Had to laugh when I saw this August 3, 2009 New Yorker cartoon. It cuts dangerously close to the hard job interview truth many of us baby boomers are facing:
Do Baby Boomers Really Have a Steeper Job Search Climb?
In three words: yes and no. I’ll explain…and do my best to shed some light for baby boomers everywhere looking for a new job or career. But first…a story.
A few years back I watched my 50+ cousin go through a grueling, confidence-shattering period of unemployment – and that was pre-economic crisis. He is one of the most experienced people in his niche industry, but because of his career level and previous salaries, he had trouble convincing anyone he was willing to work for less (since jobs at his level are scarce). And yet he was more than willing.
Over the 18 months he was out of work, he wound up piecing together a few part-time consulting jobs here and there and networking like crazy until finally a great opportunity – albeit at a lower level – came his way. And even then, he had to be creative in addressing the lower salary and title issues. But he hung in and managed to get his foot back into a welcoming door and now has risen back to an executive level job – and salary.
I’m also in my baby boomer years and, while I think there was one interviewer who nixed me just for my age, many others are open to my experience and positive, solution-oriented attitude. I’m not saying there aren’t plenty of employers who prefer younger workers – there are. Younger workers are often less expensive and voraciously hungry to prove their worth; and many employers see that as a cheap way to get hard workers.
So what’s a still-in-the-job-market baby boomer to do?
Fear not. There are plenty of employers who see the benefit of more experienced workers willing to work hard and who can often find solutions that save time and money in the long run. In education and technology where I work, I’ve found doors open to good workers of any age. And, in fact, I’ve gone out of my way at times to look for candidates in their boomer years, since I know they can add organizational texture as well as solid experience to a team.
But of course there are industries and individual companies where younger is better. I find it doesn’t pay to focus on what we can’t get. I just want to make it clear that there are full-time, part-time, and consulting jobs out there for baby boomers no matter what the perception may be. You just have to be creative and persistent – and willing to open up to new possibilities.
Speaking of perception and baby boomers, I found a great article on this subject on The Interviewing Edge you might want to check out:
The author Mark Ste. Marie talks about perceptions some employers have about the stereotypical baby boomer and what we as boomers can do about it. Here are some perceptions he says are out there:
- Settling for the job (and therefore not going to stay long)
- Not as sharp or hungry as younger workers
- Lacking skills younger folks have
- Not flexible
- Wrong image for the company (ouch!)
Sounds pretty scary, no? Don’t let it throw you. Perceptions like these can often be overturned – especially if you don’t buy into them yourself.
One of my favorite things is to come into an interview with good energy, an alert and creative mind, and the ability to show what I bring to the company based on things I’ve accomplished in the real world and not just in a classroom. (Sorry recent grads. I can spin your advantages too, but for now let me talk to my fellow baby boomers. . ) It also helps to show that you can listen and you do not think you have all the answers.
You may of course need to be extra creative when it comes to networking (and maybe just a little brave) so you can actually get yourself to that job interview. But once you get there, it’s all on you. And the perception that matters most at that point is your perception of yourself – since that’s what you project when you interview!
Overcoming Baby Boomer Obstacles
In his article, Mark Ste. Marie goes on to suggest some things that may help you surmount any job interview perception obstacles, including what advantages you bring (life experiences, loyalty, connections, etc.) and how you can be your own bff in getting past the baby boomer job interview blues (keep your skills current, keep active even while looking, etc.) And don’t forget social networking sites and other current technology that show you are not stuck in the dark ages!
While we can’t go back in time (as far as I know), we baby boomers have a lot going for us. Sure, you’ll hear lots of scare stories and find plenty of people who worship youth. But it only takes one job and, if you have patience and put your full energy and commitment into your job search, you’ll get yourself there – or somewhere else you might not expect that can also work well for you. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
What perceptions do you have of baby boomers? Are you a boomer who had success selling yourself to an employer? Would love to hear your thoughts and advice to baby boomers everywhere.