|Martin Yate CPC
NY Times Bestseller
Professional Resume Services
As one door closes, another can open. I want to address an approach to job search that has special relevance to seasoned professionals. Not so long ago I spent an evening with Dave Theobald, the founder of Netshare.com, a career site for executives. As we compared our various aches and pains, we also talked about the very real issues of age discrimination and what a man or woman can do about it, above and beyond the approaches already discussed. Here are the salient points of our conversation (captured on the tablecloth and later transcribed).
- For those over fifty-three, we think a mass mailing to recruiters is a waste of time and money. The only time a recruiter is going to present a candidate in the mid- fifties—except when this candidate is at very senior levels—is when she has an excellent relationship with the client and can say, “I know he is fifty-six, but I want you to interview him anyway, because I think he is an excellent candidate.”
- At the same time, we agreed that contacting contract/project recruiters is a different story. “Gray is in.” (In some instances, you don’t need to dye your hair any longer.) There are some real advantages for the mid-fifties people looking for contract jobs. First, the job can be anywhere. Second, you can size up the company just as the company is sizing you up—evaluating the culture, chemistry, philosophical fit. Third, it may turn into a full-time job.
- The disadvantages of contract work are: (a) no benefits, medical in particular, and (b) no security. (This disadvantage is somewhat moot because there is really no job security today anyway.)
- A big advantage to contract work is that if it doesn’t work out beyond the agreed- upon period, say six months, your ego isn’t bruised, and you can talk about recent consulting assignments in subsequent interviews.
The idea of contract and consulting may come as culture shock to an executive raised with decades of corporate identity and teamwork. However, unending corporate employment is no longer the only option, nor necessarily the norm, as you will see.
Try this test: make a list of ten people you know who are in their fifties. These can be people you went to grade school or college with, or worked with at the peer, subordinate, or superior level, just so long as they are your age. If you and your list are fifty-four to fifty-five years old the odds are that perhaps up to three are still working in traditional corporate jobs (with benefits); if fifty-six, between two and three; if age fifty-seven to fifty-eight, no more than two; if fifty-nine to sixty, one at best is still in a traditional corporate job.
This is an important message for the professional man or woman in his or her middle years. It says that corporate jobs at the level you are used to are likely to become increasingly scarce. In your middle years, you need to put those hard-earned skills to work on other endeavors. Yes, you’ll continue to pursue that full-time job with benefits, but, yes, you’ll also consider contract employment as a viable alternative that gives you more flexibility. It also means that you can adapt another version of that resume to position yourself as a consultant and apply the very same techniques you use for job searching toward landing consulting assignments. The structure of our corporations has changed so much in recent years that there is far more discretionary money for outsourcing services than ever before.
The fifties are also the decade that breeds a surprising number of successful entrepreneurs, who become successful because they have no other choice.
You don’t live in an either/or world, and there is nothing to stop you pursuing full-time employment just as you pursue consulting/contract assignments and consider buying or setting up your own business. You can make the same money (or better money), keep more from the tax-man (write-offs), and have far more freedom in your life. The work is largely the same, the approaches for getting it are pretty much identical, and you are at that point in your career when you can offer real value as an outside authority. It is well worth your consideration as a parallel activity in conjunction with your job search.
You may follow this option now, but assuming you go back to work for a corporation, moving forward you must invest yourself in identifying self-employment options for the future and taking steps to move gradually towards realizing that goal. The more you can do for your future independence while pulling down a salary the easier that ultimate transition will be.