in learning, keeping up with technology, industry trends and understanding the bigger picture.
Try to be skilled in a number of areas that will enable you to leverage your knowledge and experience to give you an edge over others who applying for similar career positions.
Prospective employers look at what applicants have done personally to improve themselves in various areas where they need improvement. When an interviewer asks the question – “what are your weaknesses?” Then you can demonstrate various areas which you identified for improvement. It is a very competitive marketplace out there and you need every edge in finding a job.
And remember, a prestigious university degree is no longer an employment guarantee. Your relevance must be clear.
3. Seek out mentors.
This makes a huge difference. Seek out people who have already been there, who already understand the systems and information and skills you are seeking to master.
Learn from their experience and mistakes! Learn everything they know. I have had numerous mentors in my career who have all helped me immeasurably in getting the right job
4. People skills matter
It would shock most people to know how quickly hiring decisions are made when interviewing candidates. See some statistics below on how to get a job (Source Workopolis)
Roughly 5% of decisions were made within the first minute of the interview, and nearly 30% within five minutes. However, most of the interviewers reported making their hiring decision after five minutes or longer. In fact, nearly a quarter, 22.5%, said that they had not made up their mind about a candidate at the end of the interview, and had to decide later.
The largest block, 52% of interviewers make their decision about a candidate in between five and fifteen minutes of the interview.
Want to improve your chances? Build rapport. Candidates who engaged the interviewer in conversation unrelated to the structured interview were given greater consideration than those who did not.
5. Likability Matters!
Everyone who is looking to hire will look for the best “fit” for the position they have in mind. And what they will be looking for is not just someone with credentials or experience or knowledge or an impressive resume. They are looking for someone they can envision themselves working with. As they are interviewing and interacting with you some of the key decision-making criteria will be –
“Can I see myself working with this person?”
“Is this person a problem solver or a problem creator?”
“Would this person fit into my team or would they have a difficult time working with and getting along with others?
“Is this someone others in the company would like?”
“If I hired this person, would others question my decision-making abilities?”
“Is this person emotionally volatile?”
Gone are the days when having the “right” experience and going to a well-known school will open the door for you all by itself. This can be especially difficult for immigrants to Canada who have a much greater merit-based system that values education and experience more. So, does personality trump everything in finding a job? No, but in Canada and North America, it counts for a lot more than people think.
6. Age is a factor
Be aware of your limited time horizon. Most people even today are convinced they will work well beyond the age of 60 and many believe they will be employed beyond 65 years of age.
Amazingly, they also believe they will be able to do at their current place of employment. This goes beyond wishful thinking and ventures into the fantasy realm.
The truth is that some companies regard older workers as “dispensable” or expensive. They require more sick days, tend to be behind in technology, want more vacation days, are not as willing to travel, and do not want to work long hours. The medical benefits required to send premiums higher for group insurance.
How many 62 year olds want to report to a 38-year-old boss? Companies are getting younger and younger all of the time. It is not unusual for someone in their mid to late 50’s to be the oldest person in a company – especially a technology, advertising, social media or any company in a “new” industry.
Every industry is different and they will have varying age tolerances, but be forewarned. How do you find a job? Always be on the lookout for your next job!
7. Think and look younger than your age
We all know people who are 50 but look 60 or even 65! We also know people who are in their 60’s who look and act 10 years younger. How do we do this? One of the key ways of doing it is to keep off the pounds and stay in good shape.
Do not smoke or if you do, try to quit. Smoking ages people and undermines their health in ways they cannot even imagine. And the dark circles under their eyes and smoky smell and nicotine breath do not impress prospective employers.
So how do you find a job when age is creeping in? Stay physically active and exercise. High energy levels are important. It looks good. And you feel good.
In addition, try to relate to younger people and have some kind of understanding of who they are, what they value and know something about popular culture.
8. Manage your own career
No piece of advice I could give is more important than this one. No company or organization is in a position to manage your career for you. That is your job.
A career in reality is a succession of jobs in a given field, but it is up to you to determine the type and length of employment at each employer.
Do understand that you are the person who will determine how high and far you will go. So invest in building the right foundation and taking the right steps and seeking out the right mentors, knowledge, relationships, and skills.
Investments have to be made in order to get a payback.
9. Do more than what your employer requires of you.
Work harder than your co-workers. Not to compete. But to make great work ethics a way of life. This will always set you apart.
10. Do not burn bridges.
Make friends. Help others be successful. Enlist others on your road to success. Manage people and situations carefully. Apologize if you offend someone or make a mistake. Be honest. Be punctual and attentive. Be supportive even when the direction the company is going in is different than where you think it should be going. This is how to always find a job.
11. Know when it is time to go
Do not stay in a place where you are not happy. If you find yourself complaining excessively to your coworkers or spouse about your boss or employer, then it is probably time to move on. EVERY job has a beginning and an end. If you recognize this, it will help you make the transition.
If you feel the company is looking for ways to get rid of you, start actively interviewing with other companies immediately. Learn to read the handwriting on the wall. Know when and how to quit.
12. When laid off, do not coast
The biggest mistake some people make when they are let go is that they take too much time off.
They decide to take vacations and spend time with family and finish projects around the house, play endless rounds of golf and eventually irritate their spouse with their idleness. This is not how to get a job.
Why does this happen? They mistakenly assume that when the time comes for them to look for a job, they will have no trouble finding suitable employment in a very short time frame. This is not only foolish but arrogant.
If you lose your job, the number one thing you need to do is to work VERY hard to find a new job. This means working 8 to 10 hours every day five days a week actively seeking, researching, prospecting, applying and interviewing. To do less, will keep you out of work longer.
Finally do remember that regardless of your situation there is always hope when trying to find a new hob Your job might be taken away from you. But hope cannot be taken away from you.
Keep the hope. And keep going.
By Ashley Hockenberry.
President of Scott Employment
Solutions, a company focused on helping people with career
transitions, executive job opportunities and personal development.