Few experiences in life are as frustrating as a job search ... especially when you are confronting the barriers faced by a mature job-seeker. The good news is that unkind stereotypes, concerns over healthcare expenses and other aspects of ageist thinking held by employers can be overcome. But, to break through these formidable roadblocks, you need to have an active and engaged network on your side.
Employers want to avoid adding any bad apples to their team. And, because of this fact, managers are far more likely to hire someone who comes with a recommendation. As an applicant with a referral supporting your qualifications and value as an employee, you have an immediate advantage. You are already blessed with the "halo effect" and all that comes with it -- including the likelihood of overlooking a number of ageist assumptions. A nod from a trusted employee, valued colleague or some other influential source will almost always land you at least a phone screen interview.
But how can you build a network of contacts who are in a position to provide you with that all-important nod of approval? For ideas and strategies on how best to do this, please check out my previous two posts on targeted networking. The first, "How Best To Conduct Targeted Networking," provides techniques on how to focus your search and build an active contact list. The second, "Land Your Next Job With Targeted Networking" covers best practices for the networking meeting. This third and final piece in the series focuses on how to maintain and motivate your newly established network. In other words, if you want to keep the momentum going, you have to know how best to follow up.
There are differences of opinion on how quickly one should reconnect after a networking meeting. Some believe it is best to send a follow up note a few hours later. Others think that a couple of days' time is the better choice. My suggestion is to wait three or four days before reconnecting. That way you will have some items to report regarding your progress and your name will once again come to their awareness in a positive light.
The thank you note
In whatever timing you prefer, send a thank you email or written note expressing your gratitude for their advice and listing specific ways you have or will follow up on their suggestions:
- "Thank you for suggesting I contact Jim Jumpstarter. We have an appointment set up for next week."
- "Thank you for suggesting I read the article in Widget Weekly. I've done so and found it to be extremely helpful."
- End your networking message with "Thank you again for your time and your help. Your tips have already been of great value and I will continue to follow up on your suggestions. I will also be certain to keep you apprised of my progress." (That way, you've opened the door to contacting them from time to time.)
Include your resume
In general, you won't choose to leave your resume with your contact at the first meeting. Again, you don't want to appear as if you are asking for a job. Your meeting was for informational purposes only. However they might very well ask for your resume and, in that case, you will certainly want to give it to them. Just let them know that you don't have a hard copy with you, but that you will be sending it along shortly.
Your follow-up thank-you is the perfect time to include your resume. This also allows you time to tweak this essential document to better reflect what you've discovered about the direction and the needs of the organization. If your contact didn't request your resume, you can add the phrase: "I thought you might like to learn a little more about my background so I'm enclosing (attaching) my resume for your information."
Ensure your contact information is readily visible
In addition to your resume, make certain that your contact information is easily found on your E-mail/letterhead. Include your address (you don't need to provide the street number but the location where you live is important), hyperlinks both to your LinkedIn profile and E-mail address as well as the best phone number to reach you. (It is wise to set up a separate E-mail account solely for your job search. That way, important updates won't get buried under your personal messages.)
Keep the connection going
Networking is a two-way street and any helpful information you provide will be remembered. Whenever you find an article of interest, connect with someone who might be a helpful resource or come across an idea that could serve your contacts' interests, be sure to let them know. Giving back shows that you are a thoughtful, can-do person who wants to contribute and would add value to any team.
This is networking at its finest. You are meeting face-to-face with people within your targeted companies, your list of contacts is growing and you are reconnecting on a regular basis. When something comes up that would suit you, you are very likely to find yourself at the top of their list.
Remember, despite the wealth of information the Internet provides, networking is still the #1 route to your next position. People get people jobs. The rule remains: it's who you know that counts. So get out there, start connecting, present yourself at your best and get ready for those offers to start coming in.
And, above all, keep your attitude as confident as you can. It's awfully hard to beat a mature candidate with the right skills, relevant experience, a positive attitude and multiple insider referrals!
Mary Eileen Williams is a Nationally Board Certified Career Counselor with a Master's Degree in Career Development and twenty years' experience assisting midlife jobseekers to achieve satisfying careers. Her book, Land the Job You Love: 10 Surefire Strategies for Jobseekers Over 50, is a step-by-step guide that shows you how you can turn your age into an advantage and brand yourself for success. Updated in 2014, it's packed with even more critical information aimed at providing mature applicants with the tools they need to gain the edge over the competition and successfully navigate the modern job market. Visit her website at Feisty Side of Fifty.com and celebrate your sassy side!