A couple of months ago, for the first time in my life I found myself in the unpleasant position of having been laid off from work. It came as a surprise, though it is not uncommon in the volatile hi-tech world. Still, I wasn’t expecting it and without warning, I was thrust into the unknown, into a world of uncertainty on the professional, financial and personal levels.
Deep down I knew things would eventually work out, that this was for the best. But there were points during the search that I needed to convince myself of this. Looking for work at age 50 isn’t a simple task and in hi-tech it’s that much more difficult. Because of my experience, the assumption is that I am expensive and thus the senior jobs I can compete for are fewer, with more competition and consequently they are harder to get.
In the end, things did work out. It took a little more than two months, a short search by any standards (though it felt like eternity to me). I start a new job in a couple of weeks and it’s not in hi-tech. I thought I’d share some of what I experienced and learned these past two months in the form of ten useful tips broken into two separate posts with the hope that they may be of use to others. They may not be relevant for everyone. They were very relevant for me. Good luck!
1) Start your search immediately – It’s easy to take a well-deserved break and gather strength before the all-encompassing search. If you don’t have to, don’t do it. It just delays the inevitable and makes the search that much harder. It also means you are out of work longer. Resist the temptation and jump right into it.
2) Dedicate yourself fully to the search – The truth is looking for a job is a full-time job. Treat it that way. Organize your day. You will find that you will spend most of it by the computer and it will breeze by. A job search is time consuming: checking on line for positions, sending in CVs, networking, interviews, follow up, etc.. Dedicate yourself to it. There is no way around it.
3) But do leave time for yourself – Having stressed the need to dedicate yourself to the search, it is important to remember to leave time for yourself. Rarely will you have so much time for yourself. You certainly won’t have it after you find your next job. I put aside one day a week to take a trip somewhere either alone or with the family, exploring our beautiful country and going to places I always complained I never had time to visit. I found time to run in races, write a diary and bake coconut cream pies (a first). The personal time was invaluable and is important to striking a balance during a very emotionally charged and pressured period.
4) Explore all leads and directions – In the end, you never know where the opportunity will come from. Be open to looking in different directions that are still consistent with your skills. While I mainly focused on hi-tech, I opened the door to looking in the non-profit world as well. My marketing and PR skills work well in both and I have experience in both sectors. The fact that I opened myself to additional venues in the end turned out to be the key to my successful search. I’m starting work at a non-profit organization in a couple of weeks.
5) Network! – There are many things you need to do in a successful job search but in my view, none more important than networking. I realize peoples’ experiences will vary. Some might get jobs online, via LinkedIn forums, through recruiters or through ads. For me, the only real opportunities I had and ultimately the job I took, came through networking connections. Looking back on my career, every job I have had has also come that way. In a comprehensive job search by the book, you need to take advantage of all methods, but I truly believe the most important route is through networking. Reach out to your connections, even those who didn’t come through in the past, because you never know. Use LinkedIn as a means of finding who you know who knows the guy who is hiring. Here’s one example to suffice. When I came across a relevant position at a certain company, I saw on LinkedIn that a friend of mine knew the CEO. I asked him if he’d make an introduction and send my CV, which he did. The CEO called me in for an interview and told me that he had at least 400 CVs in his inbox that he hadn’t read yet but when my friend called, he was happy to meet me. You need to find a way to have your CV get attention and not sit at the bottom of the pile or inbox. Using LinkedIn and networking is one of the best ways to do that.
The second part of this post, with an additional 5 tips will be posted on Sunday.