~ by Steve Throckmorton
In this post I will review the reasons why employers may choose not to hire older workers and give practical suggestions on how to overcome them. If you suspect that one or more of these reasons may be getting in the way of being hired then here are some strategies to follow. It is important to remember one principle. You must take PRE-EMPTIVE action or you must act early to overcome objections. Once you are denied employment these strategies will be of no value to you. After an employer makes a decision it is too late, they will almost never change the decision. You must determine on your own where the objections lie BEFORE the hiring decision is announced. This is not easy to do but part 9 will discuss ideas on how to uncover these hidden objections. For now let’s just talk about how to address the objections.
1. Employers fear that the older employee will take the job to fill a temporary employment gap and then leave as soon as he/she finds a better situation. If you suspect that an employer is concerned about your longevity with the company one approach is to offer to sign an employment agreement that binds you to remain employed for a certain period of time. Employment agreements are common for C level employees such as the CEO, CFO or CIO but these agreements usually heavily favor the executive being employed by providing a “bailout” clause which pays the executive a handsome bonus should the company choose to terminate the executive’s employment. In exchange the executive agrees to stay for some period of time, commonly 3 to 5 years. I am suggesting that you offer an employment agreement that binds you to the job but with no downside to the employer. This might come in the form of a penalty such as forfeiting vacation pay or even a final paycheck if you choose to leave early. This gives the employer some degree of financial leverage if you choose to leave early. This may sound distasteful, especially if you have been accustomed to employers seeking you out in your younger years but remember what this blog is about. I am asking you to be honest with yourself about the new situation you are facing and take positive action to overcome it.
2. Older employees raise the cost of health insurance premiums. It is a sad reality that older workers require more medication and more hospitalization than younger workers. Many older employees are in a kind of catch 22 of being uninsurable under an individual policy due to some past medical issue (cancer, cardiovascular problems, etc.) and yet they are too young to be covered by Medicare. People in this situation may want employment primarily for the group insurance benefit and not so much the income. If you are in this situation you may want to be honest and up front with your prospective employer and tell them you need employment primarily for the insurance. If you acknowledge the fact that your insurance may be more expensive than the average employee and offer to take a compensating reduction in salary in exchange for the increased cost of premiums that may satisfy the concerns of the employer. You probably cannot offer to pay a larger share of the premium because employers are required to offer benefit packages that do not discriminate among employees in order to qualify for favorable tax treatment. So the only legal way to handle this offset in compensation may be to accept a reduced salary. If you do not need the insurance either because your spouse already has coverage or because you qualify for Medicare then you might offer to exempt yourself from coverage. Employers are required under law to offer similar benefits to all employees but you are not required to accept the benefits. In this case your employer will most likely ask you to sign a waiver stating that you voluntarily refuse coverage.
3. We live in a culture of youth worship. Let’s face it, young is often perceived as physically attractive and many studies have been conducted demonstrating that physically attractive people are more likely to get a job over their less attractive counterparts. I grant that you have limited options to overcome this objection. Go back and review Part 7 of this blog called “Look Younger”. You will find suggestions that will help in this area.
4. Employers sometimes fear that older employees will be “set in their ways” and inflexible, unwilling to adjust to a constantly changing competitive environment. Closely related to this is a fear that older workers will be unable to learn new concepts or learn them slowly, costing the company time and money. Once again I refer you back to an earlier chapter in this blog called “Think Younger” Chapter 6. Before conducting an interview get a good night’s sleep in order to maximize mental alertness. Be prepared with recent examples of times when you demonstrated flexible and innovative thinking.
5. Hiring managers are sometimes insecure about hiring someone who may know more than they do. This can produce an array of concerns ranging from the possibility of the older employee as a threat to their own job to general intimidation over having someone report to them that might be the age of a parent or an uncle. This may be the toughest objection to overcome because most prospective employers are not going to admit that they are threatened by your age and experience. In fact they may not even be consciously aware of this, even though it may be a real fear. The best way to overcome this objection is to communicate clearly to the interviewer that you will be supportive and loyal to them. Give specific examples of how you helped a previous employer look good, perhaps even how you helped your old boss get a promotion. Don’t lie of course but if you can sincerely say that you had great respect for a prior manager then verbalize that. Give your old boss praise for whatever good qualities that he or she had. All of these things will communicate on a subconscious level to your prospective employer that you are not the sort of employee who will sacrifice his success to achieve yours. You want to communicate that you will be on his or her team.
