I was at a communications conference recently whose primary focus was on innovation in the communications industry. There were a range of topics largely centered on curation, creativity, content, crowd sourcing, collaboration and community. These are all topics that are typically grounded in the ability to propagate prose that sizzles, soothes, sympathizes, and sells. The common denominator therein is solid and relevant experience by professionals that have "been there and done that" and are able to write and pull together narratives that engage and inspire audiences.
As I pondered the myriad of conference topics that form the essence of what I do for a living, my trend of thought was shattered by a conversation overheard as the conference transitioned to a coffee break.
Here's the dialogue. "Hello, I overheard you say that you are a recruiter based in New York. I am principal in a small firm in New York and we are searching for a GM to manage the office." "Oh right," responded the gentlemen as he said in his very British tone. "What are you looking for?" "Well we want someone with experience but not the type that is looking for their final career role. That just won't work for us. We want a young person for which the job will be a stretch."
What an appalling notion to think that a person with years of high quality professional experience and accomplishment can no longer be considered for employment because they are considered aged out. What are headhunters, human resource people and hiring managers thinking? And to add insult to injury, the latest employment numbers from Uncle Sam show a decline in the unemployment rate. Clearly the numbers have ignored the young and old who have long since been dropped from the labor count by Uncle Sam. Witness these two recent articles on the situation. "Young People Still Can't Find Work" and "The Job Market is Still Hurting."
So what is a job seeker to do? Go boldly into the night. Here are some thoughts that may fly against conventional wisdom. And perhaps that is why they might be worth a try.
Don’t shy from the conversation. Raise the issue in your cover letter. If you are under 25, explain how your skills and experience can help you come up to speed fast and what value you can immediate apply to contribute to the company’s success. If you are over 50, elaborate on why your experience is of benefit to the organization and how brief is your learning curve. The worst a company can say is no.
Call them on the carpet. Look at a rejection as the opening salvo. If you suspect that age was a hindrance, challenge the company or the hiring manager to explain its rationale for the rejection. Seek an answer. Directly question how and why and don’t take no for an acceptable answer. It is a new day and companies need to be more transparent in their hiring methodology.
Seek a hire or higher authority. The adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again” is applicable here. Identify and contact or seek a meeting with a level or two of management above the HR person or hiring manager. Explain your rationale for your inquiry, your experience to date with the organization and outline in specific terms why you are the best one for the job.
Network above the crowd. Work your connections. Identify people in your network who have connections with principals, hiring managers or other influencers at the companies that are the objective of your interest. Don’t hesitate to engage with them on your abilities, capabilities and aspirations. Offer to buy lunch or coffee and have a real conversation about their needs and requirements.
Leave your comfort zone. Being in an environment that is comfortable tends to breed People tend to go with the flow and hesitate to break new ground. But when it comes to career advancement, take off the gloves and get out of your zone of comfort. Take actions that are bold and may just get you in the door. Desperate times call for measures that have the potential to break through.