Developing a strong professional network has always been an important and powerful strategy used by effective job seekers in all fields. Networking is often the No. 1 missing tool in a job seekers toolbox, and this is even more true with ‘mature age’ candidates in the Age Group 45-55. This group often started their networking activities too late in their career or haven’t adapted to new ways of networking.
So, what do you do when your number of network contacts is low and which solution do you turn to when your attempts to reach out for new network contacts fall on deaf ears? How do you deal with 7 or more months of unemployment and 100s of unanswered applications resulting in zero or near zero job interviews?
I have some useful insights and proven networking alternatives to help you to re-kindle your networking efforts. But first, let me briefly set the scene with some useful background info, job seeker facts, employment figures and numbers to ensure that you know the facts and are therefore encouraged to kick off a new era of networking.
I was recently invited to an eye opening Mature Age Job Seeker presentation at Parliament House in NSW. The event was organised by GAP (Global Access Partners), and sponsored by Selection Partners, Adage, NSW Ministerial Advisory Committee on Ageing and a few others. It provided background info on the job seeking landscape for ‘mature age’ workers. Mature age is deemed to be 45 years and over by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. I am not joking!
The host Heidi Holmes, Managing Director Adage, and Co-host and career coach June Parker from Selection Partners, provided their insights to approximately 100 mature aged job seekers. The mix was about 60/40 male to female candidates from all walks of life. There was plenty of audience feedback and I have to say that the mood was pretty bleak at times. The presentation and the audience engagement confirmed to me once again that I am spot on with my blog work and further that we need to address the subject of mature age job seeker issues with many more events to ensure that we are not falling further behind. I would like to congratulate Heidi and June for such an excellent event and suggest that we spread the word on the subject to encourage other experts to step forward with advice, insight and real help.
Some facts from the audience:
- Approximately 50% of the audience were white collar job seekers
- Approximately 50% have been job seeking for 4 to 7 months with the rest looking for more than 7 months (some up to 18 months).
I guess we are all aware that bias exists in the workforce, but it was staggering to see by a show of hands that almost 50% of these capable and willing people had faced blatant age discrimination in the recruitment process. Not indirect discrimination such as, “We have a young team, are you sure you want to work in this environment?”, but being directly asked “How old are you?” and then not getting the role. Now you may think that this is exaggerated so let me give you the facts from June Parker’s presentation:
- Most mature job seekers have 4-6 careers in their lifetime
- Career progression is no longer primarily based on seniority
- The interview process has dramatically changed and some recruiters work at a shockingly poor standard (audience feedback)
- The job search process has dramatically changed in the last 5 years
- The average time to find a job for 45–54 year old is one year (ABS stats)
- This increases to 75 weeks for 55 plus employees (ABS stats)
- Social Media has dramatically changed how companies recruit and candidates seek (image 1)
- Your chances of consideration for a job decrease by 20% with every 10 years you add to your age (image 2)
- Hit Age 45 and you need a serious game changer or you have to write another 100 applications before 1 of them considers you, whilst preparing yourself for long term unemployment. (image 2)
So let’s get back to my initial networking insight. Don’t worry, I don’t intend to harp on about the secrets of the Hidden Job Market. I recently shared my view on that subject but what I will stress with you is the importance of networking and other alternative ‘first contact’ solutions.
Become an influencer:
I learned early in my career that your worries and problems will become your reality if you constantly discuss them and obsess about them. But, if you combine your talents with others, share your experience, help and add value then your worries and problems become obsolete because you are influencing others and you are expanding your network without becoming a serial LinkedIn or Facebook spammer.
Don’t you hate it when you get bizarre endorsements or requests to connect with people who never cared about you in your previous working life? I value all of my connections, because I know they are genuine and have come about as a result of my relationship work – both the old and the very new ones. I am a firm believer in combining talents and ideas. So, share your insights and experiences in forums and groups, blogs and portals, events, conferences, clubs, memberships and many other areas and the good quality requests to connect with you will arrive. Feel free to contact me at any time if you want some examples or professional assistance.
Don’t knock on doors, kick them down!
