Job Hunting at 50? Do the Jerry Maguire
If you are a woman in your 50s, you rose up in your career just as getting a master’s degree or an MBA emerged as the ultimate career power move.
But what if you didn’t follow that path? You took your undergrad degree and put your head down into your career, got married, raised a couple of babies (on the down low, of course, because being a mom was okay, but talking about it was a career killer) and built yourself the equivalent of a Ph.D. in your field through your innate strengths, intuitive drive and multiple successes.
And what if you’re now in a job search at say 53? How do you convince the 35-year-old manager you’ll be sitting down with that you are unavoidably perfect? That the double whammy of age (bias) and no advanced degree are non-issues?
You don’t. You gotta dress and accessorize the part (read: current) and do the Jerry Maguire.“Help me help you.” That means you find the hiring manager’s pain, and solve it.
Key to that is asking a lot of open-ended questions aimed at diagnosing your conversation partner’s needs. For example:
I know that hiring managers are in a rock and a hard place to find the perfect employee. What have you been told you need to find?
If I can help you not only solve your hiring challenge, but hit it out of the ballpark, what do you need me to be able to do for you right now?
With such a deep bench of people qualified for the job, finding the perfect hire is hard on you, and hard on the company in terms of time and lost productivity. On paper, I may not look like the perfect hire, but here’s how I can help you…
That last phrase is where you have the opportunity to sing your praises framed as a benefit to your conversation partner. In other words you will use their answers to demonstrate how you would meet your potential employer’s needs.
If you’re 50 or older, this demonstration needs a lot of enthusiasm, statements that show your handle on current technology and how your collaborative, high energy workstyle fueled your accomplishments.
So let’s say you learn from your conversation partner that you’re able to hit all of the job qualifications except one—the advanced degree.
Ask the manager point-blank whether she’s hesitating to hire you because of the one missing requirement. Get the problem out on the table.
If you lack something an employer wants, but you’re a match on other counts, don’t wait for the employer to decide to take a chance on you. She probably won’t. Don’t wait for her to figure out what to do with you. Instead, figure it out for her and explain it.
From that vantage, you’ll be poised to use the interview to demonstrate what you can do. Corcodilos goes on to say that:
This is an incredibly powerful approach. Of course, it’s also risky and you must be prepared to do a demonstration. But, if you aren’t prepared to do this, then you have no business in the interview. If you attempt it, and you fail, you’ve lost nothing because the manager was ready to reject you anyway.
To avoid this rejection, and frame your missing master’s degree in a positive light and trump your competition, Corcodilos advises to never defend your resume.
The purpose of a job interview — whether the employer knows it or not — is for you to demonstrate how you’re going to do the job profitably. But, the typical interview quickly disintegrates into a discussion about the candidate’s resume. Tell me about this company you worked for. What did you do? What does this part mean, exactly? Can you explain this on page two? What made you decide to get this particular degree?
Your mission in the interview is not to defend that piece of paper. It’s to explain and show how you will use your skills and abilities to help the manager tackle the problems and challenges he’s facing in his business. Few managers know how to take an interview past the resume. It’s up to you to keep the interview on track.
A couple of stock phrases that might help you here are:
With my background in X and Y, I’ve really honed a Ph.D. capacity to function more like a consultant. To see what you can’t see. And to design and complete strategic turnarounds.
The bulk of my experience has been in X and Y. So being an outsider in your industry allows me to bring an entrepreneurial vision to solving your current challenges.
In truth, you can’t control the outcome, and you can’t control age bias. But you can control the interview and leave knowing you did your best to focus on the work to be done.