Job Search Success for Older Workers? It’s more possible than you think.
A job search for older workers can be daunting and demoralizing. But you can succeed if you are up-to-date on what you need to do and you’re ready for when your search takes you that right job in which their open to older workers and even desire them.
Bottom-line: You have to be ready!
In this interview, David Cooley will prepare you by sharing the concepts, methods, and tips you will need. Job Search Success for Older Workers!
David is the Director of Alumni Career Services & Career Coach for UCLA Anderson School of Management and recipient of UCLA Anderson’s prestigious Abe Ackerman Award. His private executive and career coaching practice has clients from The Walt Disney Company, E! Entertainment/NBCUniversal, AT&T, and Gilead Sciences.
He also works with MBA students and alumni from top universities and business schools including Harvard Business School, MIT Sloan, and Chicago Booth School of Business. He has coached a large number of C-level executives at a number of top companies throughout the United States.
David will provide you with what you need for success in your job search, yes, even if you are an older worker.
Contact David at:
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Job Search Success for Older Workers transcript:
[00:00:00] Helping you find your new way forward to the best years of your life. This is a New Way Forward podcast with Paul Long.
[00:00:07] I’m past my prime. There’s ageism. There never hire me. And they haven’t even tried to network their way in. If we go into that and let that make us defensive and use that as an excuse for not at least throwing your hat in the ring and trying and everyone loses, then I would say those that I know that are really succeeding have basically taken the mindset of, Look, I have to adapt to the times and there are still some things I can do to contribute and I can explain what those are, and I’m going to keep a positive mindset about it. Don’t count on your success alone, get you there, but that success may help you get in the door. And then if you can translate that to the future, you’ll be even more successful.
[00:00:52] Ageism is alive and well out there in the job market for those of us who are older. However, there are trends that are more positive now, and the key is, is that it can be overcome. It can be overcome if you know what to do, the things that you need to do to not only overcome ageism, but to get the job in the first place. In this day and age, the way that it works well with answers and insights and techniques. My guest today is David Cooley, who is director of Alumni Career Services, and he’s a career coach at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. And I love David because he’s got such solid, real insights of what to do and how to do it. And even more than that, he’s had a lot of successes. And let’s start with a success story. You were telling me the story about a 56 year old male who got a job in the tech sector, which we know we read a lot in the publications about that being a very serious business. But he got the job and you said he did it because he did things the right way. What was the story and what were the right ways?
[00:02:01] Well, the right way involved, really what every generation should use in terms of a process to being considered for a role. And yes, the tech industry does tend to hire more youthful people, mainly because they’re as up to date on the current technologies. There are certainly a lot of boomers that are very tech friendly and probably have a better chance than they think. In the case of this particular 56 year old, when he got the opportunity through networking essentially and starting to translate his experience, which was somewhat relevant but not really relevant in tech. We worked really hard on creating that narrative that pulled out any tech experience, any e-commerce experience, and lead with that in both his intro and his resume. And because this is one of the biggest tech companies out there. He knew he had a high bar and did a lot of research looking at that company’s annual report, watching the CEO speak through YouTube interviews, and to really actively get a strong idea of what the company was about, what their culture was focused on, what their core businesses are, and was able to really create a compelling story that was up to date. He beat out people in the end that were half his age because he really prepped. He thought about the translation. He really got to know what the company’s business was and put it all together in a very impactful way.
[00:03:37] So for somebody like whether it’s tech or whatever, so kind of map out for us, what is that approach then? I mean, you did mention research and such, but there’s more to it than that. So if I’m in a similar situation, just trying to find something, what would be those key steps that the work that I need to put into it?
[00:03:58] The heavy lifting, heavy lifting, a lot more goes into the process than it used to, we would think. And maybe as boomers we tend to think, well, in this digital era, everything should be easier. Applying on jobs should be applying to jobs online should be easier, everything should be easier. But in fact, I would argue that the more digital things become, the more difficult it is to stand out. So what that process meant was taking advantage of the fact that these days we do have access to annual reports in about 3 seconds of public companies. We didn’t have that growing up right. We didn’t have that in the seventies, eighties or nineties or we did, but we probably didn’t use it like we could. Now we have access to critical data on companies that are public, which will help us prepare and really understand those companies. We also have access to more job listings that spell out in more detail what that role is really about and what you need to talk about. So that provides a script for ideally what you’re going to talk about and with a lot of preparation and really understanding the company where they’ve been, what’s failed, what they want to do going forward. You can customize both your resume and of course your interview and even your your intro, your career narrative, which is critical in a way that’s going to resonate. But you’ve got to start strong and you you have to do the research if you really want the role. And that that goes to every generation, including us boomers.
