By Kathleen Sullivan
Beware that traditional job search methods are ineffective for job seekers over 40: If you are a job seeker over 40, the traditional approach of looking for advertised openings, sending your resume, and then waiting for a response can be a long, frustrating, and demoralizing experience. Job openings that are advertised are restrictive. You need to meet specific criteria in terms of experience, responsibilities, and skills. You must be a square peg to fill a square hole. However, the experience, responsibilities, and skills acquired by someone over 40 often deviate from, or exceed that, of a position description. Because you respond to an advertisement by submitting an application or resume, you are not able to explain how your experience could be used very effectively for that position. Therefore, your application goes into a void and you are confused why you never heard back from them. Using these traditional job search strategies, you are up against fierce competition, bureaucratic hiring practices, and the anonymity of selling yourself to a company recruiter or hiring manager using a resume.
Rather than waiting for a call that may never come, take a proactive approach to your job search. You will save time, energy, and your self-respect. One of the most effective methods to conduct a proactive job search is to leverage what is called the "the hidden job market". Almost 80% of all job openings are never advertised using company web sites, job boards, or newspapers. Companies use employee referrals or social networking sites to save the costs, time, and manpower associated with advertising. Often overwhelmed by other duties, hiring managers circumvent advertising to avoid complicated recruitment processes, the stampede of applicants, and fruitless reviews of generic resumes. Instead, they use referrals, social networking, and professional associations to find potential candidates. This is the “hidden job market,” and the best opportunities are found in this market.
Change your approach and leverage the hidden job market: When you use a traditional job search approach, you become a passive participant in the process. To leverage the opportunities in the hidden job market, you must take control of your job search. You no longer wait for an opportunity to be advertised. Instead, you target employers, uncover opportunities, and actively engage in selling yourself for that position.
Methods for developing an active job search include: Focus your job search by conducting market research and identifying companies that would need your experience and skills. Create a list of target employers. Use your professional network to make contact with decision makers at these employers. Request informational meetings to discuss their needs and to introduce yourself to them. If you continue to have an interest in this employer and believe that there are potential opportunities for you, design a customized marketing campaign to promote yourself for this opportunity. Build and maintain a pipeline of potential employers and opportunities and market yourself until you land a new position. Initially, this proactive approach to your job search may seem strange, uncomfortable, and labor intensive. However, rather than wasting your energy, time, and emotions on a waiting game for advertised jobs, you will be focused, engaged in meaningful conversations with decision makers, and moving towards your desired career goals.
Reap the benefits of the hidden job market if you are over 40: Leveraging the hidden job market with a proactive approach is advantageous to job seekers over 40. You have worked for more than one employer and often have experience in more than one industry. Consequently, your target job market is much richer than that of more junior job seekers. You can create multiple career options and look for several types of positions simultaneously. You have built a stronger professional network including former managers and colleagues, customers, vendors, and consultants who can assist you with making connections in the hidden job market. You have better project management skills to plan and execute your job search. You have had more experience with senior management which facilitates your conversations with hiring managers. You have solved a range of problems and can sell solutions to potential employers. You know who you are and what you want professionally, which will enable you to make a good decision about accepting a new position.
In the hidden job market, your age and experience are assets. Make leveraging the hidden job market your competitive advantage.