Managing Your Career & Job Search After 40

career search after 40 job search job search after 40 managing your career search tech leader power lunch Jan 17, 2021


Transcript for the video:


Hey everyone, it is the top of the hour. We will get started on today's tech leader power lunch topic. Today's topic is managing your career and job search after 40.


  • I'll give you a quick intro of who I am in case we haven't met yet.
  • Then we'll focus in on the top myths that I encounter, or at least, have crossed your mind as you are thinking about your career after the age of 40.
  • Then we'll talk about what the truth is of your career after the age of 40.
  • Then what you can control how to take back some control.
  • A few practical tips for those of you who are job seekers, as well as for those of you who are not job seekers right now actively.
  • Then we'll talk about the next power lunch topic that the next set of topics that are coming up.

So, with that, I am Melisa Liberman, if we haven't met yet. I am a career coach for tech leaders and my background is a tech executive, most of my career helped to build a software as a service company to an exit. And now I work with other technology leaders to help them maximize the fulfillment and value out of their own careers and get out of their own way for the most part.

So, let's dive into today's topic. The first thing I just want to address, maybe the elephant in the room, I'm not here today to tell you there's no discrimination against people over the age of you know, whatever fill in the blank, sometimes it's 40. Sometimes it's 50. Sometimes it's 60. I truly believe age ism is happening. I've seen it in practice. I've proposed candidates to CEOs, when I was working in corporate and have received very direct feedback that this person is in the let's call it the demographic we're looking for, right? I've seen it in real life. So, I am not here to tell you that this is just a made up concept. I truly believe that there is ageism happening. I don't know what the exact age, right I don't think any of us do. In some companies, it could be 40, and others, it could be 70.

Top Myths of Employees Over 40

There's no magic number from that perspective. But there are some common perceptions that you could be facing as you're looking to manage your career or find a new role that are you know, that are things to consider.

Ideas or perceptions like:

  • You are more expensive
  • You're more rigid
  • You're less flexible
  • And sometimes there's a thought that you could be difficult to manage, especially by a younger employee, right?
  • Or you might be you won't be happy if you take on less responsibility.

So there are some common perceptions out there that you know in these five areas and probably more right. So again, I'm not here to tell you this isn't happening. What I'm here to do today is to help hopefully give you some tools to manage through this

The Truth About Your Career After 40

Those are some of the myths, right? But the truth about your career, whether you're 40, or 50, or 60, or 70, the truth is, as you go through the process, what you do have control over is what where your focus is, if your focus is on what's going wrong, or where that where this ageism is happening, or how it's showing up in your job search, or how it's preventing you from getting what you want. That's what you're going to find more of this concept of you focus on, you find if you're able to start making some shifts to manage the perception, both within your own perception of yourself your own perception of your opportunity, as well as the perception of the people who are you're interacting with your network of people interviewing you that kind of thing. That's where you can start to take back some of this control.

You haven't peaked and your career hasn't peaked, unless you think it has, if you think your career has peaked than it has, if you think you still have runway, and there's still opportunity out there, it's just a matter of finding it, it expands that horizon so much more, and you're able to take back that control.

What this looks like and what you can control:

And I end most conversations with finding people in one of two buckets, they're either spending their time worrying about the market, worrying about what other people are thinking of them, you know, what the hiring managers are thinking of them, what the recruiters are thinking them with the you know, what the general thoughts are about people of a certain age. And they're looking from that place, they're looking for roadblocks and obstacles.

One concept to think about this with is when your emotions are high, your problem solving ability is low.

When your emotions are high, your ability to solve problems is low. And it's just pure biology, right? The type of the part of your brain that you're leveraging when your emotions are high, leads to the inability to solve problems. When you're coming at this with frustrated, angry, resentful, and concerned panicked, all of those types of feelings, that's when your ability to solve the problem and find creative ways to navigate through this scenario becomes diminished.

On the other hand, if your emotions are low, like calm, relaxed, steady focus, optimistic or even cautiously optimistic, then your ability to solve problems is so much higher. In that case, people who are spending their time on the converse, right? Not worrying, but instead looking for opportunity, proactively managing perceptions, thinking about where the opportunity lies? Like, what how can they get creative in this situation? Yes, the ageism exists, but how am I going to work around this? Those are the people who are finding opportunities who are landing roles who are progressing in their career, and not the ones who are, you know, thinking that having to settle or completely change gears.

