Find Your Dream Job, Episode 127:
How to Overcome Ageism in Your Job Search, with Kevin Kermes
Airdate: February 21, 2018
Hi, this is Mac, of Mac’s List. Find Your Dream Job is presented by Mac’s List, an online community where you can find free resources for your job search, plus online courses and books that help you advance your career. My latest book is called Land Your Dream Job Anywhere. It’s a reference guide for your career that covers all aspects of the job search, including expert advice in every chapter. You can get the first chapter for free by visiting macslist.org/anywhere.
This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life. I’m Mac Prichard, your host and publisher of Mac’s List.
I’m joined by my co-hosts, Ben Forstag, Becky Thomas, and Jessica Black, from the Mac’s List team.
This week we’re talking about how to overcome ageism in your job search.
Older workers often struggle with finding work after age 50. Our guest expert this week is Kevin Kermes. He says one way to overcome ageism in a job search is to position yourself as a subject expert. Kevin and I talk later in the show.
Company culture matters whatever your age. In keeping with this week’s focus on ageism, Ben has found a website that rates how employers treat older workers. He tells us more in a moment.
How do you find and build relationships with individuals inside an organization when it uses an outside company to manage hiring? That’s our question of the week. It comes from listener Ginny McDonnell. Becky shares her advice shortly.
As always, let’s start the show by checking in with the Mac’s List team.
First up is you, Ben, because every week you’re out there exploring the Internet on behalf of our listeners, looking for books, websites, and tools people can use in a job search or in their careers. What have you uncovered for us this week?
This week I want to talk about a website I found called retirementjobs.com. First and foremost, that is the greatest oxymoron of a name we’ve ever come across.
I wondered about that.
That aside, this is primarily a job board with work opportunities for people who are aged 50+.
It’s a job board; it’s not about volunteer work, or improving your golf stroke.
It’s not about that but there are some internship opportunities there, or there’s another term for the internships when it’s for older professionals. I can’t remember what it was, it’ll come to me in a minute.
But yeah, there’s some volunteer things but most it’s jobs. As a job board, it’s a nice tool but what I really like about this resource that they have an interesting new service called Retirement Jobs Employer Reviews. This is exactly what it sounds like: it’s anonymous reviews that rate an employer’s workplace environment and company culture as they relate to older employees. Specifically, it’s whether the employer is age friendly, whether it’s unwelcoming to workers or not, or someplace in between those two poles.
Right now, there are only about 150 companies reviewed, so it’s a relatively small pool to sort through. Even so, I think this is a really, really important resource for older job seekers. Here’s why:
First, if you’re looking for companies that are going out of their way to recruit older candidates, this is a good place to start. Maybe you’ll luck out and find a company near you that’s looking for someone like you.
But second, and more important here, we often talk about how difficult it is to discern company culture from the outside when you’re a job seeker, so I think it is really great that people are shedding light on the internal practices within their own organizations. If you’re an older worker, or an older professional, I think it’s really incumbent upon you to share your experience and say, “This is a really welcoming environment for people like me”, or, on the dark side, “It’s not a welcoming environment.” Get that information out there to help other folks who are in similar situations know what they’re getting into. This is the kind of information that helps other job seekers obviously but eventually I think it also puts pressure on employers to improve the way they interact with their candidates. It’s kind of like Yelp reviews for restaurants. If there are a bunch of bad Yelp reviews, either the restaurant goes out of business which is unfortunate for everyone, but most of the time the restaurant knows, “We need to clean up our act. We need to clean the silverware better next time”, or whatever it is.
If you know organizations that do a great job and are really welcoming to older professionals, give them the praise they deserve. If you know organizations that have…let’s be charitable, some work to do…
Room for growth.
Room for growth, I think it’s fair to call them out as well. If you’re looking to get a better sense of the organizational culture insofar as it relates to older professionals, check out retirementjobs.com and their job employer reviews. I think it’s a good resource.