I know, some of you might think this is a bit dramatic or that my terminology might be too ‘out there’ for you. I am well aware that not everyone is a natural door knocker or extrovert. Many people break out in a cold sweat when they simply have to pick up the phone to contact a potential employer or recruiter, so how are they supposed to kick down doors?
The answer is “Stealth Mode”.
If you get knocked back by that hard-nosed Team Assistant or the IP hog who reports to the Hiring Manager or if you get pushed back by the HR Department who are simply struggling just to deal with all the enquiries, then just dive into Stealth Mode and find people who can kick down that door for you.
Kicking down a door requires 3 things:
- Research where the problems or deficiencies are. In other words, look for where you can add value to that company pronto – now – tomorrow – even if they don’t want to connect you to the HR or Hiring Manager. This can easily be found if you use social media tools such as Scoop.it or LinkedIn or just simply by reading the news.
- Contact directly with your offer. Call or contact the decision maker who is tasked with solving the problem, or go one step further and contact the person at the very top. You can also mail them direct via LinkedIn or email. If you don’t have their email or mobile number, you can use crawler solutions such as a Google boolean search. If all the above is too nerdy for you, contact me and I can point you at some other solutions.
- Re-contact and re-pitch your offer – If you don’t get a reply at first, don’t give up. Contact them again, but this time with more information and more detail on your offer, such as your industry or competition insight, your ability to do something for free or on trial or simply by saying you are in the area and want to pop in. A word of warning – don’t be a rambler! Leave a short message (15 seconds maximum) containing your mobile number (speak slow and clear), the best time to call, your name and your offer – not more and not less. You are doing business, you are not haggling! Keep it short – that’s what everyone likes. To help avoid an accidental ramble on a phone message, I highly recommend rehearsing what you will say if it goes to voice mail, even to the point of having it written down in front of you.
Go out and show your face.
Your most valuable resource as a job seeker is your time! Stop wasting your time and do things that deliver results. Feel free to re-read my recent blog post on that subject. Showing your face means going out to at least 1 or 2 events per week or fortnight. Events include professional meetings groups, visiting companies, networking functions, exhibitions and industry fairs, social gatherings and the list goes on. You should be doing this with one main objective in mind – to engage and meet with new people.
The first time is hard. You will get better with every attempt and irrespective of what type of personality you have, you will be networking before you even notice it and the ‘connection’ requests will start coming. Granted, you need some tools and you certainly have to look the part. I won’t ramble on about good presentation and dress code other than to say that it’s important. You can contact ‘Dr. Google’ for some ideas…
- Event Finding Tools: Use Scoop.it or Google Alerts or any other info tool online. You can also search for an App in iTunes (or your preferred App store) for local events or simply use your existing professional network or LinkedIn forums. Another brilliant source for great events is American Express Open Forum.
- Business Cards: You don’t have to be employed to have a stylish and professional business card. You can print 250 cards for under $30.00 online within 24 hours. I’ll leave the search for the best deal with you and Dr. Google. Another option is to just pop into your local print shop, place your order and then ask about the latest START UP in your area. You will be amazed how many of them have just printed their stationary or business cards, even if they are the latest aspiring Mark Zuckerberg. When you set up your business card, design it in tune with your profession and personality. The front of the card should list your contact details including your LinkedIn profile and your address and the backside should have a pitch message – something that leaves an impression. You will be surprised how many people turn over business cards and actually read your message. Come up with something smart and punchy but most importantly, short! Oh, and very importantly, ask your new contacts to hand over their business card first before you hand your card to them. Read his or her name out and ask for confirmation that you can contact them, then hand your business card over. Remember you are doing business and it’s only good business if both of you get something.
- Lastly – other tools for your networking toolkit. You will never look suspicious if you are a woman carrying a handbag. However, it’s a bit harder for us guys and ‘man bags’ are really not cool – although they do have their place, particularly in some of the more creative/design industries. Backpacks are worse. Don’t show up at a cocktail reception or an industry event with a backpack. There is a time and place for everything and whilst I personally don’t care if you stuff your networking material in your back pocket, many people out there will. So, check out this list of networking gear for your toolkit and only take with you what you really need.
As always, feel free to contact me any time via the forum or blog post and please comment or mail me direct if you want more insight or some professional assistance. I would like to close with Heidi Holmes’ slogan. Experience matters! So get cracking and