My new book, Take the Work Out of Networking: An Introvert’s Guide to Making Connections That Count, is for job seekers of all ages, but I’d like to offer some advice here about networking and job hunting specifically to people who are 50+.
It’s easy to understand the reluctance people this age sometimes have about networking — meeting strangers, especially those who might be younger and may represent the change they fear. Not unreasonably, the older worker might think: Why would they help me? What will we have to talk about? What if they say no?
I’ve seen quite a few work veterans set their sights lower or stay in a stale longtime role, playing the waiting game for a severance package, because of such fears.
Job Hunting Advice About Age DiscriminationTo combat age discrimination of employers, when you’re job hunting look closely at the diversity and inclusion record of companies you’re interested in, search LinkedIn to see if people in your age range work there and make connections to get a reality check.
An efficient way to learn about a new industry or pick up a variety of skills quickly is to join a specialist consulting agency (for example, marketing and advertising, tech support, communications) that has clients across a range of businesses.
Or you might consider roles in firms that are not brand names, less well-known companies outside the spotlight where you can get the skills you need to transition into a new area.
The Networking Advantage People 50+ HaveTwo more points about job hunting and networking when you’re in the 50+ club:
First, the longer you’ve worked (and lived), the more contacts you’ll have from a wide variety of backgrounds. Your weak ties (people you know very slightly at best, perhaps worked with briefly or met through a friend) are especially useful as you explore new options and locations. Think very broadly about who you know, including people you may have met in passing or who are colleagues of friends, to learn about opportunities that are not familiar.
Second, think about how you can position yourself as a “men- tern” — a neologism that describes someone who can mentor others while learning new skills as an intern does (not that you have to actually be in that role).
In his new book Wisdom @ Work: The Making of a Modern Elder, the seasoned hotelier and entrepreneur Chip Conley tells the story of joining Airbnb at age 52. Though Chip has earned plenty of EQ (emotional intelligence) over his career, he says he came to the young company with no discernible DQ (digital intelligence). As he tells it, his time at Airbnb helped him gain DQ as he was able to impart EQ to younger colleagues.