Okay, good tip. Just for the benefit of listeners, Ben, can people submit reviews anonymously?
Yeah, they’re all anonymous reviews. Now, it’s kind of like Glass Door…if you’re not careful it’s pretty clear. It’s a really small organization, so it’s pretty clear who’s leaving those reviews based on context and things like that, but there’s no name attached to those reviews. Be honest, be truthful, avoid situations where you might say something incriminating and they could trace it back to you through context or a series of eliminations. But I think it’s a pretty solid site to use, and pretty safe to use as well.
Okay, well social proof is important whether you’re purchasing a service or looking for a job and I think it makes a huge difference. That’s why recommendations and reviews on our own LinkedIn accounts matter so much and carry so much weight. It’s good to know this site is out there.
Yeah. Do you think that the name, Retirement Jobs, comes from people that are coming out of retirement? Or is it just mainly aimed at folks in that retirement age range?
I couldn’t tell you the origin of the name. I guess I could think of a couple scenarios; one might be people coming out of retirement but retirement for a lot of people also means having a part-time gig…
…to make a little extra money, so I think a lot of the jobs are like that. It’s not full-time, full-wage jobs; they might be part-time. There are some full-time jobs here as well. I can’t speak for the name, it’s an oxymoron, but good content on the site.
Good, just curious.
Thank you both. If you’ve got a suggestion for Ben, please write him. We’d love to share your idea on the show. His address is email@example.com.
Now let’s turn to you, our listeners, and Becky is here to answer one of your questions. Becky, what’s in the mailbag this week?
Today’s question came in via email from listener Ginny McDonnell. She writes,
“As a listener of your show, I understand the value of personal connections in landing a job. How do you demonstrate your connection with individuals in the organization when the organization is using an outside company to manage the hiring? Isn’t listing that connection lost on the external hiring manager? Or how would you suggest going about this?”
Good question. I think that a lot of times if you’re going through a recruiting firm or a staffing agency, you’re thinking, “Do I need to be name dropping?” Or how do I use those traditional networking strategies when that outside hiring manager doesn’t know any of the people that you’re name dropping. It’s definitely a little trickier to do that but keep in mind that that outside company, whether it’s a recruiter or a staffing firm or some other HR company, they may be managing the details of the hiring but they are likely working closely with the internal leader who will ultimately choose who they hire, so you should still drop those names, just with a slightly different strategy.
I have a couple of tips for you.
If you’re early on in that process and you’re just submitting your application for a job that you really want, it’s okay to bring this up in your cover letter, that you’ve got connections, that you’ve been speaking to people who work inside the company. In that cover letter, you are ultimately speaking to that internal hiring manager, and that outside hiring company will also, when they’re scanning through your cover letter, they’ll still be impressed that you have knowledge of the company that they’re hiring for already. That will help them pick your cover letter out of the stack. Go ahead and display that connection in your cover letter and use that name drop to support the fact that you’re tuned in to what’s going on at the hiring company.
Say something like, “I’m excited about the role as you described on your website, and I was also pleased to chat with Jane Doe at your organization recently about your plans for growth in this specific area where I’m applying. Here’s how I can help.” Then go into some details about how your skills will help them out. Showing that connection, and also, not just dropping the name, but showing how you’re excited about that and how your skills apply to that specific area. That’s one.
The second tip is really just go around the system a little bit. Reengage those inside connections directly. Go talk to the folks that you know in that company. Try to chat and meet with them and talk about the job that you’ve either just applied for or are going to apply for. Go ahead and ask them to drop your name to the internal hiring manager, whoever the leader of that team is, who will ultimately be making that decision. Someone internal will likely be involved in that interview process and making that final decision, so if they hear your name earlier or sometime through that process, then hopefully you make it to that second round interview, then they’re going to meet you and remember that Jane Doe mentioned your name and said some great things about you.
I think those are a couple of ways to still use those connections when you’re working with an outside hiring firm. Hopefully that helps. Any other thoughts from you guys?