Part 9 will discuss techniques of how you can uncover objections in an interview situation.
~ by Steve Throckmorton
Some readers might feel that my title for this post is too superficial. If these readers were here in the room with me they may tell me that they shouldn’t have to pretend to look younger. They might add that they ought to have freedom to be themselves and that they should be accepted as they are. I could possibly hear accusations that it is dishonest to make yourself appear younger than you actually are. If you are one of these readers you might be surprised to hear that I agree with you. It is absolutely true that we should be allowed to be ourselves without fear of judgment, discrimination or recrimination.
Would it surprise you to know that I also disagree with you? There is a huge difference between what should be and the way things actually are in reality. Even though we SHOULD have the freedom to be ourselves the reality is we are not granted that freedom by those around us. Our former president of these United States, Jimmy Carter made at least one profound statement, “Life isn’t fair”. I’ll refer to this principle as LIF. If you are forty or fifty something and you have not discovered this simple principle it is critical that you learn it now. Why is the LIF principle so important? Because you get hurt when you don’t accept or understand it and live in accordance with it. LIF is founded on another related principle that many of us never learn. We do not possess the power to change others, only ourselves. We may want others to accept us as we are but unless they choose to do so it will never happen. That leaves us with only one certain method to affect positive change in our lives, which is to change ourselves.
Since perceptions and actions of others are painted by how old they think we are then shouldn’t we do everything within reason to appear younger? We covered thinking younger in the last chapter so how do we look younger? I will intentionally not discuss expensive medical procedures, such as a face lift or hair transplants and stay with things that cost little or no money. Let me warn you though that the following suggestions are not without personal cost. They do require discipline and intentional action.
- Exercise. It is a proven biological fact that we lose muscle mass as we age. This is revealed through the shape of our bodies, in our walk and our posture. Exercise can help rebuild lost muscle mass. It can also help us maintain a youthful walk and posture. You don’t need an expensive gym membership to exercise. Take daily walks, do push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, jumping- jacks. Go to the public park and play tennis with a buddy. Look for a public pool or YMCA to swim. Join a church basketball league. If your goal is to simply stay healthy and fit, not to win a body building championship then there numerous exercises to get you there at little or no cost to you.
- Be disciplined in your eating. Have you ever noticed at a high school reunion that classmates who were previously thin have now grown pudgy or even grossly overweight? Weight gain is another visual clue to aging. A thin person looks younger. Personally I despise the many weight loss schemes for sale on the market. Billions of dollars are spent in the pursuit of imaginary, painless, no disciplined methods of weight loss when weight is controlled by simple physics, the equation calories consumed minus calories burned equal weight gained or lost. We have a very simple choice either to reduce calorie intake or increase calories burned to lose weight. It really is that simple. Remember LIF above? When we live in denial that life will work they way we hope rather than the way it actually is then we hurt only ourselves. I will add one caveat here. Yes individuals have different levels of metabolism and it is far easier for some to lose weight than others. Genetics do play a role but anyone can lose weight with enough effort and discipline.
- Hair color. I actually struggled to as to whether or not to include this one. In men a little gray can actually be perceived as distinguished. A lot of gray usually isn’t. At the risk of sounding sexist graying in women is almost never perceived as a good thing. Maintenance of a desired hair color can be very expensive if you retain the services of a hair care professional but that is the best way to insure that you maintain a natural and attractive appearance. Improper application of off the shelf dyes can sometimes look artificial and make your appearance worse that it would have been otherwise. If you choose to do this yourself please research application methods and use quality products. Do not simply go out and purchase the cheapest product you can find.
