(This article is adapted from the new book, What Color Is Your Parachute? 2016: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers by Richard N. Bolles.)
If you got a job interview and got turned down, you may be thinking there is some handicap — hidden or obvious — that is keeping you from getting hired.
But let’s get one thing straight: You can’t possibly have a handicap that will keep employers from hiring you. You can only have a handicap that will keep some employers from hiring you.
All employers divide into two tribes: ones who are interested in hiring you for what you can do and ones who are bothered by what you can’t do. All job hunters are handicapped. That’s because a handicap means a dis-ability: there are some things a person does not have the ability to do.
If you have a real handicap but it doesn’t keep you from performing the particular job or career you are going after, there’s nothing special about it unless you are so focused on what you can’t do that you have forgotten all the things you can do.
All employers divide into two tribes: ones who are interested in hiring you for what you can do and ones who are bothered by what you can't do.
Suppose you are completely deaf. If you are considering a job that requires acute hearing, that is a disability: there are certain skills you don’t have that are essential for doing that job.
But suppose you can hear perfectly and are way overweight. If you are applying for that same job, overweight is not a disability unless it interferes with your ability to do that work. Nonetheless, a particular employer may be prejudiced against overweight people and simply won’t hire you, even though this has nothing to do with your ability to do the job.
A prejudice is a phantom handicap. It may raise its ugly head in one particular interview or more, but if you keep on going and find the right employer, the so-called handicap vanishes.
Be sure you don’t share those employers’ prejudices. Don’t look at yourself through their eyes. Look at yourself through your own eyes.
Here are three key employer prejudices and how job seekers should deal with them:
Out of Work Too Long
If you’ve been out of work for a year or more, you will find that some employers who won’t hire you because of it. Just keep going until you find employers who don’t have that prejudice.
Here’s a list of some employers who’ve promised to hire even the long-term unemployed.
A lot of boomers are going to have to keep working long after they ever thought they would have to. And how easy will it be to get hired at that age? Guess!
But your comfort must lie in the fact that this is a prejudice, not a handicap: Some employers won’t be prejudiced that you are as old as you are if they see you are still on fire with passion about what you do, not merely marking time between now and then.
The related employer prejudice s rearing its ugly head these days concerns money. Many job hunters who are 50+ expect a salary befitting all their years of experience and wisdom, only to discover that some employers are prejudiced against paying that much — since they could instead hire two less-experienced workers in their twenties for what it would cost to hire one boomer.
Despite this prejudice, there are still employers who will hire you regardless of how old you are, if:
- They’re small businesses that won’t have to put you into a pension plan and…
- If you come with a positive attitude toward your aging and…
- If you convey energy (after 50, increasingly, energy must spring from our excitement about life) and…
- If you know alternative ways to describe who you are and what you can do and…
- If you keep going on interviews until you encounter an employer or two who isn’t prejudiced about your age.
Job-hunting success, regardless of your age, often requires working at this far longer and harder than the average job hunter would ever dream of doing.
There are a number of little books to help you combat this prejudice.
Mark Drevno has written one called Seven Steps to Becoming Employed. He also runs a charity called Jails to Jobs whose website offers step-by-step help finding employment.
There is also a free 67-page guide you can print out from your computer called the STEP AHEAD Workbook. It was produced with funding from the Minnesota Department of Corrections and is sponsored by Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.
The most detailed help I know is from Dick Gaither, head of Job Search Training Systems in Indiana, who has worked a lot with ex-offenders over many years. Send Dick an e-mail at [email protected] asking for his Ex-Offender Training Packet and he will send you a free 255-page e-book.