In my coaching practice, I often hear complaints from job seekers over 50 regarding not being considered for a full-time position by a Gen Xer.
â€œI was fully qualified and it makes no senseâ€ is the most common complaint. â€œThey simply donâ€™t know how to hireâ€ is another one. â€œThey told me that I was overqualified.â€ Other comments cannot be repeated.
To put some perspective on this phenomenon, here are some observations I have made, both as a coach and an executive recruiter:
1. Thirty-somethings donâ€™t want to hire their parents. Boomers have hired people from their own age demographic or their juniors for years. Would you have hired your dad or mom to work directly for you?
2. Boomers also are considered a â€œflight riskâ€ once the economy turns around. They probably will take a better job. They will be viewed as someone who just used the company as a â€œhalf way houseâ€. And guess what? They are a flight risk.
3. Boomers want to be â€œledâ€ and not managed. In my coaching practice as well as my past recruiting experience, most thirty-something managers look for someone they can â€œmanage.â€ In coaching sessions with young managers, I observed that their leadership skills typically lag behind their management skills. Therefore this is clearly not a fit.
4. I also believe that the age antidiscrimination laws in this country have backfired. If you hire someone for full-time work over 50, they can be hard to get rid of, even in an â€œat willâ€ state like California. So why hire them in the first place?
Yet, I have found that most young managers need help and guidance. They appreciate being mentored, coached, or advised. They recognize the need, but look at it as a temporary or project-based opportunity. Young managers have hired me, for example, for three-month engagements and I am a â€œsixty somethingâ€ boomer.
If you are a Boomer and still want to work with these â€œyoung lions and lionesses,â€ what can you do? Here are six steps that you can take:
1. Know thyself: What do you value? All decisions (personal and professional) are based on values. Relationships are based on shared values. I believe that shared values make up most of what we call chemistry.
2. Know thyself II: You have to be an expert in something. There is something that only you can do. You have specialized knowledge and/or experience.
3. Develop your personal brand: People associate your name with something. Find out what it is by calling five or six of your most trusted associates and ask them, â€œWhen you hear my name, what immediate impressions come up, both personally and professionally.â€ Their answers may surprise you.
4. Target your industry and market segment: Set up your own selection criteria (location, size of company, public or private, product or service, etc.)
5. Select the top 15 organizations that interest you the most. Companies like to be chosen, not rÃ©sumÃ© blasted. Remember, you have to be as excited as they are about what they do.
6. Network into top management: This can be the toughest part. You will need to be introduced. Networking is exchanging information. It is not looking for a job or selling. Keep in mind that all organizations have only two basic needs: revenue and productivity. This is what keeps any top management up at night. If your brand can help them, they will seek your advice and counsel.
So the Gen Xers need your help. Now what?
The tough part is over. Your working relationship will most likely be either part- time or a short-term contract. I found this arrangement to be more comfortable between generations because there is a beginning and an end. And a younger manager would have to be very shortsighted not to explore a working relationship with someone more experienced. You have a wealth of experience, and you can make a difference in their lives and careers.
If they donâ€™t want your expertise, then there are plenty of others who do.