- Clothing can make you look younger or older. I know I am going to be in trouble for writing this but I believe it to be true. Women must be more careful about maintenance of youthful clothing than men. Men’s fashions change less often and the changes are less dramatic. Men must certainly be aware of this but it takes less effort than it does a woman to stay up with trends. I have seen too many older women wearing blouses with ruffled collars and cuffs along with shoes that make them look like grandmothers. In the business world this is not the image that a woman wants to portray. I am not even remotely qualified to advise women on how to dress. I cannot advise anyone of the specifics of smart business attire but I do know it when I see it. I suggest that you first look for a woman who has successfully achieved both a youthful and sharp business look. You can bet that she did not get there by accident so talk to her, seek her advice. Men I would advise you to do the same of other men who have dressed for success.
I want to be honest and tell you this was a difficult post for me to write, for a couple of reasons. First I tend to be an idealist. I would really like for things to be the way they SHOULD be not the way they are. It is difficult for me to admit that we need to change our appearance to improve our odds for gainful employment. I am also enough of a realist to know better than listen to my idealistic side. The second reason it was difficult was because I am concerned about being perceived as sexist by making a distinction between men and women in some of the areas discussed. However, it would not be right for me to omit advice that could be helpful to my readers just because of my personal concerns. So I have told it like it is, or at least I have been completely honest with my readers about how I feel things are in reality.
Part 8 will refer back to part 1 where reasons for not hiring older workers were discussed. I will go into more detail and make suggestions to overcome these matters.
~ by Steve Throckmorton
I know what you are thinking when you read the title to this chapter. After the previous five chapters telling you about how to capitalize on your age and experience, now I come up with “Think Younger” theme. Let’s be honest, youth is not all bad. It does have certain advantages to which I could illiterate all day but for the sake of my reading audience I will stick with only the business related advantages. You’ve heard the adage “If you can’t beat them then join them” and that is the idea behind this chapter.
Have you noticed that new upstart corporations are nearly always started by young people? Have you also noticed that many of these entrepreneurs are college drop outs? A notable example is Bill Gates of Microsoft who dropped out of college in his youth to start the computer software company that has grown to rival IBM. Another is Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook who practically invented the concept of social networking. So what traits do Mr. Gates and Mr. Zuckerberg have that the rest of us may be lacking? You may say youthful energy and enthusiasm. I agree but that applies to nearly every teen or early twenty something. Beyond the energy I feel the fact that both dropped out of college to pursue their dream also holds significance. Please don’t accuse me of suggesting that we would all do better by dropping out of school because that is not my message. I will say that successful entrepreneurs think differently than most people think. They march to their own drum beat, they think outside the box – there are numerous ways to describe it but basically they are not encumbered by the voices around them that said it could not be done or it’s never been done that way. When problems arise they think of an unconventional approach that often catches their competition off guard. Although I am not condoning the dropping out of school, I will say that schooling often fixates minds. The lesson here is to do whatever you can to prevent your thinking to set in concrete. Our thinking should be more like wet cement. Like hard concrete, wet cement contains all the necessary ingredients to build a structure but the cement is still pliable allowing it to be formed into any shape. You might say that the cement has potential but the concrete will not change. It is what it is and will always be exactly what it is, unless you get out a chisel and hammer and destroy enough of it to shape it. I think you will agree that pliability is better than chiseling, unless you are a sculptor. You just don’t want to be the one who is being sculpted.
So how do we keep our thinking flexible and pliable so that it doesn’t harden into concrete? I would suggest some of the following ways. Hold onto your seat belts because some of these may be rather unconventional. Exercise your imagination. This can be done in numerous ways but I warn you that they may not sound very “adult”
- Do you remember the cartoons that you watched as a kid? I loved the Road Runner. In every new episode Wylie Coyote constructed a new ACME device to capture the super speeding road runner. These were often rocket powered, spring powered or explosive powered contraptions that always ended in Wylie falling off a cliff, smashing into a rock face or being run over by a semi-truck. Wylie always came back for another try no matter how impossible his recovery. Were these in any way realistic? Of course not but they fired the imagination and I remember getting out a pencil and paper after watching some of these episodes to draw up designs for my own ACME devices. What is the lesson? Let your imagination wander. What interests you? What problems do you need to solve. Force yourself to think in unconventional ways and create new approaches in your mind that may sound ridiculous on the surface. Don’t worry about what others think of your ideas, these are for you, not anyone else. And if you have time, watch a few episodes of the Road Runner.
