Q&A with Westporter on over-50 job search
Westport resident Tucker Mays, a former business executive who now is a career coach, has co-authored a book on executive jobs search over age 50.
"Fired at 50: How to Overcome the Greatest Executive Job Search Challenge" offers plans and tips for the over-50 set struggling to find a position.
He and co-author Bob Sloan of Greenwich are partners in a Darien career coaching firm, OptiMarket LLC.
Recently, Mays answered questions posed by the Greenwich Citizen.
Q: Has there been an increase in the number of people 50 and over who are looking for jobs? If so, why?
A: Yes. The corporate downsizing that began in the 90's is continuing, companies are continuing to merge, or reduce the size of their organizations to become more profitable, while adopting new technologies and processes to improve productivity. In the larger corporations, there are numerous younger executives available to step up via succession planning. All of these factors are resulting in the elimination of more positions held by executives over age 50.
Q: You talk about age bias in your book. How prevalent is it?
A: The unemployment rate among those over 50 is 15 percent -- twice the level it was before the current recession, and higher than it has been since the Great Depression. And these individuals are taking considerably longer than others to find a new job in the slow to no growth economy. Most take over a year to find a job, some as many as two years or more.
Q: What disadvantages does someone over 50 have in searching for a job?
A: Though often unfair, recruiters and company hiring authorities have a bias against considering hiring candidates over age 50. There is a perception that these executives have low energy and enthusiasm, are inflexible in their management styles, don't have the latest technology skills for their industry or function, or will have difficulty working for a younger boss.
Q: How do you deal with age bias and these perceptions?
In our book we advise our readers to overcome the age bias in many ways -- for example: stay positive, keep in shape, demonstrate their management flexibility, build their technology skills, and convey that they have previously worked successfully for younger bosses to help them succeed and grow their careers.
Q: What advantages do they have?
A: We advocate that executives over 50 use their age as an asset in order, to make themselves more attractive than less experienced, younger candidates. The special abilities they possess are the ones most in demand today -- problem solving, people management, judgment and leadership. They need to describe examples supporting each of these key skills in their resume and in interviews.
Q: OK. You're out of work, and you're over 50. Is this a good time to consider a career change?
A: With our constantly changing and more "global" work environment, there is a continuing shift in the demand for skills and talent. A job-seeking executive over 50 can succeed, by targeting sectors that are growing, where they can best apply their own special skills, and talents, and, most important, where those skills are needed now. For example, many consumer products executives have successfully transferred their skills to new sectors such as sporting goods, financial or B2B services, and emerging technologies.
Q: What are your top five tips for the over-50 job seeker?
In our book we recommend (1) have a concise one-sentence job objective -- what position, in what kind of an organization needing your three to four key skills. (2) concentrate on the most productive job search methods. Spend at least 80 percent of their time networking to individuals they don't already know -- because invariably that's where the jobs are -- and no more than 20 percent of their time on recruiters, published leads or networking only to those people already known. (3) use LinkedIn as a key job search component -- in order to be "found" by recruiters and hiring authorities, while also accelerating networking to new contacts, (4) during a job search do consulting work as a "bridge" to a full time job -- because up to 40 percent of the time this can lead to a full time position, and (5) be prepared to change course if you have not received a viable offer in six months.
Q: Any final advice?
A: Executive job seekers over 50 should focus on smaller companies -- there are 20 times more companies under $100 Million in sales than above. Smaller companies tend to be less concerned about age, and they make faster hiring decisions.
In seeking referrals via networking: (a) instead of leading with their resumes it is more effective to use a concise, one page Bio, until the point where a resume is required as the Bio does not highlight red flags such as the job seeker's age and (b) avoid putting pressure on a contact; the executive should never ask for a job -- instead, it is best to ask for perspective and advice on his or her job search objective and strategy. In the process, by networking effectively, the executive will invariably be considered for or offered a job.
Q: How about some background? What's your personal story in losing a job, your inspiration for starting your company, etc.?
A: After leading the successful turnaround and sale of a mid-market sporting goods company in the late 90's, my job was eliminated by the acquiring company. Over fifty, facing a very difficult job market, and having never been in a job search before, I hired an executive career coach who gave me the skills I needed to quickly find my next job. I then joined the Executive Forum, a non-profit career counseling support group based in Greenwich, where I volunteered to help senior level executives find their next jobs. By 2001, the need for this counseling became so great, that my partner and co-author, Bob Sloane, and I co-founded OptiMarket to provide executives all over the country with the job search coaching they needed to find their next job in the shortest time possible.
More information about "Fired at 50: How to Overcome the Greatest Executive Job Search Challenge" is available at: www.optimarketllc.com.