[00:05:30] If I, if I’ve got this particular company, maybe this particular job position, yeah, I can really sink my teeth into it. But what if what if I’m just starting to cast a wide net and. What do I fundamentally do to at least get me past that first step so that I can get on to the deeper dive?
[00:05:54] Well, I think I’d start with, first of all, what industry are you in now and then start creating circles around that of what are related industries? What’s two or three or four degrees outside of that? Or that has some relevance where you could say, Well, I didn’t do exactly this part of the industry. I did do this, which I think is very relevant to your business model. And in fact, something that I could bring that might be additionally valuable. It’s again plotting it out ahead of time in a way that says, let me give them some sound bites that are going to appeal to them. And I would say so it’s a look at the industries that are relevant, but also look at what you care about, what subject matters. Do you know a lot about? Do you know a lot about a certain type of product, whether it’s tech, whether it’s a consumer product? It’s and what kind of articles do you read when you read, let’s say, any sort of a business story? Ideally, you’re reading The Wall Street Journal or you’re going to a news website focused on business that’s more critical than ever. And you can bring those things in to the conversation.
[00:07:02] Now you have mentioned before in articles and conversations about. It really comes down to a mindset. What do you mean by that? What kind of a mindset? To be successful in finding work?
[00:07:17] Well, having worked with many boomers, but also millennials, I’ve worked with people at both the career and executive coach from about 21 to about 69, 70, 71 that are still looking for another career. And I would say. Some of the younger folks will say, I’m too young, I don’t have experience. Nobody wants me. Some of the folks that are boomers are saying, I’m past my prime. There’s ageism. They never hire me. And they haven’t even tried to network their way in. They haven’t even tried to create that story. So sometimes it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy where you say, they’ll never have me, and so you don’t take the steps necessary to be successful. My advice to boomers is to say. Give it a try and find a way to network your way in. And you said, what’s another fundamental thing is using LinkedIn. Linkedin is one of the greatest resources that’s ever been created for the job search process, and obviously it started in 2003. It really came in to prominence during the recession 2009. That’s where user growth went up by a million every month. And now, of course, now that it was acquired by Microsoft for $26 billion, we know it’s very valuable because, first of all, there’s no competition. Microsoft. Microsoft’s LinkedIn has no competition. There’s no one else that is doing what they’re doing or even can do at this stage. So it’s a valuable tool where you can get insights on jobs, insights on people. You can know who’s working at company, what type of roles they have. It’s really a wealth of information that will help in your search and in some ways help you reconnect to networks, maybe in your own age group, maybe younger. But whatever it is, it is one social network that can be valuable if you know how to treat it well and how to use it effectively.
[00:09:20] Yeah. And I’ll jump in on that that I know in working with on corporate projects, with personal branding experts. And I’ve really learned the value of that and thinking of it as two ways that not only is it a chance for you to see who’s this person I’m going to interview, where are they from, what’s their background, or who are the key people in that company that I might want to connect with? But you also have to keep into the fact that they’re checking your you out almost always, and that if your profile isn’t solid and within many of the contexts that you’re talking about. You know you’re going to lose before you even get out of the gate. Correct?
[00:10:02] Absolutely correct, Paul. I think that people sometimes look at LinkedIn as something that. Well, it’s good to have it helps me connect with people, but it really is your face to hundreds of millions of people. And so you really want to have a compelling story of value that speaks to your expertise and your accomplishments. There’s there’s no harm in that unless you’re a very, very private person that doesn’t want to get hired. It’s critical to have that public profile. And it’s such an opportunity that we didn’t have before LinkedIn was created.