Yeah, I liked your point about how the outside hiring firm is managing the details and logistics of the search but there’s a lot of conversing and communication going back and forth between that outside firm and the end-hire organization. Ideally, you want to get your name bouncing back and forth in both directions. Tell the hiring firm, “Hey, I’ve got these connections, here are their names.” Hopefully, they filter that information back down to the employer, “This candidate says he knows a lot of people, or she knows a lot of people in the organization.” Same thing, you go talk to the organization that’s hiring ultimately and talk to your contacts there. Have them push your name up in the other direction, towards the hiring firm.
The other thing I would say is, one of the big benefits of having an internal contact in an organization that’s hiring is that it gives you an access point to learn about the internal culture, and language, and priorities within that organization. That helps you when you write your resume, or cover letter, or in an interview. Talk those priority points or use that same language to mirror back the priorities of the organization. Now it’s a little bit weaker when there’s a hiring firm in the middle, between you and the organization. I still think that gives you a leg up. If it’s a good recruiter, they also understand what the organization’s priorities are, they’re listening for candidates who understand those priorities. They’re going to prioritize candidates who prioritize those same values.
I love your point, Becky, about the value of mentioning those connections and how they do matter to recruiters and staffing agencies. I think it’s good to remind listeners how recruiters and staffing agencies work. They get paid when a candidate that they bring forward to an employer gets hired. Recruiters and staffing agencies know that a candidate who has connections, even weak ties, to people inside the organization is going to be a more successful candidate than one without. Often, the recruiters and agencies are competing against other recruiters and agencies to bring people forward. If you’ve got those connections, the recruiters and agencies will want to know that because that’s going to help them make an even more compelling case for you.
Yeah, great advice, I don’t have anything else to add besides what you guys have already reiterated. Excellent job.
Thanks everybody, and thank you, Becky. Thank you, Jenny, for the question.
If you’ve got a question for Becky, please send her an email. Her address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call our listener line; that’s area-code 716-JOB-TALK, or post your question on the Mac’s List Facebook page.
If we use your question on the show, we’ll send you a copy of our book Land Your Dream Job Anywhere.
We’ll be back in just a moment. When we return, I’ll talk with this week’s guest expert, Kevin Kermes, about how to overcome ageism in your job search.
We’ve been making Find Your Dream Job for more than two years now and it’s about time that we get to know you, our listeners, even better. I really want to know, what do you like about our show, what do you think we should change, and what’s the one topic that you wish we’d cover? Our first ever listener’s survey is live now through February 28th, 2018. You can take it at mac’slist.org/podcastsurvey. It’ll take you less than five minutes to complete and you’ll be entered to win one of three $50 Amazon gift cards. Take a few minutes, right now, to complete our survey. Go to mac’slist.org/podcastsurvey. Thank you.
Now let’s turn to this week’s guest expert, Kevin Kermes.
Kevin Kermes is the founder and a partner at Career Attraction, an executive talent agency.
Since 2008, Kevin’s firm has helped open the doors for more than 15,000 professionals to find work they love and the compensation they deserve.
He joins us today from St Petersburg, Florida.
Kevin, thanks for being on the show.
Hey, thanks for having me, Mac. I appreciate it.
Well, it’s a pleasure. Now, our topic this week, Kevin, is a popular one with our listeners. It’s about ageism and how to overcome it in your job search. Let’s start with the issue itself, Kevin, because I know you’ve written and spoken a lot about this, about older workers and ageism in hiring. How serious a problem is it?
My take on this, and the lion’s share of clients we work with are 50 if not 55+…in my opinion, it is largely misdiagnosed. I’ll explain that in a second. Let me say this as kind of a blanket statement up front. I’m not here to say that age discrimination doesn’t exist because it does. There’s discrimination on a myriad of different levels. The problem is that I think sometimes we are looking for excuses when there’s hard work to do and if career management hasn’t been a front-of-mind topic for people, it hasn’t been something you’ve truly had a strategy on, which a lot of people don’t, when all of the sudden it presents itself at twenty, twenty-five, thirty-year mark, when typically jobs have found you, people have referred you in, and now you’re having to go out there and develop a case for yourself, it can be daunting. It becomes a safe place to retreat to.
