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Looking for a late-stage career change Add to ...

The question

A year ago, at age 58, I was downsized from a company I had been with for 15 years.

I saw a councillor to get a résumé and cover letter in order and signed up for free Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Quickbooks and accounting classes to upgrade my skills. However, I find I can't get an office job because no one is willing to take the time to train me. I feel like I have to know everything about the company before I can even get an interview.

I have applied for about 75 jobs over the past year and have only had three interviews. I don't indicate my age on my résumé for fear that I won't even get the interview.

I have worked for 35 years, have gone through 11 months of severance and am just starting employment benefits.

I feel like no one is going to hire someone who is 58 years old. No one is going to give me a break. Gone are the days of someone hiring you because your old boss says you are the best employee they ever had. If you don't know everything about the company, if you can't keep your composure in an interview with five people staring at you, if you can't type 80 words a minute, there will be no job for you.

So what's next? Depression, crawl into a ball? Not my style. I will continue to fight for a good-paying job because one of these days, someone is going to make a mistake and hire me over the 30 year old and a month later make the comment: It was the best decision I ever made hiring this 58-year-old woman!

The answer

I feel your struggle and frustration. You’re in a situation that many others can relate to and are experiencing as well. Our age can be a huge hurdle in achieving our objectives – whether it’s being too young or too old, we can create a perspective for ourselves that can be very limiting and not self-serving.

Your question definitely highlights your current perspective – “no one is going to hire someone who is 58 years old. No one is going to give me a break. Having a good reference is not enough. You have to be strong, smart and an expert in the field.” With this frame of mind, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Even if someone offered you a job, these voices in your head are probably so loud you would never hear it.

Your first step should be to gain control over these voices. Image you’re sitting at a table. Now image on the table are these thoughts – “you’re not good enough,” “you’re too old,” “you’re not talented enough.” All these negative thoughts are on the table and out of your head. You’re not thinking them anymore – you’re seeing them in front of you scattered all over the table.

You look up from the words and see someone sitting at the other side of the table. Sitting across from you is a strange looking thing – a troll, gremlin or goblin. He is also starting at the words on the table and smiling. Could those thoughts be his? Could he be sabotaging your success at getting a new job by putting these thoughts in your mind? Probably, because you know that you would be a valuable asset to an organization and your age is insignificant. Your self-doubt and lack of confidence is being felt by others in an interview situation and becomes a strong deterrent to your potential success. By associating these negative thoughts with the goblin, you can disown them and regain your self-confidence. Separate yourself from these thoughts and allow the truth in your abilities to shine through.

I appreciate your hard work in gaining new skills during your severance period. You’ve obviously used your time well and took advantage of programs and resources available to the public. This is a great selling point because is shows your capacity and desire to stay current and learn. Bravo!

I wonder why you’re looking for a job in an area you’ve recently learned and in which you have no experience. What stops you from looking for a job in your area of expertise? Thirty five years of experience in a field could make you an attractive candidate for a job. My interpretation of your situation is that you’re not just looking for a job, but you’re also looking for a change – a new career path that will bring you enjoyment, happiness and maybe even personal fulfillment. Maybe you finally believe that you deserve a job that fills your soul and not just your bank account.

My sense is that if this is correct and you’re assuming a role in an office will create this, it won’t. When someone applies for a job that is connected to his soul, his passion, exuberance and excitement is captivating. Their energy draws the recruiter in and makes the selection process a no-brainer. Age becomes irrelevant. Skills become less significant because there is a certainty that you’ll get the job done – no matter what. So in this light, maybe you’re just applying for the wrong jobs. Maybe there is a career path for you that will bring out your inner light and energy and make you the one they want to hire.

How do you find that job?

1. Identify which personal core values are essential for you to live and honour in a job. We all have many values that make up our character and beliefs but when we evaluate them in the context of work, some standout as more important than others. By honouring these values at work, you bring meaning and purpose to your life and a high level of engagement and energy to your job.

2. Connect your passions to potential career paths. What are you passionate about? This doesn’t necessarily mean that if you love fishing you should get a job as a fisherman. Instead it calls for an understanding of why fishing inspires or moves you and then taking those components and relating them to potential jobs to lead you down new career paths that are more relevant to who you are.

3. Visualize how you want the remainder of your work career to look like. Notice some specifics like are you working indoors or outdoors; in an office or out of your car; are you working alone or in a team? Notice how you are dressed for work and peek at what you are doing. Ask yourself in your visualization “what is my job?” You’ll be amazed at what you hear.

4. Discover career options and choose the one that excites and resonates the strongest with you. Create an action plan to get you the job that is right for you. Do you need additional skills, what experience and knowledge do you already have that can help you land a job in this field? Who do you know that can help you find work in this area? What companies have the culture that best fits who you are and what you have to offer? Do your homework and get yourself out there. Just sending in your résumé will not show your magnificence. Network with other people in the field and gain their support. It’s time for you to stand in the spotlight and be seen.



Cindy Gordon is the president of Culture Shock Coaching in Toronto.

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