[00:10:34] And also to I know personal branding coaches and personal branding isn’t I mean, Kim Kardashian or something. Personal branding basically means a, people know that you exist and what you have to offer. Do you have any thoughts about, as some coaches will say, to share content often and make a post, even if it’s a brief one, or write a short article about something that you’re reacting to to show that you’re out there. And quite frankly, that’s becoming a broader term of thought leadership. If you post a lot of good stuff on LinkedIn, people start seeing you as a thought leader. Is that important?
[00:11:14] Absolutely. And I think using LinkedIn, there’s a whole lot of reasons. Part of them is just the exposure of getting your name out there within your network, but also the algorithms that LinkedIn uses all the time. The more active you are, the more you show up on feeds. And of course, if you come up in someone’s feed with an interesting idea or an article that people click on, you are staying in the hearts and minds of not necessarily recruiters, but possibly if you know recruiters, but in the hearts and minds of people that know you a little bit or a lot as a subject matter expert in something. So whether you’re using the video feature and doing daily stories, I know the guy, a great guy that wrote a book about networking called Friend of a Friend. His name is David Burks, and he does something called The Daily Berk, where every day he has a video that that speaks to something tied to networking and misperceptions about it that keeps it active, commenting on it, it keeps you relevant and makes you more likely to show up in a feed, which means that you are more of a subject matter expert and actively involved in whatever industry you’re. And I’ve seen people actually switch careers by posting things in the new area. If they learn a lot, they post a few articles about it and they send that to a recruiter that helps them get the benefit of the doubt so it can work.
[00:12:42] So I look at a LinkedIn, I’m instantly turned off by a bad profile picture, and I’ve even written on LinkedIn about the importance of having a pro who knows, not just the aperture and the lighting, but to get the expression, because that’s the very first thing people see. And especially if you’re a boomer and an older person, I want to see some confidence. I want to see a spark behind the eye and a good portrait photographer will do that. It seems like not that big a deal and yet it’s huge.
[00:13:08] It is huge.
[00:13:10] And the other thing being that LinkedIn makes it really easy for you to walk you through how to thoroughly and accurately and accuracy is important. Go go through that process.
[00:13:22] Yeah, that’s true.
[00:13:23] So that’s an important part of the heavy lifting. What else about the mindset and not to go guru airy fairy on me, but what kind of mindset, what kind of attitude do I need to have throughout this process? Is it kind of a singular, overarching mindset with a lot of particulars or what?
[00:13:42] It’s what I like to call one of my expressions in coaching. I call it professional emotional ownership or CEO. And what that really means is you are able to talk in conversations optimistically about where that company or organization or nonprofit could go. You’ve done enough research that it shows in your eyes that you have confidence and excitement, not just excitement to work, but to work there and to help drive their business. Or again, maybe it’s not a business, it’s a socially driven organization. But they you have that professional emotional ownership that’s really hard to fake. Like for example, I’m a vehement non smoker. If I heard from one of the tobacco companies that wanted me to coach, I’d have a really hard time faking being excited to work for that company. And I think all of us have those companies we would or wouldn’t work for organizations that don’t align with with our view of the world or whatever it is. But if you’re excited about something, let it show. And especially those of us that are boomers, let’s face it, energy and enthusiasm counts for a lot more than we think. And if we go in defensive and have a look on her face that says, I’m going to have to prove this and they’re not going to like me, and it shows in your facial expressions you’re already in trouble. But if you go in with this presumption that they might like you a lot, as long as you seem engaged, your odds go up. The 56 year old I mentioned earlier found that out. Why? It took a lot of prep to get there, but he got there.
[00:15:20] Now everybody’s going to be different. Every situation is going to be different. But in the broadest terms possible, how much should we be playing up? Our experience, so to speak, and how much should we be trying to overcome it, so to speak? How much should we be playing with it and how much should we be working around?