When you say it becomes a place to retreat to, what are you thinking of? What kind of behavior do you have in mind, or you’ve seen in the people you work with?
One of the challenges…and I don’t say this to be glib, but one of the challenges we run up against is someone will say, “I’m dealing with age discrimination. No one at my age can find a job. Nobody’s finding jobs.” I would submit that, number one, in most cases that’s not true, but more to the point, what we’re looking for is proof points. If you are finding yourself at twenty, twenty-five, thirty years, making a pivot, which is what in most cases people are running into…you go out and try to find somebody else who’s made a similar pivot, look to replicate somebody else’s success…if there’s no one who has done the thing that you want to do, you’re either a trailblazer or out of sync with what it is the market really wants and what the market values. That is constantly changing.
I love your point, Kevin, about how many of us, there might be periods of five, ten, fifteen years between searches. As a result, I think unconsciously, we let our job hunting skills lapse.
When we get back into the market, we not only have to have our skills in tiptop shape, we’ve got new challenges that we might not have faced during the last search. Certainly as we grow older, ageism becomes one of those challenges, doesn’t it?
Absolutely it does. One of the things that we find though, is that as we talk to…and we do this particularly when we’re working in one-on-one or some of the cohort groups we run for executives, we talk to everyone. We talk to every single person we’re going to work with because we want to make sure there’s a good fit. If there’s not a good fit, there’s not a win for everybody. The diagnosis that my partner, Olivia, and I come back to, I would say 95 if not 99% of the time, is that the breakdown in the search is symptomatic of one of two things. It’s either, message is off, and message could be either the message itself doesn’t have value with the audience it’s being taken to or the message is being taken to the wrong audience.
The second part is, there are no relationships, there’s no third party advocacy to carry that message forward. Now the interesting thing that happens to individuals who have twenty, twenty-five, thirty years experience and feel like they’re running up against age discrimination is in many cases what they’re doing is, they’re using the job board. Using job descriptions to help guide their search, like “Here’s what the market wants of me.” The problem with that is two-fold.
Number one, when you have twenty, twenty-five, thirty years experience, you have a wide array of things that you’ve done, the time, it is not the time to be a jack-of-all-trades as much as it is to figure out, particularly when you’re involved in a pivot or you find yourself looking for a job that maybe wasn’t expected, to refine down to the two or three things that you do that are the most valuable to the market and that you enjoy doing the most. When you’ve worked this hard to get to this point, it’s time to refine things and do the work that you want to do.
The second part is, and what becomes so important in that and why, if we want to call it the conventional job search method of looking out there, seeing who’s looking and what they’re looking for…no company that is going to need your strategic guidance, and help, and leadership, even if you are a subject matter expert in a specific area and not leading a team, anyone that needs your subject matter expertise after being in the trenches for twenty-five or thirty years, no one is going to tell you where they’re hemorrhaging cash. No one is going to show you the underbelly of what’s going on in their company and where they need your help because they’re losing market shares, where they may have to lay people off if they don’t get this problem solved.
Using the job description as an indicator of that, it’s a total false prophet, because you’re never going to see that out there. No company is going to reveal to their competitors where they are losing market share.
Well, let’s talk about the two points you made a moment ago about the importance of messaging and relationships. Let’s start with messaging, Kevin, because it touches on what you’ve just discussed which is understanding employer’s problems. Also a moment ago, you talked about being clear about the top two or three skills that you offer. Are these the elements that go into the messaging that a candidate should present to employers? Are there others that should be added to the list? How can people both put their best foot forward and figure out what’s going to be most persuasive.
