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How to Start a Job Search at 55: What I've Learned

This is Part IV of Glen Bradley's blog series. Read Part I here.

I’m now a little over two months into my job transition, at least from a focused perspective. Since there are so many times for reflection in this process, I was recently thinking about some of the lessons that I’ve learned from this experience that I will now take into my work as I land in a new career. It never occurred to me at the beginning that I would grow in areas through this process. That it would make me a better leader at my next company.

Here are four areas where I feel I will be improved:

1. With all of the work I’ve done to understand and articulate my value proposition, I’ve realized that I can be better about communicating the value of work proposals. Whether developing a business case for the C-suite or simply gathering support within my team for a new company initiative, I think I may have assumed that my audience saw the proposal, its value and possibility, in the same way I did; without really ensuring the communication was fully presented. I will be better at the sales pitch in the future.

2. While I was always a believer and encourager of networking, both personally and with my teams, I really understand the importance now. In my last role, I insisted that my customer relations managers have a performance objective around their networking actions i.e. so many contacts made while attending a trade show, etc. However, because my job was so spread around North America and even Europe, I had a dearth of contacts in my own city. I have since began to “think global but network local”.  Networking is as critical to those employed.  Whether it is benchmarking, needing a reference for a service provider, learning about needed partners or competitors - having trusted advisors to discuss business is crucial. I have vowed to continue to join local organizations and attend events despite the busyness of a new position.

3. The development of resilience. Wow, this is a big one. I now understand that being an executive in a global iconic company buys you an often rapt audience both internally and externally. If I left voice messages, I did get a reply. If I made proposals that weren’t accepted they were at least listened to and considered.

Welcome to my new world! Applications made to online postings are basically ignored by software programs and in some cases HR gatekeepers, who count keywords rather than connect the value on resumes. To be fair, I realize there are too many resumes submitted to be handled much differently, but rejection seems to be the dish that HR serves cold.

Additionally, LinkedIn InMails to recruiters or hiring managers are returned unopened. Gaining contacts within a target company is both tenuous and tedious. I could go on but the point is that job seekers have learned to pick themselves up off the ground on an almost daily basis. There is no choice but to persevere and carry on to the next opportunity. I know that my resiliency in my next role will be considerably stronger than when I was accustomed to ongoing success.

4. This leads into the final trait to take forward: empathy. I am somewhat embarrassed to think how I came across to others seeking work, information, etc. when I was always employed. The old adage of walking a mile in another person’s shoes is true with the job seeker. I now know the frustrations, the roller coaster ride, the daily “twenty-mile march” that is required to find new employment.

Again, I have resolved to be accessible and willing to help where I can in the future as a job seeker comes my way. The Southlake Focus Group (networking for those in transition) uses the acronym of HOPE – “help one person everyday” as a way of maintaining the right attitude and spirit while in the job search.  The attitude shouldn’t stop with the job landing. If we can all take that charge into our next workplace, cube by cube, we’ll see a difference in our offices. Stephen Covey calls the ongoing learning process the “sharpening of the saw”. Never thought it would apply to the job search but there you go, the blade is a little sharper.

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