A Reinvention Story
Here’s the conundrum: You’re 50+, blessed with a wealth of experience, talent and wisdom but you can’t land a job.
Unfortunately, the pandemic has made it tougher for everyone, especially people 50+, to get hired. And employers aren’t holding casting calls for older people.
What can you do?
For starters you can learn from the experience of others who’ve been in the trenches and survived.
To that end, this is the inaugural post of a series of reinvention stories to provide a roadmap to help you navigate your next act. Ready to get started?
I recently spoke with Larry Thomas, former SVP and COO of large media companies, who over the course of his career has managed teams of 200-plus people. A talented sales person and natural door opener, even he, however, got the virtual door shut in his face many times when he applied for jobs at age 50+.
Here is a bit of Larry Thomas’ story.
After working as a consultant for six years, he missed being part of a team and wanted to work in the digital space. He was 53 and for the first time in his life he had trouble landing interviews, let alone a job. He didn’t know if it were ageism or being over- or under-qualified since he didn’t have pure software experience.
To get his foot in the door in software, he took a position as a sales person. Within 8 months he was promoted to managing director. After 4 years, the company was acquired and he found himself looking for work again.
Getting the bum’s rush
This time he wanted a job with an analytics company. But as trying as his earlier job search was, his search in late 2019 felt like one sucker punch after another.
Looking back, he sees his rejection as a combination of ageism and his own unrealistic expectations. He initially assumed he’d be snapped up for another high-level sales job. While he also interviewed for lower level jobs, his heart just wasn’t in those interviews.
He also got the bum’s rush in one case from millennials, 25-somethings who looked at their phones during an interview or took a personal call. A planned interview with the VP of sales was abruptly cancelled.
Larry’s story had a happy ending when he recognized that he had to change his attitude to land a job. Once he put his heart into applying for lower- level jobs, he hit pay dirt, securing a low-rung sales job in a growing social analytics and listening company Talkwalker
“ What it really came down to was making sure that my head and my heart were fully aligned,” he told me. “Some companies do discriminate,” he said. “Many do not. His advice? Through conversation and research find the companies who do not and go for it.”
He said Talkwalker gave him a shot because it’s a diverse and inclusive company. He jokes that the average age of the company rose by two years when he joined. The majority of the employees are 20- and 30-somethings.
Sacrificing for the long-term
“I’m making a lot less money than I made in the past, and have much less responsibility than I’ve had,” he said. But he was willing to sacrifice all that to be at a company he admired.
“I joined the company,” he said, “because I really believe in the need for data and how Talkwalker is positioned in the marketplace with a competitive product.
“I don’t know if I enjoy climbing the mountain or being on top of it more.” Pausing, he added with a laugh, “I enjoy being on top of it more. But I put my head down and keep working.”
The job has taught him humility and patience.
Sometimes, he said he knows he would do something differently, faster or grander than his younger colleagues. But then he stops himself.”Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe they way they’re doing it is OK and I just keep that in mind and don’t sweat the small stuff.”
He also finds himself learning from and being impressed by the younger workers. “It’s refreshing to see their ability to let things go and keep on moving. They understand that it’s a journey. That there’s no one or two steps that’s going to really break that journey.”
Perspective is key
So too does Thomas practice moving forward even though he took a number of steps backward. Key to his success is his perspective. Many people in Thomas’ position would be resentful at having to take a low-level position. But Thomas sees it as an opportunity to prove himself and show the company what he can do.
“I’m just happy to be here. I’ve got a little something to prove and I’m ready to do so,” he said. “I finally got my chance and now I’m going to make the most of it.”
What has been your experience seeking work? I’d love to hear from you. Please share your experience in the comments.