Sure, it’s a great question, and this is the framework we’ve used, it’s a framework that’s outlined in our book, which I know you’re going to share that as well later on. Here’s how it looks really simply, is to first of all, go back and look at where you’ve thrived, what it is that you’ve done exceptionally well over your career. Synthesize that down into a thirty-thousand foot view exercise that we do with people. We call it an xyz statement. It goes something like this, “I help x do or understand y so that z.” X is the audience that they serve, not HR, not recruiters, but the boss who is up at night because you can’t solve y, the problem that they have that’s standing between them and a promotion, maintaining their job, them needing an exceeding a budget for the year. Then z, that I helped x understand y so that z. Z is the outcome that they covet.
When we start to really get in the weeds and look at messages, what typically happens… We had a coach that worked for us and he’d do a beautiful job of this, he would ask people what they would do. He would say, “Tell me what you do, Mac?” He’d get the response and the response would be the thing that a low hum sets in your ears, your eyes kind of glaze over, you’re like, “I’m not really sure what Mac’s talking about.” Then he would turn around and say, “If I sat down next to you at a bar and ordered a beer and asked you what you did, what would you tell me?” It came out more along the lines of this xyz statement. The point I’m trying to make with this is a simple one.
In messaging, we have to talk about the problems that our audience has, in the manner in which they talk about them. If you’re ultimately looking to be hired by the COO of the company, make sure that you’re speaking in terms of this problem that’s keeping this COO up at night, in a way that they talk about it, and the outcome that they covet.
I love this point because as we know, and as successful job seekers know, Kevin, employers hire people to solve problems. The more you understand about the hiring manager’s needs, the more you’re going to stand out in that process especially compared to the other candidates.
I want to talk about the importance of relationships but before we do that, what is your best tip, Kevin, for finding out what’s keeping a hiring manager up at night, especially if you might not have a personal connection?
Yeah, I think that you can…There are a couple of things, but let’s just imagine for a second that you’re able to sit down with the person who you would potentially be working for, and in this age of ubiquity of information on the internet, finding people is not a difficult problem. It’s amazing what happens when you get people to talk about themselves versus going out into the market and telling everybody what you want. I would encourage people to reach out to some of these individuals and ask them, what is the problem that’s standing between them and success? What is, particularly if a company is looking to hire and you have an idea that a company potentially has a need that you might fit, what does success look like? Well, everybody else is out there trying to pitch themselves before they understand the problem.
Going back to Covey, seek to understand, seek to be understood. Seek to understand what the problem is. Ask someone flat out, what is standing between them and success? In this role, how is success defined in this role in the first ninety days? What’s the critical thing, come hell or high water, has to happen? Start from there and I’ll think you’ll be amazed at what people will tell you. Further, I would say this is a great way to approach the, “Tell me about yourself,” question.
The tell me about yourself question, to me, is the figurative and literal landmine that every interviewer walks into because with no context behind what the target is you’re trying to hit, it’s just ripe with opportunity to scuttle your entire interview. By losing somebody’s attention, by talking about things that don’t matter, because at that point, somebody is typically sitting there trying to figure out how to exclude you versus include you. You’re still at the very beginning stages of the interview process.
That’s what’s happening. People are trying to figure out, “How do we whittle this pile down? We’ve already done it by looking on paper, looking on a computer screen. Now we’ve got some people in here. How do we thin the herd?” The fastest way to stand out, again, is to turn it around and say, “Look, Mac, I’ve got twenty-five years experience in talent acquisition, human capital management, started search firms, started this company Career Traction in 2008. I’ve found that there are a handful of things that I’m really good at. But what I’m really curious to know is, how do you define success in this role in the first ninety days? What are the one, two, maybe top three things that have to happen? I may or may be able to help you with those. I can guarantee I can help you find somebody else who is. But what does that look like for you?”
