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Posted recently on LinkedIn by one of my connections – and a personal friend of mine – was a notice: "I’m 58 years of age and refuse to retire or slow down. I want to continue my career.”
 
Here, on a digital platform, is the catch-cry of the middle aged.
 
It's a tribute to people such as my friend above that they're out there and fighting to remain relevant, but so many of those who once had careers are now struggling to keep the spotlight on themselves. Nobody told the baby boomers it was going to be like this. And this will soon be a situation that the older Gen Xers also face.
 
career_management_age_discriminationWhy is this happening? Is this a simple case of out with the old, in with the new? Can we blame the economic uncertainly that is still reverberating around the globe, social change, or just age discrimination for the capability of senior people being ignored and overlooked? 
 
Undoubtedly, prejudice can be very hard to overcome. However, prejudice or societal norms are not the sole cause of the lack of opportunities for mature candidates to present compelling capability in a one-on-one meeting. Indeed, many candidates in their mid-to-late 50s continue to apply for the same jobs as 20 years previous and wonder why the rejections continue to occur again and again. The simple fact is that they are up against a recruitment market that is conservative, risk averse, and template driven.
 
It is these market forces that may impact the value of the recruitment company to the candidate. It is no surprise to state that recruitment companies are tasked with finding “perfect” candidates for roles – that is, after all, the basis of their value proposition to a client. In a given recruitment program, if the identified candidates for a role range from 36–58 years of age, as an example, it is perhaps disappointingly obvious to note there may be a greater probability for outlying candidates to be culled as they may be seen as less than perfect when compared with younger applicants seeking appointment in a conservative, risk conscious, client-driven market.
 
Perhaps the best way to address these issues is to recognize that the primary objective of the unemployed is not to secure a job. Indeed, a job offer is merely a by-product of a process that culminates in a meeting/interview with an executive possessing the requisite authority to offer a position to a candidate. The unemployed can only secure a role via a successful interview; they cannot secure a position without an interview. With the logic of this undeniable, the question that emerges is what strategies the more mature workers amongst us can deploy to secure such meetings?
 
It is an axiom of recruitment globally than only a small number of placements are made via the recruitment industry, with the rest supported and facilitated by candidate-initiated networks. Studies worldwide back this up and show again and again that up to three quarters of appointments are obtained through personal referral. This percentage grows even higher for older candidates because, due to the age bias in hiring, mature applicants are less able to compete successfully on their resumes alone.
 
The logic above commences the fleshing out of a networking strategy as a vital and compelling component of a job search process. As a mature candidate, know your capabilities, what you offer, and where you fit. Research your market based on this knowledge, choose companies that interest you, and identify key decision makers who can materially impact your job search program. Use industry contacts, social media, Twitter, LinkedIn, and friends who may be able to arrange an introduction.
 
Have strong, relevant, contemporary sales tools representing the product you are selling. Respect your resume and spend time ensuring it conveys why you are special, different, and unique to other candidates. Maintain a LinkedIn Profile that articulates clearly and succinctly how you operate and what you offer. Be proud of results and outcomes. Create a Leadership Bio – it is a wonderful document to use as an introduction to yourself and carries none of the negative connotations of a resume.
 
Most importantly, never forget the process of obtaining a position is a numbers game. With every rejection, you move one step closer to success. I remember when I was a freshly minted university graduate who, after 37 job rejections, was no closer to securing a position in Executive Search. Ironically, given the nature of this article, I was considered too young for the industry. 
 
To cheer me up, my mother – who turns 74 this week – gave me an enlarged cartoon showing a frog being eaten by a pelican. Head first, its body was entirely in the bill of the bird.  Its hands however, had emerged from the beak and its fingers were around the neck of the pelican, not only choking the bird, but also preventing it from swallowing the frog.
 
Under the cartoon were the words “NEVER GIVE UP.” I didn’t, and less than 2 weeks later secured a dream position that set the course for the wonderful career I have been lucky enough to enjoy. 
 
I still have that cartoon. And I have never forgotten the lesson of the cartoon. NEVER GIVE UP.
 
They are wise words to remember.

For more career management tips, register for the upcoming webinar entitled "Career Transition Planning: Finding Your Next Opportunity" today.