- This is not for everyone but I find that Science Fiction or Sci-Fi is a great catalyst for the imagination. If you don’t think so watch a few episodes of Star Trek. Gene Roddenberry the creator of the series came up with some of the most imaginative ideas ever conceived to solve problems for the crew of the Enterprise. A few examples are the transporter (a device that moved people from a platform on the ship in space to a point on the ground on the planet the ship was orbiting), phasers (basically guns with light as bullets) and communicators (devices that crew members used to hold conversations between the ship in space and the ground). Of these three devices just mentioned only one remains technologically infeasible with 21st century technology, the transporter. The communicator is basically a cell phone that we have today and the phaser is a laser like device. As a caveat I will admit that even though we have laser technology we have not developed a power source suitable to operate such a device. However the technological infeasibility of the device is not the point. The point is that Roddenberry used his imagination to conceive of devices that would solve the problems that he needed solved to produce the series. I love Sci-Fi and I believe it has kept my thinking youthful in the sense that it stretches my thinking and my imagination to bend corners that I would not otherwise be able to negotiate. I think of Sci-Fi as stretching exercises for the brain.
Okay if you are too embarrassed to watch cartoons and you can’t stomach Sci-Fi try a few other approaches. Try problem solving puzzles or murder mysteries. If you like realities, as opposed to fiction then subscribe to a publication like Scientific American or if you are less technical try Popular Mechanics. These magazines are based in reality but they do stretch the imagination in ways you might not typically find yourself challenged in the daily work world.
In part 7 we will move into the topic of “looking” youthful.
Also make sure you see Tony’s post entitled “Ager-getic” https://findingemploymentafter50.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/ager-getic/
Choosing and Marketing a Business
~ by Steve Throckmorton
The criteria for choice of business direction is very similar to that used to choose your employment path. You should choose a field of business in which you have experience. Technical knowledge, understanding of what motivates clients that buy your product or service, an understanding of distribution channels, a realistic evaluation of the cost of running your business and therefore what you must charge are all essential in running a successful business. These foundations come only through education and experience but more importantly through experience. If you start a business with no prior experience you will be at a severe disadvantage when facing your competition. Your chances of making your business a success when you are “wet behind the ears” are slim. Starting a new business is challenge enough without learning the business at the same time.
It is also crucial to keep costs as low as possible when starting a new business. Many new business owners spend money too quickly buying things that are not essential to the success of the business. You will need basics like business cards and letter head but these things require little investment. Don’t immediately go out and buy expensive furniture and computers. Make do with what you have but if you do need to buy furniture then buy used. New furniture depreciates rapidly after the purchase. If you can make the business work with an old computer then do so. You must learn to conserve your money because almost every new business will endure lean times in the first months and years. You must be able to endure these times until revenues finally exceed your expenses. Something to consider is the length of time it takes to get paid. Consulting businesses for example often invoice at the end of the month after a full month of work has been done. After invoicing it will typically take a client 60 to 90 days to pay the invoice. So even a business that has customers on the very first day, when the doors open several months will pass before that translates into income. Add to that the time it takes to acquire a customer and you can see how quickly six months or more can pass before receiving even your first check. You can see with this kind of delay it is important to conserve cash. Of course once you start getting paid, assuming a constant flow of business the cash flow will eventually even out. You should always carry a cash reserve though because all businesses experience fluctuations in business.
In the next post we will talk about ways to think younger.
Consider Creating Your Job Instead of Finding it
~ by Steve Throckmorton
At the risk of discouraging I feel obligated to mention that even after following all of the advice in earlier chapters you may discover that your job search is unproductive. In the end you may not get a job in your field and you may have to settle for a lot less money than you have earned in the past. So how do you overcome this? One way is to consider starting a business.
