By Devashish Chakravarty
The Economic Times (India Times), June 19, 2017 —
Yes, it’s true. Job search gets tougher with age. You cannot be faulted for thinking that the job market mirrors the Hollywood thriller ‘No Country for Old Men’, where increasingly the world seems meaner and different from what it was earlier. Hiring seems skewed towards younger folks or specifically those below 35.
Most hiring managers in India are biased in favour of youth over experience because, rightly or wrongly, they believe youth is in plentiful supply hence cheaper, they are likely to be more energetic and willing to work longer and in less exciting roles and finally, experience isn’t worth the price in a constantly changing technology and business environment.
Knowing this, here is how you can optimise your job search strategy for best results at different ages.
Job search in your 20s
If the job market favours the young, then why are you still struggling? The biggest challenge in your 20s is to find a great opportunity despite having a blank CV. The secret is to start early—right from school and college. Do internships, work for family or friend’s businesses, volunteer for events, NGOs and projects or even dabble in entrepreneurship.
If you missed that bus, it isn’t too late to start even after graduation. Don’t worry too much about getting the best break at first. Focus on a 5-year horizon and in getting a variety of experiences. Take more risks, travel outside your home city or country and prioritise learning opportunities and mentors.
Before you begin, write down the skills you believe you have, what you love doing and the dream companies you want to work for. Accordingly, build your online social and professional profile with clean professional pics and have a typo-free standard-format resume ready.
Be formally dressed and practice well for both 30-minute interviews as well as 30-second elevator pitches. Create interview opportunities by reaching out to family and friends whose networks can be leveraged and by applying to job openings online and on campus.
Search in your 30s
The secret here is to plan not for the current job search but the one after that. You have tried different things, acquired a bunch of skills and a few lines on your resume. Now figure out how you will give direction to your career to position yourself well for the highest income earning decade ahead.
While you seek professional and personal stability, you can still afford take a few calculated risks if you haven’t found your calling yet. Build a few months’ savings for a rainy day, invest 6-8 hours every week in search and enjoy and learn from each new interview and interaction. Seek opportunities where you can make an impact so that you can create expertise and reputation for future roles.
Volunteer for leadership roles in your current firm and invest in relationships with your coworkers, clients, ex-bosses and industry professionals. They will be your professional network for future jobs and especially in the next job search. Seek mentors and approach your current employer for a change in role.
Search in your 40s
For most professionals, this is the most productive decade of your career in both earnings and impact. The challenge during your job search is to convince your new employer that you are worth the cost. Identify opportunities based on the impact you want to make, the legacy you will build and the recognition and satisfaction you seek.
Now build a story of progression in your career till date. Invest in crafting a resume that justifies your subject matter expertise, your brand and worth and highlights your recent achievements while compressing your past into a few lines. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is an abridged version of your resume.
Now use all three modes of search— professional network, recruitment agencies and applying to openings advertised online. Make sure you look for a job while holding on to your current one. Do not rule out jobs based on description alone since that is rarely a true picture of what the hiring manager is looking for.
In an interview, focus on the numerical impact you have made in the past. For example, decreased production cost by 12% and how you plan to make a similar difference for the new employer.
Search in your 50s and beyond
Employers fear that candidates in their 50s or 60s will not have the required energy, motivation, intellectual responsiveness and ability to work with younger people. Additionally, they may be too expensive. Your aim, therefore, is to change the misconception so that you get a fair chance at finding a new job. Learn to make a serious LinkedIn profile as well as a professional error-free CV that is no more than a page and focused on the last 10 years of experience.
Change your email ID to a contemporary one. Stay physically fit and well-dressed to convey your energy and willingness to work. Work hard in practicing for the interview. Most senior professionals are sloppy in their approach to job search expecting opportunities to come to them and interviewers to respect their age.
They thus convey laziness and lack of need for a job. While you search for an opportunity, keep yourself involved in volunteer/unpaid roles, invest in gaining familiarity with workplace technology and take online classes to stay on top of your game. Reach out to age-friendly companies and in interviews, share stories of how you successfully worked with younger colleagues and bosses.
As you get older, be flexible about roles and compensation and demonstrate your wisdom, dependability and openness during interactions. Stay positive and do not display anxiety or desperation during a job search.
WHEN AGE IS NOT ON YOUR SIDE
Harvard psychology professor Ellen Langer’s experiments show mental agility and even physical health is a flexible number depending largely on how you chose to perceive the world. Think mindfully and notice daily changes and newness around you to improve your mental and psychological abilities.
Figure out how you can create more cash for an entrepreneur or a business and seek a portion of the profits you generate. Any business will ignore your age if it can pay you from future cash you bring or free up. Both sales by commission and accounting by the hour are examples.
Age is not a handicap for a doctor or a lawyer. Expertise is highly valued and most expertise comes from experience. Identify your domain expertise that someone with lesser age or experience cannot provide. Crisis management and complex negotiations qualify here.
When the job market focuses on hiring inexperienced youngsters, it creates opportunities for experienced people to train and bring teams up to speed. Even in your current job, a proactive teaching and mentoring role will make you more valuable for managerial and leadership positions.
Think and talk about outcomes instead of skills or experience. Can you turn around the sales performance of a region? Can you cut down procurement costs? When you offer yourself in the job market, discuss tangible results that you are willing to commit and link your compensation to.
(The writer is Director, Executive Search at QuezX.com.)