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Your Career at 50: Challenges of the Middle Aged Career Search

Having challenges as a middle aged job seeker? You have come to the right place.
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Having challenges as a middle aged job seeker? You have come to the right place. My name is Mark Wayman, I'm in my early 50s, and I have owned an executive recruiting company focused on gaming/casinos and high tech for the last ten years. Compensation starts at $100,000, and last year I placed five executives north of a million dollars. And you know what? They were all in their 50s and 60s. The purpose of this article is to provide a few tips for making yourself an attractive candidate. Interestingly enough, when this article originally ran on LinkedIn, there were 35,000 views in 24 hours. Although there were a few dissenters, almost 100 percent of the human resource professionals and recruiters gave me two thumbs up. Let me translate that for you -- the people that do the hiring liked the tips. Let's start by reviewing how we got here.

  1. Challenge: Depression 2.0 -- In 2008 we entered Depression 2.0. Over the course of two weeks, I went from having 100+ job ten. We can debate whose fault that is until the cows come home, but make no mistake, senior jobs are few and far between. And every time a "C" level job posts, a thundering herd of candidates show up. Bottom line, there is intense competition for each and every job.

  • Challenge: Gambling in the Stock Market -- I regularly see resumes of retired executives re-entering the workforce. Sometimes they lost their 401K in the stock market; other times the cost of living is squeezing them.
  • Challenge: Companies Doing More with Less -- Revenues are down, so companies must do more with less. That means less head count and more hours. As I told people back in 2008 when Las Vegas imploded, "You can be laid off or you can stay employed and work double shifts -- pick 'em." Right or wrong, most companies believe younger executives that can handle 60 to 70 hour weeks. Or as I like to say, the daily floggings.
  • Challenge: Mediocre is No Longer Acceptable -- Ten years ago we had three percent unemployment and everyone got a job. Straight out of prison. Straight out of rehab. Most companies did not ask for college degrees, and they were not concerned with frequent job changes. In 2014, the number of companies requiring a college degree has increased substantially, and organizations seek executives with a history of work stability.
  • Action Plan for the Middle Aged Candidate -- In my book, The Godfather's Career Guide: What To Do If You Get Whacked! I state that 80 percent of highly qualified candidates don't get the job offer because they don't understand the search process or make silly mistakes. I'm talking million dollar guys that make silly mistakes. I mention the book because I can't put all 80 pages of tips in this blog AND all sales of the book are donated to charity. I'm not here to solicit you. Approximately 80 percent of the executives I represent are people I have known for many years and can vouch for personally. The last 20 percent are referrals from my network. As a one man show, I'm not in a position to accept unsolicited resumes. Would love to buy the world a Coke, but don't have enough quarters. So here we go, eight tips for making yourself an attractive candidate.

    1. We Like Happy, Smiley People -- Number one reason you did not get the job offer? They don't like you. No one wants to hire a bitter, angry executive that is still obsessing about being laid off or terminated at the last job. Put on your happy face and smile.

  • Education -- No hate mail please. There are any number of valid reasons you did not go to college. I'm not here to judge. I'm here to get you a job. If you don't have a college degree, consider getting one, even if it is through an online institution. Not in a position to do that? There is a simple solution: Only apply to companies that don't require a college degree.
  • Job Hopping -- This may be acceptable at lower compensation levels, however as you go up the pay ladder, the expectation will be a minimum of three years in your current position and no more than three jobs in the last ten years. Sure, there are valid reasons for moving five times in five years, but next time you land, try to stay for a while.
  • Dress to Impress -- Pull out your best suit. You cannot overdress. For men, rumpled suits, scuffed shoes or poor hygiene are deal killers. For women, avoid short skirts and/or low-cut blouse are deal killers. Look like a million dollars -- the kind of executive the company wants to hire. As mentioned previously, THIS IS A COMPETITION.
  • Relationships Trump Talent -- So why do so many mediocre executives get great jobs while talented people sit on the sidelines? Because relationships trump talent -- period. At the senior level there is a 90 percent chance your next job comes through a friend that is a Board Member, a CEO you worked with previously, or your professional network. Stay in touch! Don't be the guy that calls once every five years when you need a job.
  • The Best Candidate Does Not Always Get the Job -- The best prepared candidate does. Do your homework. Check out the company web site and scan the Internet for information on the company and its executives. Formulate three intelligent questions to ask during the interview process. Remember that the company is the CEOs baby, and they just love to talk about their baby!
  • Ask For the Order -- In this case, ask for the job. If the interview goes well and you like what you hear, make your last comment to the interviewer, "Based on our conversation, I would love to join your team." Trust me, most people don't do this. If you want the job, ask for it.
  • The Grass is NOT Always Greener -- Regularly get resumes from executives making $500,000 that want to make a million dollars. In this economy, the grass is not always greener. If you have a great job, praise God. Wait, if you have ANY job, praise God.