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The Question:

I'm hoping you can advise me on how to put my best foot forward to try to secure interviews at least, then hopefully employment. My situation is this: In January, 2011 the company I worked for over more than 10 years as controller had to close due to the film industry downturn in Toronto. I am 61 now and I had taken four years of CGA many years before but never completed it. I was fortunate enough to do well for 20 years at a previous company as controller, then for another 10 years at my latest company. Since they went out of business now over a year ago, I have sent well over 250 résumés/cover letters to Internet job ads and have secured only a handful of interviews, but no offers. My experience is very broad in management accounting and my references are good, and I have tried to tweak my résumé to fit each job to no avail. Feedback from some interviewers on my résumé has been mostly positive so I'm thinking more and more it has be my age since the last two jobs on my résumé encompass the last 30 years (I only list these two jobs). Even when I apply for much lower accounting positions or even jobs that offer only minimum wage (in an effort to pay the bills), and downgrade my résumé as well, I do not get any call backs. Any suggestions?

The Answer:

You obviously have a wealth of experience and your tenure at two companies over 30 years is a testament to the quality of service you provide. However, you seem to be focusing your recruiting efforts to job postings on the Internet. If you've sent out over 250 résumés and cover letters for job postings over the last year, can you imagine how many other people have sent these same companies their résumés as well? Many times, companies are so inundated with résumés they don't even get to read a fraction of them before they hire someone for the position. With that said, maybe it's time to get on a new path.

With such a long track record at only a few companies, I'm sure you've made many friends and developed many relationships. You didn't mention anything about asking the people you've worked with in the past to help you find employment. Word of mouth referral is the best way to not only get your résumé to the top of the pile, but to get hired for the job. A referral from someone who can vouch for the quality of your work and your character can make your work aspirations come true.

Spend some time connecting with your previous employers. Tell them that you are looking for work and ask for their help. Reach out to old managers, work peers, and company suppliers you used to deal with and ask them if they know of any job openings in your area. I'm sure over the years you've worked with the public accountants hired by your companies. Contact them. I'm sure they'll remember who you are. They have many clients and you never know when one of their clients may be looking for an experienced financial controller.

Many years have passed since you've worked with some of these people, so I'm sure you're thinking it might be hard to track them down. There are a multitude of social networks available to help you. If you're not already registered on these networks, I would recommend starting with Facebook, Linked In and Twitter. Chances are most of the people you'll be looking for will be found on one of these sites. Tell them about your situation and send them your résumé. The more people you ask for help, the higher your chance in finding a job. Make them clearly aware of the position you are looking for and the type of company you want to work for. The more specific you are for them, the easier their job will be in finding you work. Don't forget to tell your friends and family members, too. These are the people who know you the best and would do anything to help you out! I'm sure they have lots of connections and would be thrilled to help you find a job.

You may want to consider sending your résumé to a few recruiters who specialize in placing people in financial positions. Recruiters are in the business of filling job positions for their clients. To do their job, they need to have a wealth of potential candidates to offer to their clients. Working with recruiters may not guarantee you success, but it will likely increase your exposure to job opportunities. You have nothing to lose.

I think next to networking, the most important thing to work on is your frame of mind. Whether you're telling friends, family or past co-workers about your need for a job, or you're sitting in an interview; your attitude must be positive and confident. Spend time doing some positive affirmations and visualizations. It's amazing how profound the impact can be on you. Thinking positively about your skills, abilities, chances of getting work and especially your youthfulness will show up every time you connect with someone. Visualize yourself impressing your interviewer in a meeting. See yourself working at your new job. Be confident about the position you are looking for and don't settle. Being prepared and being positive will win you that job you're looking for.

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

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