[00:15:41] That’s a great question. I think part of the problem is the word experience is a little nebulous, right? Is it expertise? Is it are those are accomplishments? And so if you say, well, I have 30 years of experience in marketing, the experience is one thing. But is it better if you say, I have more than 20 years of experience building brands, building global brands, and generating revenue for top brands in both traditional and digital marketing, using both strategies to propel and accelerate sales growth. In other words, focus on results over what that overall experience means. Experience is good, but you want to make it as relevant as possible to that company, that division, that product, that organization, whatever it is you talk to, that, you talk the language of where you’re going, not just where you’ve been. And sometimes when you tell your story as a boomer, you may have to compress ten years into one line. But that’s okay because you’re really wanting to focus on those achievements that are relevant to them and ideally, if they were in the last ten years.
[00:16:52] And so in the context of what you said and also as you’ve said with resumes to it, it isn’t what it was when we 20 or 30 years ago, when the resume was really a central part of you. And it was just, oh, I did this, I did this. What is it now and how important is a resume now?
[00:17:13] Oh, the resume is still very, very important and so is LinkedIn and so is your networking strategy and so is your interview strategy. And I would say the resume used to be more a matter of I’ve done this, I’ve done this, I’ve done this. Now companies instead, all companies are looking for results. So to have done something is good, but it doesn’t say you were successful at it. So using quantified results, using the language of that industry, maybe eliminating industry language, something that you wouldn’t understand. So you came from the military, you’re using a lot. And I’ve worked with a lot of veterans taking out language that’s not going to make sense to where you’re going and working hard to translate it, both on paper and so forth. But a lot of people do ask me, is LinkedIn a resume more important? I say, they’re both important because LinkedIn is is is really one brand that you have. But if you’re going in, that’s important to have your expertise and your accomplishments there. But then your resume allows you to customize and translate a little bit more, if not a lot more to really where you want to go.
[00:18:26] And a couple of points in there very recently with one of my sons helping him with his resume in the first place. Some of the things that he did, especially in the corporate social responsibility area, wasn’t quantifiable. It was only quantifiable is that.
[00:18:45] If you can’t quantify what you’ve done. My feeling is try to at least make an estimate. For example, if you if it was something CSR focus, what were your success metrics? There’s got to be some success metrics or else how do you know you’ve done a good job? And if you could say you were able to improve something within that organization which helped to lower some sort of cost. Ideally, if you it with a lot of people that have done CSR, sometimes it is about making things more efficient. Efficiency is still important. If it’s about increasing access, perhaps in a nonprofit to some sort of funding, great. What did you do and who benefited from it and how and what were those success metrics? I would say that you’re trying to use a resume to create a historical record of achievement. Ideally that’s relevant to where you’re going. That either creates a picture of profitability if it’s a company or if it’s a socially driven organization. Possibility, a picture of possibility. What did you do and how did it help drive the mission of the organization?
[00:20:05] When we were talking before, you said connecting the dots of age, experience and specific value go into that.
[00:20:16] Connecting the dots of when it comes to age. Age is, again, those of us over the age of 50, and I’m too much shy of 55 myself. We know that people consider it. It is very real, but we don’t have to highlight that. And most importantly, we don’t bring in this mindset into an organization. My friend John Tana talks about it in his book Boomer Reinvention, where you basically don’t bring in this mindset that because I’m older, I should be the leader in the company. The fact of the matter is, the 56 year old is working for a 33 year old and he’s never been happier. But we’re going to work for younger folks. And as long as there’s a shared respect, that’s important. But connecting the dots means your experience. You’ve made an attempt, a strong attempt to connect whatever you’ve done to what the needs of the organization are. And so it means any bit of translation will really help you be successful. And you don’t want to count on the person you’re interviewing for or even do an informational interview. You don’t want to count on them understanding it, help them understand it, because remember, they’re in their own mindset of their industry, whatever that is. And they’re listening for language that says, You know what I’m doing? You can add value and you contribute because we leave this too much to the imagination and we don’t move forward at all.
[00:21:48] Being a writer, it almost sounds to me as if it’s writing out a story that’s got a deliverable, a meaningful ending for that for the listener or the hiring person. Is that correct?