People love to talk about themselves, and on top of that, it’s going to give you some guidance on where to focus. The thing a lot of people don’t talk about when they’re giving advice around interviewing and the job search, do you want to do this job? Instead of everybody trying to figure out how to sell themselves, you’ve got to love somebody who’s going to love you back but the front part of that is you need to love someone. It’s like dating and marriage, you’ve got to figure out if what they want is something you want to do. After twenty-five, thirty years, chances are you can do it, but do you want to do it?
Yeah, I love your suggestion about finding out what are the problems of the employer that you’re talking with, because the more you know, again, the more successful you’ll be, but when you do that, it also makes it a conversation between peers. It becomes about the employer’s needs and you get out of that classic interview dynamic where you feel as if you’re being cross examined, and instead you’re having a conversation about how you can make life better for that employer. That’s unusual, most candidates don’t do that. That will also help you get to your point about understanding whether you want to do this or not.
I do want to know, because you’ve written a lot about this. One of the advantages that you see older workers have is they are subject experts, and one of the recommendations that you make for overcoming ageism in a job search is to present yourself as a subject expert. Why is that so, Kevin? How can people do that? Why does it make a difference in a search?
Well, I think it’s a critical thing to do at 20+ years of experience because otherwise where you find yourself is competing in a commodity space with folks who have less experience, or are more junior. Even mid-tier to top-tier companies, you’re never going to compete in that space because companies are not looking to hire somebody with twenty years of experience to do something that they know they’re not going to want to be doing in five years and also doesn’t fit into their seccession plan. There’s no forward thinking plan that finds a place for somebody in a more entry level role for an individual who has excessive experience or is overqualified. That’s a thing that a lot of folks won’t talk about.
But more importantly, if you are not honing in, I would start at the most basic point which is, one, if you’ve done all this work, you know the things you want to do and the things you don’t want to do. Subject matter expertise is where you can leverage the greatest bang for your buck, you can be a surgical instrument going in and doing work that other people can’t do. I would submit that unless you champion mediocrity in your career, that’s not kind of work that you want to do. Now you have the opportunity to put your weight to bear against the type of work that you really want to do that you love and you’ve had enough experience going around the block to be able to see the things you love doing versus the things you don’t love doing. There’s no reason at this point, and particularly in this market, to have to do work that you don’t love.
What does that look like, Kevin? How do you see successful candidates, particularly older workers, present themselves as a subject matter expert in a job search? What do they do?
I think it’s kind of twofold; one, and we already talked about this, it’s understanding what the problem inside the company. Instead of some of the traditional tactics of force feeding, and trying to figure out exactly how to position yourself as the right solution, understand what the problem is first. If you understand the problem, you’re going to know whether or not you want to do the work. There’s, “Can you do it?”, and there’s “Do you want to do it?” Then when you’re doing it, you’re going back to what you were saying before. This is way more of a conversation. This is a consultation. This is not defending your resume; it’s digging in, understanding what the problem is, starting to describe how you would solve the problem, how you have solved past problems like this, and giving proof points. Which, by the way, is exceptionally important if you’re looking to pivot from one industry to another. A pushback that we will hear a lot is, “Well, that all sounds great but I don’t have twenty years of experience in this industry and that’s what they’re looking for.” The pushback I give against that is, “If you look at the hiring practices, going out and finding consultancies, which is a very expensive way to solve problems, they’re looking for subject matter expertise and they’re looking for creativity of solving that same problem, maybe in the same industry, but in many cases, a more creative way to solve problems that comes from having dealt with similar problems in other industries.”
This, again, is getting less mired into what the job description then is than taking a look at what is the outcome that that company wants? The person sitting across from you who is wondering, are they going to get a promotion this year, are they going to get a bonus, are they going to be able to keep their job if they don’t solve this problem? What’s the outcome that they’re looking to solve and winning their heart and mind around convincing them that you understand the problem, you’re demonstrating that you understand the problem, by explaining how you solved that problem in the past, by digging deeper into getting a clearer picture on the way that they want to execute this solution that you’re going to bring in. Then ultimately, is this a dynamic in which you want to work? That gets you away, and this is particularly important for folks who have been unemployed, if they find themselves… It’s kind of soul sucking to be going through the job search and be defending your resume at every turn.
