Too expensive to buy. Too old to hire.
If you follow my blog and have read some of my posts, you know that I view a job search through the perspective of a sales process. When you search for a job, you are selling the most important product in the world, yourself. So, I was reflecting this past week on how the challenge of overcoming the price objection in sales mirrors the difficulty that many professionals 50 years and over face in the job search process.
In 25 plus years in sales, I never found myself in the position of having the lowest price solution or service on the market. Working in sales for Xerox Corporation and then Nuance Communications, I was typically the most expensive offering. Time after time, I heard a common refrain from the prospect saying something along the lines of “Great solution. But it is just too expensive to buy.” Despite this obstacle, I had a fair measure of success over two-plus decades in sales. Commissions, awards, and sales trips were plentiful. My ego wants to tell you that I had world-class sales skills. The truth, however, is that I while I was good at sales, no one is carving a statue for me in the Sales Hall of Fame. So, how then did I consistently overcome the price objection? The answer is a belief system.
I believe that there is no such thing as “too expensive.” Price reflects value. If you believe that what you offer has value, then the price is not the issue. Sales is about understanding your customer’s pain point and how your service or solution can eliminate the pain and drive positive business outcomes. If you truly understand your customer and how your offering can add value, then you can successfully close the deal. But if you go into the sales cycle believing that you are too expensive, then take the burnt toast out of the oven. The deal is lost.
Ageism in the workplace and the job search is real. A recent article in Forbes referenced a survey completed by AARP which found that “more than nine in 10 older workers see age discrimination as common. And 61% say they’ve personally seen or experienced it.” Whether the ageism practices are implicit or explicit, career professionals over 50 years old need to adapt their job search process to this new reality. Just like a sales rep overcoming the price objection, it all starts with your belief system.
I like the adage “If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck.” If you start your job search believing that you are old and that employers will not hire you because you are over 50 years old, don’t even start. Believing that you are old becomes a self-fulfilling and self-defeating prophecy. Your “I’m old” belief system will infect your personal branding materials. It will limit your personal networking and the ability to expand your professional network. And for sure, it will sabotage your personal selling and seep into every interview you complete. You must build your over 50 job search on a solid foundation. Start by believing that your age is just a number and that you are not old. Understand that regardless of ageism, you have a value proposition that will be attractive to an employer. You just need to build an effective job search plan to find that employer, learn how to tell your story, and sell your value.
With your belief system and a solid job search plan in place, here are three additional tips on how to adapt your job search to the realities facing an over 50 job seeker.
Use multiple job search strategies. Your job search strategy is more than applying for online job boards where the competition is fierce (250+ applicants per posting), and applicant tracking systems can skew towards younger applicants. 70% of the jobs filled in the US every year are never posted online. Leverage (and expand) your professional network to tap into the hidden job market where a solid referral eliminates the ageism issue before it even arises.
Build a youthful and more relevant online presence. Focus your resume and LinkedIn profile on your most recent 5 to 10 years of work. Now is not the time to proudly display your extensive years of experience! Highlight current technology expertise and skills. If you research your target companies and job descriptions, it will be easier to tailor your personal branding materials to mirror the target company and job requirements.
Be on top of your game. Prepare for interviews with in-depth research and STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) answers to common interview questions. Focus your STAR stories on recent experiences with specific relevance to the hiring manager’s pain points. Refine your elevator pitch to project energy, enthusiasm and a value proposition that matches the open position requirements.
I could continue the list with 20 more tips, but discretion is the better part of valor. I will leave you with one final thought. The famous philosopher Descartes was quoted saying “I think, therefore I am.” Many centuries later, the slightly less famous career coach Dan Troup said: “I think I am young, therefore I am.”
Dan Troup is the Managing Director of the AdvantEdge Careers coaching service. If you are interested in learning more about how a certified career coach can assist you in your job search, please contact AdvantEdge Careers for a free initial consultation.