You know, I was talking to someone the other day, and they told me, they were going to join the army, like I met the literally the last age of when people are accepted in the army, which I think is 42, I could be off a little bit on that. And my job prospects are so scarce right now that I'm just going to see if I can join the army. He didn't want to be in the army, if you want to be an army, go join the army, right? But he didn't want to be in the army, but he was coming from such a place of scarcity that he wasn't seeing the opportunities out there. Whereas, you know, earlier today, I was working with a client and she said to me, you know, she's on the phone all day long. Either networking or interviewing, and she said, You know, it literally like the there's companies. There are so many companies out there that are on fire, and looking for, they're having a hard time even filling roles at the moment. But it's but if you're focused on finding that that's what you're finding, no matter what age you are, if you're focused on the market and how people of a certain age are not don't have as many opportunities as others, then you start finding that kind of thing. 

What You Can Control:

  • Control your perception of yourself and your opportunity.
  • And from that you're controlling the action you're taking, or not taking from that point of view.

So again, if you're coming at it from the high emotion, the type of action that you're taking is usually spending a lot of time thinking about what's not going to work, and therefore completely shutting yourself down. Not pursuing a new job, even though you really want one or not pursuing a promotion, even though you know that that you're ready for that next step in your career, avoiding rejection, and taking little action in your job search if you're looking for a job search, because you just feel you're coming from the lens of nothing's going to work. So, you know, human nature would be if nothing's going to work, then why bother. But, again, your focus, you're finding what you're focusing on, right? And what you can control and how to take back control, or the quality of the questions you're asking yourself, and the emotion from which you're asking them right. Again, the high emotion leads to low creativity, and problem solving.

How To Take Back Control:

The low emotion the calm emotions, that calm energy leads to high problem solving. These are some of the productive questions you can ask yourself to start positioning, your abilities, your experience your career in a way that helps other people to see hiring managers or people deciding upon your promotions or the projects that you're being assigned. And these are the types of questions that are very beneficial for you to be asking yourself, and to be answering. so that you know exactly how to differentiate yourself and prove the worth that you have. It's not about your age, right. It's about what experience you have, what benefit you can bring to the table, and ultimately what value and results you can deliver for your employer. With that in mind, I'm going to give you a few minutes, I'm going to ask you each one of these questions and give you a minute or so.

Literally, again, this is a working lunch, I'm not here to give you, you know, a new action item on your list, I would love for you to be able to accomplish some of this in our 30 minutes. So, I'm going to give you a minute or so to answer each one of these questions, and just brainstorm it out. What is the answer to each one of these questions? And if your brain says I don't know, because that's a lot of times the first reaction that we might have? I don't know, I don't know the answer, I'm not sure. Then if ask yourself if I didn't know the answer, what would it be?

Let's start with number one.

  • What value proposition do you offer? Obviously, you probably have more than one but just pick something. What is it? What is your value proposition that you offer to your employer? Why should they pay you?
  • How can you differentiate yourself? What about you and your experience? Is something unique that a lot of people don't have, or your competition might not have? Whether you're competing against someone to get a promotion or whether you're competing against someone in the job market. How do you think you're different? Ask yourself what if I did know what would the answer be?
  • How does my age work for me? Or another way to put that How is my age of benefit? How do you show up better in your role as a result of your age? Someone could even be just emotional intelligence, right?
  • How does your age benefit your employer? I'll give you an example. For this one, I was talking to someone a few months ago, and he was telling me you know, I'm in my late-mid 60s, I'm having a really hard time landing a job. And I've had to kind of take on some temporary things in the meantime, and it feels like everything is just falling apart. And I just don't know why someone would even want to employ me at this point. And we got to talking through it. And he revealed he could he because of the way, you know, whatever his kids were out of out of the house, and he was an empty nester, he could basically go anywhere whenever he needed to. for work globally. I mean, obviously, Things are different now with the COVID. Right, but he had so much flexibility. And I he didn't even realize that until we started talking what a benefit that could be to an employer for the specific roles he was targeting. Whereas the employer may have been assuming like he's older, he's not flexible, it was the exact opposite.
  • How can I successfully navigate the job market? What can you do to navigate the job market to get around the ageism? But what are your ideas? How can you get creative if your emotions are low? How can you get creative to get your name yourself in front of hiring decision makers, if you're looking for a new job, or in front of decision makers, if you're looking for a promotion, or to be assigned to you know that big project that's really important to your company? How can you stand out?
  • How does the value I offer interest? How does the way we have a typo here I think, how does the value that I offer align with the company's greatest needs? How does the value I offer a line with my companies or target company's greatest needs? You're selling yourself? How do you describe the value in a way that that maps to what's really important to them?