This conversation gets you talking about subject matter expertise, and talking about people and their problems, and can you solve their problems? If you can’t solve their problems, this is a little bit of a pivot, off of the age discrimination piece…If you can’t solve their problems, now you understand enough about it that you can be a resource for them, which then ties into relationship.
The principles that you’ve outlined, I think would be useful to any job seeker no matter what their age, but I love the big point you’re making here, that older workers have a secret weapon and that’s their expertise, their experience. Often, I think job seekers who are in my age group, I’m fifty-nine, see that as a liability but it’s a huge asset. I know you’ve laid out a lot of these ideas and a terrific LinkedIn article that we’ll be sure to include a link to. Now tell us what’s next for you, Kevin?
It’s more of the same. My partner and I are just came off doing one of our quarterly meetings and looking at how we can help more people and be more efficient at driving outcomes faster, moving into the new year. A large part of that is continuing to execute off of the framework in our book.
Great. Well, your book of course is The Career Upgrade Roadmap: 90 Days to a Better Job and A Better Life. I know people can learn more about you and your partner and your work by visiting careerattraction.com. Kevin, thanks for being on the show today.
Hey, thanks so much for having me.
It’s been a pleasure, take care.
Welcome back to the Mac’s List studio. I enjoyed that conversation with Kevin, what were your reactions and thoughts?
I really liked the points he was making about approaching that ageism discussion from a more constructive angle, of, “What is something I can do as an older worker to position myself in a more attractive way to employers?”
Yeah, that was great.
Employers are going to do what they’re going to do but you have a lot of ability to work on your job search strategy, and work on your message, and position yourself in a way that is both true to your skills and your experiences and also will be more appealing to employers. I feel like it was pretty empowering and I hope that’s how older workers hear it. That you do have a lot of venues, or paths, that you can go down as an older worker to position yourself and make yourself more appealing, and take control of that process a little bit.
I like how he emphasized some lessons we actually talk about in general, with all job seekers, regardless of their age. One of them is getting caught up too much on that job description, and it only gets you so far in understanding what the job is really all about and what that problem is. Because he’s right, sometimes the employer doesn’t even know what the problem is and they’ve put out some kind of pro-forma job description hoping that they get the right candidate. Sometimes they’re being more strategic and holding back what their problem is; they’ll only reveal, “Oh here’s our real challenge…” when they get to the interview stage. It’s not a good approach from the employer’s side, but that’s the way it is. So not getting too caught up on, “I don’t check all of the right boxes on that job description.”
The other point that he brings up that we talk a lot about is the importance of going a mile deep into, one, “Here’s what I really do in my career. Here’s what I’m really good at.” Rather than trying to present yourself as a jack-of-all-trades who does a lot of different things. I think that’s particularly important for older professionals who, since they’ve been working for thirty, forty years, they think, “Oh I’ve got this wealth of different experiences there that I can draw on.” That’s an appealing message sometimes, but for employers I think they’re really looking for the master of the single skill rather than the jack-of-all-trades.
That was something that stood out to me too. The, “Don’t be a generalist” message. Which I think is relevant for everyone but especially like you were saying, Ben, after you’ve worked twenty, thirty, forty years in the workforce. Talk about what it is that you do, what is your thing.
Yeah, because that’s one of your competitive advantages as an older worker. You have this in depth experience.
I think a challenge is that you may be good at four, five, seven things, and that might lead someone to present themselves as a generalist, as a jack-of-all-trades. What I was hearing from Kevin is, step back, look at what you have to offer and make sure to focus on the one or two things that are going to solve that employer’s most urgent problems.
Yeah, good. I enjoyed that conversation a lot and I appreciate your reactions. Thank you and thank you, Kevin, and thank you, our listeners, for downloading today’s episode of Find Your Dream Job.
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