Starting a business can take two forms. One is to establish a corporation where you produce or resell a product or service. The second is to become an independent or 1099 employee of an existing company. Incorporation of a business can take a longer time to get off the ground than becoming a 1099 employee but it can also produce much greater rewards on the long run. Below are some of the pros and cons of both approaches.
If you decide to take the 1099 approach then you will be in solo mode, meaning working by yourself. You will not have the ability to bring on regular employees like a corporation does. You can hire contract employees but you will not have the tax structure needed to offer employee benefits. The primary drawback to the 1099 approach is that it limits your ability to multiply and expand your business. The primary benefit of this approach is that it is simple. Your legal fees will be low and overall startup costs will also be low. Your overhead and financial risks will also be low so you will keep a higher percentage of what you earn. You should always contact an attorney to get legal advice even with the 1099 approach. Also look into professional insurance coverage to protect your assets from legal action.
Establishing a corporation requires a lot more paperwork, legal fees and complications. The overall startup costs will be higher and it will take longer to establish a corporation than a 1099. Your corporation will have the ability to hire regular employees but you will be responsible for hiring, firing, managing, paying salaries and benefits to those employees. It will often take many years to grow a corporation to the place where the income you net will exceed what you would have made as a 1099. It is not unusual for corporate owners to make less money than their key employees. You may ask why they do that. It is because they are looking to the future when the corporation hopefully grows larger and earns them far more income than they could have as an individual contributor. The corporation can also be handed off to someone else to run in later years or sold to produce a substantial retirement income.
Once you decide on the structure of your corporation it will be time to do the most important thing. It is the thing that you must do regardless of structure. It is the acquisition of paying clients. Unless you can generate revenue nothing else matters because your business will not endure.
In the next post we will cover practical tips on how to choose a business and how to market your business.
Click here for Part 5
Planning and Goal Setting
~ by Steve Throckmorton
The adage “People don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan” is perhaps a little worn but certainly applies to the 50+ job seeker. The last chapter discussed how you should play to your strengths and not simply do things the way you’ve always done them. Now it is time to transition from the general high level concepts that you learned in the previous chapter to a specific plan of action. Here are a few ideas on how to do this.
- While keeping in mind the thoughts discussed in “Chapter 2 – Leverage Your Niche” sit down at your desk with a pencil and empty notebook then brainstorm specific ideas for an action plan. Write down every idea that comes to your mind. Nothing should be eliminated at this stage, regardless of how complicated or silly sounding. Come up with at least 10 ideas before you get up from the table and the more the better.
- Call a trusted friend who is a creative thinker or a fifty something friend who recently landed a job. Go over your list with your friend. Ask for additional ideas to add to your list by brainstorming together.
- Sort the final list into two categories, one being discreet one-time only tasks and the other ongoing tasks. Finally prioritize both lists by placing the ideas that will yield the highest return for time invested at the top of the two lists. This will become the rough draft of your plan.
Now it is time to review your plan. Make sure it includes ideas on how to most effectively reach your network. If you wrote ideas only on how to search and place blind job submissions then go back and rework your list to include networking ideas. This is too important to neglect. If necessary get back together with your brainstorming buddy and focus specifically on ways to reach your personal network.
Does your list effectively target positions that play to your background and experience? The last chapter mentioned that when looking for a job, especially when unemployed this is not the time to reinvent yourself. If any of the ideas on your list include a radical vocation change that is unrelated to past experience then move those ideas to the bottom of the list. Focus on actions that leverage your experience.
Did your plan include education and certification? If you worked in a highly technical field like Information Technology and you have not updated your skills in recent years then you will almost certainly need to refresh your skills. This is not the same as reinventing yourself as you would to transition into an entirely different occupation. This is a refresh to bring your skills up to date within the field you were previously employed. Ask others whom you trust and respect to get advice on certifications and classes that are in greatest demand and closely related to your past experience.
Now that you have completed, prioritized and refined your action plan it is time to act on your plan. Nothing happens until you take action.
The next post takes a turn toward the entrepreneurial. Consider the possibility that your best bet may be creating your job, not finding it.
Click Here for Part 4