6 top strategies for 50+ job seekers in a COVID world

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6 top strategies for 50+ job seekers in a COVID world


Say one word that sums up what most of us have done with our working lives this past year. I’ll throw out the first pitch.

Recalculate.

It’s what you do when things don’t go the way you planned.

So when I finished reading an advanced copy of Lindsey Pollak’s smart new book, “Recalculating: Navigate Your Career Through the Changing World of Work” (available for purchase March 23), I interviewed her. We spoke by phone during what we called “a walk and talk,” as she took her morning power pace through the streets of New York City.

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I was interested in learning more about how workers 50+ impacted by the pandemic can recalculate. I admit I’m one of them, and always on a quest for savvy insights. Pollak is a member of Generation X and an expert on career and workplace issues.

Here are edited excerpts from that recent conversation with her:

Kerry Hannon: What do you see as the big trends coming out of this work transformation we have undergone?

Lindsey Pollak: The headline is it’s not that things are happening that weren’t happening before. It is that everything that was beginning to build pre-COVID is now accelerated 100-fold. That includes more remote work opportunities. I don’t believe everybody is going remote or suddenly all companies will be remote, but there will be more remote opportunities.

Number two, there was already a trend toward gig workers and consultants and short-term work and contracts, and we are going to continue to see that.

Multi-generational workforces are rising. People are living longer, working longer into their 70s and 80s, and that will keep building.

Companies, who were maybe aware of that, but not doing anything about it, are going to realize that their workforce is a lot more age-diverse than they ever imagined. I think some companies will realize that is a real opportunity for them.

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Let’s do a speed round on your top strategies for job seekers in the new world. I’ll toss one out from your book, and you can riff on it. Let’s go.

Control what you can

I remind myself of this every day. I can’t tell you how many people during a workshop, or through email say – ‘I think everybody else has more experience than I do.’ Or ‘I think everybody else applying is younger.’

They focus so much on the competition, and that doesn’t help you at all. There is absolutely no upside to focusing on other people. You have to stay in your lane.

Control you. Control your habit of every day reaching out to three people who can help you with your job search. Watch webinars. Apply for jobs.

Ask for help

You have to get over the shame of telling people that you’re job hunting, and a lot of people feel that. I don’t have a ton of great psychological advice about getting over shame, but you have to get past the fact that you are job hunting. That doesn’t make you needy or lesser than.

Nobody is going to be critical for losing your job or looking because of Covid. What could possibly be your fault about that?

Remember that life and career transitions are often extremely stressful, tiring, and anxiety-inducing. Honor that.

Asking for help is really hard. For people who won’t do it, or simply can’t get past the discomfort, the corollary is to offer to help others.

Form a group of people who have been laid off from your company and help each other. Reach out to someone in your network and say ‘what can I do for you?’  

And people use LinkedIn wrong. They go in and say what can I get? It should be who can I help today? By the way, help means “liking” an article someone posted. Help means responding to a question. So if you go in knowing you are giving help, it can also be a lot more comfortable to take help in return.

Tune out the negative self-talk

I need some help with that and am personally working on it. I’m happy to say that. Recruiters have told me that when people ask how they can avoid ageism, or if the company is going to not like them because they are older, is that they are thinking that about themselves.

One of the first things out of their mouths is ‘I am probably too old for this job,’ or ‘I am probably old enough to be your mother.’ Ageism is real, and it is upsetting, but also don’t shoot yourself in the foot.

The antidote to negative self-talk is action. If you are submitting a résumé, if you’re attending a webinar, if you’re updating your LinkedIn profile, if you’re mock interviewing with someone, you shift from thinking to action, you start to get out of that cycle of negative self-talk.

Adopt a growth mindset

The word is: yet. It’s that tiny little three-letter word that is incredibly powerful.

The exercise I use in the book is to say or write down…I don’t have a job …yet. I can’t take any credit for this. It’s from psychologist and Stanford University professor Carol S. Dweck, who literally wrote the book on the subject in “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”.

Here’s how it works: whenever you find yourself in a fixed mindset, ‘I just don’t have the experience start-ups want’ or ‘I don’t have the interview skills to succeed’—just add the word “yet” at the end of the sentence, and it will open up a whole new world of possibilities.

It’s about making a conscious choice to change your perspective and focus on the opportunities in your situation. Ask: ‘What do I want now?’ to move your attention from what you’ve lost to what you want to create.

When you add the word yet…anything can get a little bit better. Anything can change if you have that mindset. I love baby, baby, baby steps.

Keep building your contacts

Most job opportunities come from other people. It is so easy to apply for jobs online now, and the pandemic has exacerbated this. Plus, there are so many virtual tools like one-way job interviews where you aren’t even interviewed by a person, but a computer program.

The more automated the job market becomes the more valuable it is to have a human being advocating for you. That only comes by meeting people.

Reach out to people who went to your college, or your high school–almost anyone who shares a school with you is probably going to take your call or respond to your email. That is such an untapped network. Your college career center will help you, even if you graduated 50 years ago. They will make introductions for you. It’s so powerful.

What is the biggest surprise in the writing of this book for you?

The importance of mindset and attitude.

Kerry Hannon is a leading expert and strategist on work and jobs, entrepreneurship, personal finance and retirement. Kerry is the author of more than a dozen books, including Great Pajama Jobs: Your Complete Guide to Working From HomeNever Too Old To Get Rich: The Entrepreneurs Guide To Starting a Business Mid-LifeGreat Jobs for Everyone 50+, and Money Confidence. Her on Twitter @kerryhannon





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