This is really the key right is asking yourself really quality questions, to work around whatever that obstacle is. In this case, the obstacle could be your age. We can't change your age, obviously, it's only going to keep getting bigger. So we've got to figure out how do you creatively get around this by asking yourself some really good questions like these to figure out a way to create that angle that you can take instead of shutting yourself down that this is not you know, I'm my career has peaked or you know that they're never going to want to hire me they want to hire people in their 20s because they're cheaper, all of that kind of thought process is the emotion is high, right? frustrated, defeated, angry. marginalize, like all of those feelings, your problem-solving ability is low. If you're able to get to the place of this is possible for me to find a job and I promise you it is just based on who I talk to every day and the jobs I see them getting I know for sure it's possible for you, regardless of what age you are.

How To Take Back Control:

But you have to take back control of what you do have control over, which is the quality of the questions you're asking yourself, and the answers that you're getting to create that those creative paths of selling yourself in a powerful way with your value proposition and the value that you offer. Whether it's internally you're selling yourself for a promotion or that important project, or to a new company, if you're in a job search, how do you map up the value that you offer and the experience you bring to the table with what their greatest needs are their pain points, and what will move the needle for them in a way that makes them paying you have a great return on investment, right? And proactively overcoming what their options, obstacles and objections could be, right. Like the story I just told you about the person who was able to, you know, travel, basically, at any point with a drop of a hat. The employer is not necessarily they don't necessarily know that, right? And yes, is, you know, there are certain legalities around this and that kind of thing.

But at the end of the day, you have to assume that the people making hiring decisions are going to be biased, that they're going to make assumptions. And that those assumptions might not be in your favor. And with that, you have the chance to take control of the dialogue and address those concerns proactively through the answers that you're getting to these these types of questions.

More Practical Tips:

So let's talk about some practical ways to apply the answers that you just got from the from those questions.

  • Job seekers

    • Work around the ABS system, the online system is not your friends. And quite frankly, it's not anyone's friend regardless of their age. But you want to work around that. So what you in order to work around that you want to network, you want to meet the hiring decision makers, you want to get really creative of how to go around that process, and get in front of those people. So, you can have that dialogue, so that you can proactively describe to them what your value proposition is.
    • Proactively describe to the people who are making decisions, how you benefit them, and how what they might be thinking about you isn't correct, right, that you can travel, for example, or that you it doesn't matter, you know, for you it could be you know, one of the examples is that people feel like, oh, you're not going to be challenged. If you take a step back, right? You might you've been leading teams, and now all of a sudden, you're applying to jobs as an individual contributor. Well, a hiring manager could make an assumption very easily. And they probably are that you're not going to be motivated to stay in this job for very long. So rather than waiting for them to ask you that question, you're proactively addressing it in this process. So that they you're handling that objection proactively versus hoping that they glean from what you're describing to them in the interview. And that that that's not a non-issue, right? tackle those elephants in the room.
    • A couple of other very, like practical tips are leveraging a modern resume format. Don't you know, don't take your resume from 20 years ago and kind of put lipstick on the pig, like, get a modern resume format. We don't need to all go back to 1970. Right? Cut it off somewhere in the 90s. And you know, and you can make note that there's more if someone needs it.
    • Iin addition to that, if you do have to apply online, sometimes it's a form, our goal would be that this is a formality, not the process you're leading with. Fill out all the fields. If they're asking what date you went to college, you need to put it in because otherwise they're just going to you're going to be eliminated automatically. I know that our goal is to not make that you know, readily apparent. But at the same time if you if you are applying online, you need to put that in there.
  • Non-Job Seekers

    • Some of the tips here are you know, again, beyond just answering those questions that we've talked about on the last slide and proactively managing your professional branding and positioning and value proposition. You keep your network fresh, I hear from so many people who have been blindsided and lost their job. And they say to me, you know, I just haven't kept in touch with my network or hasn't really grown. And it just wasn't my priority. And they're so regretful of that. So, keep your network fresh and growing.
    • Also work on upgrading your skills. It's so easy to find classes out there online classes that you can take, whether it's, you know, learning a new technology, or a new skill set of some sort, just keep your skills fresh, like make a goal every quarter, and keep those skills fresh, so that it looks modern on your resume on your LinkedIn profile when you're ready to pursue either an internal new promotion or a project or a new job. So those are some of the practical tips in addition to really sinking into what is my value proposition? What is my unique branding, what is my differentiator that I can communicate proactively to the market, versus just sitting back hoping for the best and answering questions as they come to you. You're wanting to proactively handle those objections that you know, are in those in the minds of almost every hiring manager, every person who's internal trying to decide if you should get that next big job or next promotion.

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