[00:22:03] Absolutely not. In a way, you’re 100% right. The whole process is about storytelling. It’s telling your story. Tell me about yourself. You get into this intro, and for those of us that are boomers or even the Gen Xers are already facing this. Right? The next generation are already feeling, oh, my gosh, I’m too old for this job. So part of it is making sure you’re not putting that mindset in the process. But part of it is don’t tell everyone every part of your story. Again, like I talked about, you might have to compress many years of experience or something you’re really proud of that you did in the eighties may not have as much relevance anymore, and so you might touch on it, but you focus on the present. You want to keep your. The whole process is about stories, if you think about it, not just the questions that you expect to get. Tell me about yourself. Why this company or organization? So when it comes to storytelling, what you want to do is really think about your career narrative. And although we may have a 30, 40, 50 years of experience, that’s really interesting. The fact of the matter is, you want to tell that story in 2 minutes and under and you want to focus on the present as much as you can. So you may have been at the IBM in the eighties doing a great job and you may have been at a bank in the early nineties and did some huge deals.
[00:23:26] But the idea of what have you done for me lately is always going to come into the process. So you want to custom pick meaningful results with an emphasis on the most recent accomplishments that you have and the most relevant. I look, I call it R&R. It’s not rest and relaxation, but results and relevancy to whom you’re talking to. So the story, as you said, storytelling is storytelling is critical in all parts of this process of both your introduction, the examples when people say behavioral questions, give you an example of a time where you succeeded, you failed. Give me an example of a time where you had to deal with a difficult employee. You had to fire somebody. These things are all stories, but they have to be short to the point, show some sort of success or ability to handle the change and ideally have a positive outcome in some way. So it’s really thinking through your stories, which is what the 56 year old did, too. He came up with 100 note cards that had examples of the most common interview questions and was ready for anything with stories that were 2 minutes in length and it was relevant to that tech company as possible.
[00:24:41] And I think relevance is the real key word here. And because at the end of the day, that person who’s considering about hiring you, all they care about is is that is this person the best person for it? Can I defend this person to my boss or to the entity that the group that I’m hiring them into, which I think gets us down to another point you’ve often made, and that is what is your value proposition specifically for that employer? So you put all this together and in a you might have a specific value proposition, but also sounds like what you were just talking about is, is that you’re putting in a context of here, I’ve done these things which you need. Is that. Essentially correct.
[00:25:31] It is, and even better is I’ve done these things that have created value and here’s how I can do them. In your organization, you are creating that picture and translating that final step is what does it mean to you? Not just, I’ve been successful here, so of course I’m going to be successful there. That doesn’t always work. There’s people that were really successful in maybe investment banking or they may have been successful in marketing one time. But digital transformation has changed every business. So I think it’s important that all Boomers and Gen Xers and millennials stay up to date with what’s happening to every business, how every business is using big data, data analytics, cloud analytics, understanding their customer, at least having an awareness. And the great thing is, as you and I have talked about, Paul, is that there are more and easier ways than ever to come up to speed. Sometimes it’s some of the courses they have through LinkedIn learning slash Linda dot com, which is, you know, they had to acquire Linthicum before they got acquired by Microsoft. So there’s a lot of great content.
[00:26:38] There’s some courses that you can get through edX or Udemy or Udacity. Some of those are more complicated, but there’s also just a lot on YouTube that you can find that can bring you up to speed very quickly and more conversant and quite honestly marketable regardless of age. You just don’t want to be what I like to call a digital resistor. Someone that’s right. Someone that says, I don’t want any of that darn digital computer stuff. Well, it’s part of every business. There’s no running away from it. Let’s figure out how we can add value. Maybe it’s different than we added value in the past, or maybe we can come up to speed a different way or prove to them. But. Yeah. All hiring is a bit of a moving target and we all have to adapt to it. And I would say for boomers, don’t count on your success alone getting you there, but that success may help you get in the door. And then if you can translate that to the future, you’ll be even more successful.
[00:27:39] Now, you want to make sure that you’re that you’re up to date and aligned and in tune. Because if you’re not, if you come off as being out of touch, you’re dead. You’re not going to get anywhere. Yeah. And and the thing is with with Google and, you know, okay, so if I’m not in a digital heavy profession, if I if I’m in HR, yes, I’m doing a lot of digital things or, you know, any given specific sector of professionalism, let alone business sector. They’re just you’re right, there are so many resources out there and you can even just do a search on YouTube and hear people being interviewed and doing talks and such to talk about it and have you up to speed.
