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Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Self-Made Hurdles
Let’s face it – we all have problems. At some time in our lives we are faced with major problems whether it is financial crunches, health issues, family disintegration, or other conflicts that upset our entire lives. It also never fails that when you just think things are going smoothly – WHAMMO – something else goes south and you are back into another mess. After struggling through many such times in my life, I have discovered that the best course of action is to keep rowing until you are in smoother waters. Once there, don’t look back.

Unfortunately, some people seem to let rough times in their pasts color their futures. For example, here is part of an email I received today from a nice lady who has had rough times in the recent past. (I’ve changed names and places to protect confidentiality.)

“Here are issues: (1) this market is unlike any other job market--since 9/11, (2) I had to quit my job at XYZ to take care of dying father in Cleveland (I live in Boston) for two years, and was in an auto accident that took 2 more years to recover from--so I have been really doing full time consulting for 6 months, and job hunting for two--although I did both during the entire four years probably 20-40 hrs a week, (3) I'm old--57--I take my first two jobs off my resume so I appear to be 53--still old but what are ya going to do, (4) I had the corporate gap in my resume which I address--I do two ventures--ABC an imported pie from Europe and sold under 123 brand name--it gave me the flexibility I needed during those four years, (5) I don't want to do my own business--I'm doing marketing consulting now, I like corporate,
(6) my background--partly because being a woman in the 70's in business was not easy--is not as linear as guys--but my thought at the time was as a VP of marketing, VP at ad agencies, and VP of promotion firms--I could do anything. It was truly integrated marketing. Unfortunately, a drone that did the same thing for 30 years is perceived better than I…. Historically, I have had a hard time getting interviews but generally got offers once I got the interview. Woman, age--big barriers now. They don't want women in general--and an old woman (and believe me I am super active--ski, hike, bike, ski, sail, travel, etc.) and am very contemporary but let's face it someone in their 50's does not look like someone in their 30's. Now, I have had some interviews but have not gotten the job--last one for a job I really wanted--I talked about my Dad's situation and I think the gap there plus his own fear of having to take care of his parents at some point turned him off. I left XYZ because of it.
If I hide the reason, then why did I leave? To do my own thing?

Responses: too much promotion experience, too much agency experience, toooooo old (lots--and they just tell you regardless if it is illegal or not)--that's the biggie, and gap the last five years in resume relative to last corporate job.”

Whew! Doesn’t that make you depressed to read it? This nice lady has several issues that she is allowing to hinder her job search simply through the jaundiced outlook she has. Let’s look at a few:

Age – The age factor is something that I have found to be more of a mental hurdle in the job seeker’s head than an actual, rampant problem in the job market. If you think you are too old, or that others will think you are too old, you are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. At senior levels and high salaries (such as this lady), employers don’t expect to get a 30-year-old. It takes time to build experience and the best, most valuable experience can’t be learned in an MBA program but rather in the trenches. I work with job seekers all the time who are in their 50s and even 60s. The only ones who report age discrimination are the ones who have a problem with it in their own minds first.

Years of experience – As a rule of thumb, employers are mainly interested in the past 10-15 years experience. Beyond that, and it’s old experience or foundational experience that doesn’t apply to the current market or to the position being targeted.

The glass ceiling – Yes, in some companies, women have a hard time advancing. That said, there is nothing to keep those women at those companies and there are PLENTY of companies where their skills will not only be appreciated and rewarded, but also compensated correctly. Letting social attitudes of the 70s impact actions of today is silly.

Appearance – Yes, appearance DOES have an impact on hiring. There have been volumes of studies done on the impact of physical appearance of the human on acceptance and attraction by other humans. That said, even young beautiful people get passed over (perhaps for giving the impression that they don’t have the gravitas for the position?) just like people who are overweight, too tall, too short, too skinny, too old, ad infinitum.

So what can you do about all this? Simple. Go forth with a positive attitude. Leave the past behind. Concentrate on your positives. Sell your unique abilities.

November 2005 / December 2005 / January 2006 / February 2006 / March 2006 / April 2006 / May 2006 / June 2006 / July 2006 / August 2006 /


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