How to Launch Your Second Career

Posted by Jennifer Hammer on Aug 7, 2017 8:29:47 AM
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Many people in their 50s and 60s are doing something they never thought they would do—launching a second career. Nevertheless, millions are dusting off their resumes, re-entering the job market and often rewriting their life stories in the process.

If you are exploring an encore career, here are some pro tips to improve the job search and interview process. 

 

Activating Your Network

Thanks to the internet, most of us have broad, far-reaching networks of personal connections—even if some of those connections are remote. Here's how to activate your network to help with your job search:

  1. Think about your own contacts. Who do you know in the following networks that might help connect you to a job opportunity?

    • Your phone contact list or address book
    • Your Facebook friends (and/or their friends)
    • Former colleagues (or those of a spouse, partner or other close contact)
    • College classmates and alumni of your alma mater
    • Members of your union, guild, professional association, etc.

  2. Classify your contacts. This will help you identify who in your network can support your job search. 

    • Platinum: Your Platinum group is your smallest group. It may include only a handful of people—but they are vitally important. They are your de facto “board of directors,” the people with whom you are closest and with whom you let your hair down and can be vulnerable. They are people with who you connect with on your career goals and practice your job interview skills. They are compassionate, encouraging and have your best interests at heart.

    • Gold: Your Gold group are those with whom you have a good working relationship—people who are, at the very least, “in your corner.” They are like-minded individuals who may or may not work in the same field as you. You may have done business with them as coworker, client or vendor. You may know them socially or through your community activities.

    • Silver: Your Silver group is the largest, most general group. These are the people you’ve met who have the potential to be members of your Gold group. They are people whose business cards you have collected at networking events, conferences or business meetings, friends of friends who have asked to join your network on LinkedIn; present or former colleagues whom you don't know well but whom you could call or email based on shared connections.

  3. Cultivate relationships. We network most effectively when we lead with giving, not with our needs.

    • Check in proactively. Share what you're up to, ask how you can help them and actively listen when they provide feedback or make requests.

    • Create a two-way street. While you may be the one looking for advice or a referral, there's still a lot you can offer the other person. Share an article they might find particularly relevant, recommend a tool, app or game they might enjoy, etc.

 

Cultivating an active network can be challenging, but it’s worth the effort. Over time, contacts in your network will not only help with job leads and connections—they'll also often pre-sell you as a great fit for a job opportunity because they've seen firsthand how you are responsive, engaged, thoughtful, etc. 

Remember that your life and career are fluid, so your network will be too. Your Gold and Platinum contacts may change when you get a new job or start a new business and need to develop a different set of resources. Equally important, you will also participate as a Silver, Gold or Platinum member of other people’s networks.

 

Nailing Your Interview(s)

If you are re-entering the job market, you are probably also wondering how to put your best foot forward in interviews. Here are a few suggestions to help you show up as your best self.

  1. Own it. The most powerful way to go into a job interview is  100% engaged and enthusiastic about what you're doing—and also 100% detached from the outcome.

    Win or lose, as important and maybe even life-saving as getting this gig may be, it is ultimately out of your control. You can only be the best person you can be. The only way you're going to get the job is if you don't hold back on revealing that great person. That doesn't mean you sell too hard or tell interviewers repeatedly why you're the exact right person for the job; it just means that you're you.

    If you're having a hard time finding your confidence and your equanimity, think back to a time in your life when things were really humming on all cylinders. Remember that feeling and bring it with you to the interview.


  2. Show what you stand for. In a world that's changing so fast, with businesses and industries getting disrupted out of existence, years of professional experience aren't a guarantee that you can overcome a completely out-of-left-field challenge. Instead, success requires you to be curious, adaptable, resourceful and persistent.

    If you can show a recruiter or hiring manager that you are driven by values and qualities of character, you will demonstrate that you can be a fit for even the most cutting-edge of roles.

  3. Don't let "hiring Mom and Dad" perceptions define you. Your interviewer(s) will most likely be younger than you are. Despite everyone's best intentions, there's a good chance ageism will rear its head. If it does, don't let it color your perception of every person younger than you. In the face of discomfort, think about how you can open up and show that you're eager to make a connection. Remember:

    • You're not there to teach anyone a lesson.

    • You're not there to tell war stories about how things were when you were their age.

    • You're not there to impress them with how much you've learned and grown over the years.

    • You're there to be of service and to support their mission and goals.

  4. Interview them. You should be interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Ask perceptive questions to show that you not only understand the job, but understand the company and the culture. Use your questions as a way to reveal why you could indeed be the right fit for this job. Don't be afraid to get into a real conversation.

  5. Check your body language. Make sure you're not sitting back in your chair, crossing your arms, frowning or taking out your list of questions so you can take control of the interview. Do your homework, lean forward and be curious.

  6. Be transparent. Be willing to reveal things that you could feel a little uncomfortable about. Don't hedge your way out of questions like: "Why did you leave your last position?" or "How long have you been looking for a job?"

    Spend time prepping for these questions and find answers that are authentic while demonstrating that you are willing to overcome challenges and learn from past experiences. This is a great opportunity to inject some self-deprecating humor into the conversation or make a joke at your own expense. A little vulnerability can go a long way toward creating empathy and respect for what you've been through.

  7. It's not the job—it's the fit. At the end of the day, your interview has about 10% to do with your resume and about 90% to do with "fit." Does the interviewer think you're someone everyone else is going to enjoy coming to work with in the morning?

    As organizations and hierarchies have flattened out because of technology, there is more power in what used to be thought of as middle management. Hiring and firing are more team-driven than ever, so don't be surprised if it takes a half dozen rounds of interviews with various stakeholders you could be working with. If they don't "get" you, if there's no "click," then do you really want to be working at a company that doesn't understand and appreciate you for who you are?

  8. Follow-up never goes out of style. While so much has changed in the hiring process, the fundamentals still apply. Remember to thank your interviewer by email immediately after your interview. And, just like in the old days, send them a handwritten thank-you note the same day.

    Regardless of their age, your interviewer will be impressed with your follow-up. It may not get you the job, but it demonstrates your thoughtfulness and your character.

Remember: if you don't get the job but have still made a strong impression, you've just expanded your network. That young recruiter may turn out to be your biggest new fan and may have just forwarded your resume to a friend of theirs at another company where there's an opening. Tomorrow is another day.

 

Additional resources to support your encore career:

 

  • Next For Me: a group of professionals who've walked in your shoes. Visit their site for articles on career pivots in later life, events, networking opportunities and more!
  • Encore.org: an intergenerational-focused organization dedicated to reducing age discrimination in the workplace.
  • The Balance Careers: a hub for articles on best practices for interviewing, networking and other professional development needs.

 

Tags: Careers and Entrepreneurship, Job Hunting