Word comes to us, courtesy of an excellent article in USA Today, that the number of people 55 and older with jobs is projected to hit 28 million – a record. (American workforce growing grayer, by Dennis Cauchon).
I don’t’ know about you, but I’m not at all surprised. Beyond reasons stated in the article, such as “better health, longer lives and less physically damaging jobs” there are a couple other phenomena – the article touches on one: Experience. So true. Older workers do, generally as a group, have more experience. How can they not?
But there’s something else: In my own general experience, older workers are more exacting, careful, and prideful (in a good way): They take pride in their work, and what that work delivers.
I’m a bit older myself, so I run the risk of veering into a zone of “these young whippersnappers today, they just don’t care…” – and that’s not where I’m trying to go. What I’d like to reinforce, to the younger audience, is that in order to break into a sluggish job market, with older workers hanging on, you must separate yourself, distinguish yourself, sell yourself – in the interview.
When I was just out of high school, attending college part-time at night, I was applying for jobs by day. About all I’d done was physical factory work. Not a thing wrong with that. In fact, I dropped a resume off at a large electrical manufacturing firm in order to apply for an opening on their loading dock. Some kind person – gosh I’d like to thank them properly today – noticed that I had extensive drafting classes in High School and Community College – and HR called and asked if I’d like to be interviewed for an Electrical Draftsman position. Would I?
But… why didn’t I think to market myself that way? Well, I was around 19 years old: a little too modest, perhaps… a little insecure – and also, I didn’t know a thing about marketing myself – about blowing my own horn. But, I won that job, held it, and loved it for about three years before entering the U.S. Army for many, many more experiences.
Blow your horn – be accurate, be modest, but make full exposition for who and what you are.
Now, recognize that beyond experience, employers like older workers for very specific qualities. Therefore, if you can convince an employer that you – as a younger worker – possess those same specific qualities, and you qualify in core respects, you’ll win the job:
Emphasize your dependability (and be dependable); emphasize your “results-oriented” mentality; emphasize your ability to work well with others. I have no empirical measures or surveys handy, but in the course of my consulting, I hear the same laments on the side: Send me some people who know what it means to get along, to stay focused on results, to come to work on time…
In my time, I’ve hired a lot of people – and fired more than a few. My hires worked and “stuck to the walls” – that is, they were great employees – I knew what qualities to look for. Anyone I fired was almost always someone I “inherited.” Be the person that all hiring managers look to find: core competencies are almost a given or you wouldn’t be applying for a particular job – but emphasize all the collateral requirements that factor into… not a good employee – but a great one.
If you were looking for someone you absolutely HAD to depend on – what would you look for? Then… BE that, and SPEAK to that, when you interview.
NP: Backdoor Santa – Clarence Carter. At Starbucks. What a great R&B track – check it out if you get a chance.