Job Hunters: No One Cares About the Color of Your Parachute
Blunt, practical advice from the author of 'The Perpetual Paycheck'
Attention job seekers: It’s not all about you.
That’s the message in the new book by employment attorney and coach Lori B. Rassas, The Perpetual Paycheck: 5 Secrets to Getting a Job, Keeping a Job, and Earning Income for Life in the Loyalty-Free Workplace.
Rassas maintains that job hunters too often focus on what they want and care about rather than what prospective employers need right now.
I just spoke with Rassas for her advice to make yourself a stronger candidate, especially if you’re 50 or older. Highlights:
Next Avenue: How would you describe today’s job market for people over 50?
Rassas: It used to be that as you aged, it became harder to find a new job. Now, I think the current workforce puts older people at an advantage.
Employers used to be hesitant about hiring older workers because they felt they wouldn’t stay many years. But now older candidates benefit because they tend to be more loyal, and stay in jobs longer, than Millennials. A 55-year-old might stay 10 years and a 25-year-old might stay three to five years.
Do you think older job applicants face age discrimination?
Employers have specific skill sets they are looking for, regardless of age.
But don’t employers often view older applicants as too expensive?
Salary is a bigger issue. You need to look for jobs in your salary range and jobs that match your qualifications. If a job pays, say $80,000, you should be upfront and say you know the salary range and you are comfortable with it so you’re not taken out of consideration because of what the employer thinks you want to earn.
What do you mean by the loyalty-free workplace and what does it mean for job seekers and employees?
Job candidates often talk about their passions and where they want to be in five years. But it’s not about the employee anymore. Employers aren’t interested in your passions or your dreams.
In the entertainment industry, where I started my career, job applicants who talk about their passions earn less money. Employers realize this type of person really wants the job, so they will work for less money.
And employers are only loyal to you until you can’t do the job anymore. That didn’t used to happen. In the past, they would mold you and be concerned about you. You have to recognize that.
You have a line in the book: “No one really cares about the color of your parachute.”
Right. I’m referring of course to the classic book, What Color is Your Parachute? In it, people are told to follow their dreams and do what they love. Employers used to say: Come here, we will train you. Now you have to walk in the employer's door with the right skills.
What should older job applicants be doing to make themselves stronger candidates?
Find out what the employer wants and show why you’re a perfect fit.
A lot of times, older candidates talk about their interests and their needs and say they really need a job and are willing to do anything. That’s not what the employer wants to hear. The employer will say: These are the five skills I need — do you have those skills?
You also make a point of saying employees need to focus on making their bosses happy, not their companies. Why?
I tell people that the name of the company is on their business card but you work for your boss. That is the person who will make or break your career.
Nothing positive comes out of not getting along with your boss. You should be making your boss look good and then when your boss does well, you will do well.
And what do you tell older workers who have younger bosses?
Figure out what your boss wants and adapt to it. Don’t expect your boss to adapt to you. Don’t say: 'He doesn’t return my phone calls, he wants me to text — can you believe that?'
You say that job hunters make some big mistakes. Let’s talk about a couple of them. One is: Ignoring instructions when submitting qualifications.
Some people applying for a job that calls for a cover letter and reference think they will do something different to stand out. But if the employer gets 150 resumés, it’s looking for easy ways to exclude people. The first to go are those who didn’t follow directions.
Another big job mistake: Emphasizing skills you have but ignoring or minimizing ones you don’t.
In many cases, the job description says there are three things the employer is looking for and candidates apply because they figure they have two out of three. Employers don’t want that.
What should the applicant do?
Get out in front of any shortcomings and explain them away.
What if the job description calls for 15 skills? Hardly anyone would have them all.
If you really think you’re qualified, you should apply. But find a way to get past that initial review. You could do that by getting a referral from someone who works there or from someone who knows the hiring manager.
And what’s your advice about networking well to find a job?
Don’t spray and pray. Job hunters often try to contact 10 people a day for two weeks so they can say to themselves: ‘I did something today.’ Instead, be strategic and targeted about who you network with.
Think about what you can bring to the table. Do the other person a favor before you ask for a favor. I call these gifts T.O.Y.s, which is short for ‘Thinking of You.’
You also say when you’re networking to ‘turn yourself into a tick.’ What do you mean?
Being a ‘tick’ means that when you find the right people to network with, stay connected to them. Often, people have one meeting and don’t follow up for a year. You need to work at developing the relationship.
Send that person articles you see; set up Google alerts for him or her so you can send congratulatory emails if the person gets a promotion or an award. And do him or her a favor so it’ll be less awkward when you need a favor.