[00:28:16] Absolutely. You mentioned HR, for example, and more and more organizations, HR are the recruiters and the people internally are focused on employee engagement and using internal data to understand employees, to understand how to create learning and development programs, to find out where the skill gaps are. So it really has it multiple functions, not just industries, I should say most functions.
[00:28:44] How bad is it out there in terms of ageism and whether it’s at the executive level or if I’m a lower level boomer, how bad is it if I want to either keep my job, progress my career or find a job?
[00:29:05] I’ll start by saying ageism is real. We know that. We’ve all experienced it. I’ve experienced it. I’m sure you have. And most of the people watching this have. But I would say if we go into that and let that make us defensive and use that as an excuse for not at least throwing your hat in the ring and trying that everyone loses out. I would say those that I know that are really succeeding have basically taken the mindset of, Look, I have to adapt to the times and there’s still some things I can do to contribute and I can explain what those are. And I’m going to keep a positive mindset about it, not a defensive or angry mindset that’s no one ever gets hired at any age with that kind of mindset. So we combat ageism or perceived ageism by staying up to date as we can, working as hard as we can, not make it excuses for why people won’t hire us because of our age. And sometimes that means trying harder than those that are younger than us. It depends. How much do you want it?
[00:30:10] You know, I’ve talked quite a bit on pro boomer and others have too, about how important diversity and inclusion is now in the corporate world, how that diversity isn’t a matter of quotas and everything. It’s that you want this diverse group of people with diverse backgrounds, diverse skills, diverse ages, diverse genders, so on and so forth. And to be inclusive because the more diverse, the stronger you are, the better solutions. And I’ve advocated and I know other people have too, that having having that person who a certainly has their own skills and talents that are unique to them but be a lot of experience have kind of been there and done in principle. How do we get through this? How do we achieve this? It is. How important do you think that is in the marketplace today, both in terms of of the actual job itself, as well as maybe landing that job?
[00:31:05] Diversity inclusion is critical. And it’s critical to organizations not just from from an optics perspective where if they say, isn’t it great that we’re hiring these groups or this age, to me, it’s about making a business case for diversity and inclusion, which means to me, diversity equals a different thought and experiences, which leads to innovation. Innovation leads to product creation or new market creation or understanding how to market to new groups which create revenue. So if we can harness the power of diversity and inclusion by really using the best employees of all backgrounds, sexual or gender identity ages and so forth, not only is it the right thing to do, but it’s probably going to be really good for business because we’re going to understand all of our customers better. Everybody wins.
[00:32:04] So before my last big question, how can people connect with you?
[00:32:09] The best way is either through LinkedIn, where I’m at, David E Cooley. As you know, I’m the director of alumni career services and a career coach for UCLA. Anderson and I have a private career and executive coaching business as well. So that is just through David Cooley on LinkedIn or my business email is David at Cooley Co Louis Career Coaching dot com. So it’s David at Cooley Career Coaching.
[00:32:40] So if I’m concerned about my employment future again from whatever angle, finding something, keeping something progressing. Sure. What? What is your number one final piece of advice that I should totally take to heart?
[00:32:57] I would say, really think about your mindset. Are you ruling things in? Or I should say ruling things out and not really enough things in because you believe you’re of a certain age. Have you really tried to reach out? Have you tried to build authentic relationships to get the insight that will make you more competitive? Because let’s face it, people are hired on likeability as much as their background and and their education. All these things are vital. And you can be likable and smart at all ages. And I would say keep the right mindset, stay positive, show that professional emotional ownership when you can. But realize even if you feel like you’re doing a lot of work, know that everyone kind of has to do that same level of heavy work because the employment market as things are, are in a good spot right now. We all are talking about a recession may happen. How will you adapt? Big part of it is knowing who you are, how you create value, and keeping that positive mindset. No matter what happens and no matter what stage you are or age you are, really figure out how to tell the most relevant and and meaningful story of value.
[00:34:08] Excellent. David, thank you so much.
[00:34:11] Thanks, Paul. Great to talk to you.
[00:34:13] You’ve been listening to a new Way Forward podcast with your host, Paul Long.
Job Search Success for Older Workers