I often think about this time in my early 20's when I am recruiting. So many energetic, excited newly graduated to mid-20's candidates applying for an entry level position are dreaming of how much of a difference this position will make for their futures. My heart is so excited for them. They're vim and vigor is palatable, so much so that when someone in that bracket walks in without that vibe, it is noticeable and an absolute put-off.
What I also appreciate is that same energetic air from the candidates in their 30's, 40's, 50's and 60's. They share the work experiences they've had and the difference it's made in their goals. I listen to accounts of successes and failures, lessons learned and those yet to come. I am energized by their passion for the next chapter of professional development. But again, if someone walks in without that confident approach, it's obvious. Age isn't the issue; it's attitude. I think of Mary Tyler Moore throwing her beret in the air in Minneapolis knowing that she's gonna make it after all. The attack of life is invigorating to those around. Without being trite, it's a beginning, not an ending.
However, in a time where the recession has eliminated positions, zapped retirement plans and sent many to the unemployment line, it would be easy to have a somber and melancholy attitude settle in. I have witnessed tears and heartbreak by those who've been committed to a company for 25 years only to watch the doors close and the pension along with it. So now, a 58 year-old person is vying for the same job as a 23-year old recent graduate.
Let's role play for a moment or two. Be both in your mind for a moment.
You're 58 and you know that you probably won't be making what your last job paid you. You're afraid you don't have the current skills needed to be seen as viable enough for the role. You see iPads and SmartPhones as the tipping point to your qualification rather than the 25 years of experience you possess. You see your competition and you're disheartened that you're sitting in this waiting room.
You're 23 and you know that you need a job. Mom and Dad have told you that the support lines are done. You are worried that you don't have the skills for this role as you look at the 58 year-old across from you in the waiting room. You grab your iPad and Google "skills that a 58 year-old has" so that you can fake it. You're concerned that the manager will look at you as one of those unmotivated, entitled kids that you've come up against for most of the jobs you've interviewed. You see your competition and you're disheartened that you're sitting in this waiting room.
Got a picture of both? Both of them have a self-fulfilling prophecy behind them. You will be what you decide you'll be. Attitude is a decision of the will. I can choose to be the victim, albeit with a right, or I can choose to rise above it. Listen, this isn't a decision to be Richard Simmons (yeah, I know some of you have "Sweatin' to the Oldies" in the back of your DVD collection). It's a decision to be positive and confident in mindset. Your worth as a person is not about the job you do, but rather, the position you have can be reflective of who you are as a person. So, if you're weary and frustrated, stop. Really, stop.
Why are you in this position? Assess the reasons; own what you need to own. Develop a plan of attack that's tri-purposed. One - address the gaps that you see in what you did in previous roles/address those areas where you lack skills. By address, I don't mean just acknowledge. I mean, acknowledge, confront, seek out learning, develop. It's not okay to say I don't know how to "x." Do you know you can search You Tube for guitar playing and learn how to play on your own? Do you know that the internet has lots of information on certain skills and ability-enhancements? What about your community centers and libraries (they do still exist)? Be vigilant in learning.
Two - volunteer. Use the skills you have and the ones you're developing to give back to others. Engage with youth, seniors, displaced workers, colleges. Develop mastery through usage. Offer to be a resource at whatever level you're able. You'll grow to be more of a resource as you start somewhere in that chain.
Three - network with attitude. Sending out LinkedIn invites is not networking. Finding communities where you can learn and offer answers at the same time will be more profitable. Be online with purpose. If you're spending a portion of your days playing "Candy Crush" or commenting to Ashton Kutchner on Twitter, you're wasting time. Those internet communities matter whether you're 23 or 58. Listen, my aunt is 72 and she smokes me on Facebook know-how and usage. She engages with others, meets people and drives interest in what she brings to the table. She works 3/4 time for a major grocery chain visiting their multi-site operations where she uses her iPhone to tabulate data...hello? She rocks.
I have often said that if this HR-thing doesn't work out for me (well, it's been 23 years so far, but you never know), I would be happy to pour coffee at Wawa (I'm sorry for those of you who don't know what this is - Google it!). It's not about what I am doing, but how I am doing it. Bills can be paid, yes, but my passions can find a way out even in pouring coffee.
Let me encourage those of you seeking employment. Change your mindset. There is no reason to be still; there is no reason to be dejected; there is no reason to stop learning. You can use your time wisely and have great impact. Share who you are and what you know how to do. Be open to learning new skills and sharpening others. Walk into interviews with passionate purpose. See your time in life, right now, as an opportunity. Honestly, everyday is a day where we can be on our way. We're all making it.