Category Archives: Baby Boomers

I “link” therefore I exist! Modern connectivity

Drowning in the Google pool and sinking into oblivion

 Modern connectivity There was a time probably no more than 5 years ago, when I could do my job very effectively by going into my contact data base and simply picking up the phone. Those days are gone. In 2008, as world markets crashed taking many global businesses with them, millions lost their jobs and disappeared into the ether of unemployment. If, and when they resurfaced they were difficult to reach. The foundations of the way most of us did business crumbled beneath us, as we tried to find new ways to stay connected.

At the same time we saw a dramatic upturn in the use of social media, which heralded a new era for business generally and became especially valuable in the executive search and hiring process. Early adopters got a head start. Now it is less ” I think therefore I exist” but more ” I link therefore I exist”. We are in an age of super connectivity.

Google ranking
Many column inches have been written about online connections. The quality vs quantity discussion rages unabated and I’m not even going to get into that one. My simple point is that unless you are a high-ranking executive in publically registered company, or some sort of super star, with acres of media coverage to your name, and land a first page Google ranking (for positive reasons!), an online professional profile or other virtual presence, which benefits you professionally, is a must. For the average, mere job seeking mortal, the failure to have an online professional identity, while possibly not total career hari kari, will be tantamount to jumping into the Google pool with lead weights on your ankles. You will simply sink into oblivion.

What  to do?

  • Get going! Create an online professional presence:  this enables you to be found  not just by search specialists and hiring managers but anyone who wishes to locate you or your professional expertise. This will vary from one country to another. The strongest global English-speaking platform is LinkedIn. Other platforms such as Viadeo or Xing also carry traction in different geographic areas.  The 3 demographics most reluctant to do this in my experience are entry-level, women and Boomers. This one simple process shows you care and are switched on!
  • Complete the profile fully and strategically: using  strong key search words. Generally I find the people who get most frustrated (and whinge the loudest) with a tendency to blame other external factors,  are the ones who have the weakest profiles and fewest connections.
  • Connect and engage strategically: build up your professional network, establish relationships,  generate credibility in your industry or sector. Set up an online trail of links to you! You can’t tap into your network unless you have one. Reluctant categories in my experience are: entry-level and women
  • Manage your reputation: leverage social media to cement the professional you. Use key words in your other online profiles and even a link to your online CV or LinkedIn profile.   Entry level, women and Boomers are the equally reluctant to do this. Social media is no longer just social, but has a professional component too. That’s why it’s called Personal Branding. Change your privacy settings if this really bothers you.
  • Don’t neglect other personal  networks: there is tendency with social media pundits to drink their own Kool Aid and believe their own hype, that these platforms are the “one- stop- shop” solution. No matter what, you have to get out from behind the computer and network personally! An online professional presence is only one tool in a much bigger job search tool kit. Category most reluctant to do this – women and entry-level.

As we teeter yet again on the brink of a possible financial services meltdown, with Greece clinging to the edge of the Acropolis by its fingernails, those without professional online “links” will almost certainly be caught at a disadvantage. There is even in my anecdotal experience, an emerging pattern of which demographics are constantly at risk.

Regrettably we have to do more than “think” to exist today. We have to “link“.

Job search: Are you missing in action?

Off the radar

Getting on the job search radar!
I have spent the past week with two different women, of two different ages. Their backgrounds could not be further apart. One is a young graduate, seeking entry-level employment, the other a woman in her 40s, with extensive supply chain and procurement experience, as well as an MBA. She has taken an eight year parenting break, relocated internationally with her husband and is now dealing with the inevitable challenge of explaining motherhood and her CV gap.

Both want to enter the workplace. Both are struggling. Both are drifting off the job search track and are M.I.A. Despite feeling they had nothing in common, even just idle chat reveals the numerous common elements. Not only were they simply failing to get the jobs they wanted ( when they could even find a job they were interested in) they were receiving no response to their CVs, sometimes not even a rejection letter.

Back on track
All job search candidates regardless of age, gender or time in life need to have some basics in place, so here are some easy tips to get back on track:

  •  Identify and articulate transferable skills. It doesn’t matter how you do this but this is a critical exercise, taking time and thought. I repeat my mantra – if you don’t know what you’re good at, how do you expect anyone else to know? Recruiters and hiring managers are not telepathic and don’t have the time to drag it out of you.
  •  This basic but critical exercise leads to the creation of an effective mission statement and elevator sounds bites. CVs should stop disappearing into cyber space and interview performance will be strengthened. If there is any hesitation in delivering your USPs – practise and practise again!
  •   Establish and develop a professional online presence. This is vital for anyone, male or female, young or old, entry-level or transitioning. Failure to do this is tantamount to professional suicide. The entry-level woman had received no advice from her university careers advisor to create this type of profile, which in my view is a scandal in itself! Careers advisors – read my open letter! The older candidate needs to resurrect and tap into her existing network from her days as a professional woman and connect with them virtually on platforms which simply did not exist when she was in the workplace ( LinkedIn, Twitter, Google +) This small step shows you care about your professional image and that you are current in your approach. Your LinkedIn profile url can also be used in an email signature or on other online profiles as a way of extending the reach of your CV.
  •  Create a modern CV with targeted keyword usage. Their current versions are probably not getting past ATS ( Applicant Tracking Systems) or coming to the attention of recruitment sourcers. 97% of CVs, it is maintained, are not read by a human eye! Once again this could account for a failure to obtain an even a first interview.
  •  Most jobs (estimated at 85%) are not advertised. Creating a strong online presence and strengthening a personal brand will drive traffic to your professional profile. It’s no longer about looking for a job – it’s also about raising visibility to ensure you are found. Many jobs are also only advertised on LinkedIn.
  •  There is no substitute for strategic networking at any age and stage. No matter how young you are, or how long it’s been since you were in the workplace, we are all connected to someone! Have some simple, but good quality business cards printed – you never know when you need them! Connect and re-connect. Join networking groups and professional bodies especially if any membership has lapsed during a career break.
  •  Be active. Inactivity is not just a barrier to getting top jobs, it’s a barrier to getting any job! It’s also a great way to beat negative thinking, and maintaining your confidence, vital in job search. It also gives you data to monitor, from which you can make any changes to your job seeking strategy.
  •   Tweak those strategies . Don’t panic and especially don’t be afraid to change. Nothing is set in stone and what works in one set of circumstances may sink like a lead balloon in another! Be flexible

But most importantly never give up. The estimated time to get a job is reported to be on average a minimum of 7 months currently. If you carry on struggling – seek professional help. It will be worth it in the long-term!

Good luck!

Why Gen Y need to plan ahead

Gen Y: Career Strategy and Longevity

Career strategy and longevity
I spent the weekend socialising with a crowd of fabulous people all substantially younger than me. It’s graduation season and there was some exhilaration and some angst. Some results were better than expected, others disappointed. A few already had devised strategies, other’s hadn’t. One thing for sure is that any future career will not be defined by today’s degree results. There are many choices to be made and none are set in stone. They were looking for pearls of wisdom and I’m not sure my thoughts, one in particular, were what they wanted to hear. This generation needs to prepare, not just for a physically longer life, but a potentially more extended working career than its parents.

§ Longevity – Born in an era of a global gradual ascendancy of wealth, this generation has for many years been protected from their futures by their affluent “boomer” parents. It is only during the recent recession that their bubbles have started to burst. It struck me that career strategy for this generation will consciously need to start factoring extended longevity into the mix, more so than mine ever did. Not only will Gen Y outstrip their parents in life expectancy, predicted to be a minimum aged 80 on average, with typical projections of 87 for a man and 88 for a woman, many can expect to live longer.

Not unsurprisingly, clutching a graduation diploma, the last thought on anyone’s mind is a picture of themselves with false teeth, thin hair, liver spots and a walker.

§ Building a career that facilitates a longer working life , or at least into the late 60’s or early 70’s. Education will no longer stop at graduation and personal development and the acquisition of new skills will be ongoing. Flexibility and multi-skills will be key. On the plus side, the drive to get on a corporate ladder will be reduced, but on going commitment to personal development will be vital. Creating a portfolio of transferable skills will be the new mantra.

§. A need to save – Unless there is a sizeable inheritance in their futures, as pension plans both state and company reduce, Gen Y will need to be prepared to save an increased significant proportion of income throughout during a career. The Chinese save approximately 40% of their income. With high unemployment in this demographic and higher student loan payments, many young people will be saddled with debts into their mid 30s.

§. Opt for a simpler, low-cost life. As part of one of today’s largest consumer groups many are used to having it all, now. But on top of that, every day life requires more gadgets than ever before ( mobile phones, lap tops, internet accessibility and more) which eats into their pay cheques and reduces an ability to save. This is in stark contrast to my own graduation where apart from my books, all I possessed on leaving university, was a kettle and a few cups.

§ Protect their health – with obesity rates and associated diseases spiralling, this generation will have to consciously protect its health, perhaps more so than any other, with such a strong need to be economically active longer. Another interesting spin-off might be in our knowledge based economies, more sedentary jobs could become reserved for older demographics who are no longer physically able to carry out certain functions.

With a declining birthrate and fewer younger people supporting an aging population, will jobs requiring physical stamina start becoming economically more signficant and pay prime rates? Could we envision a situation where a young builder will be considered as, or even more valuable than an aging banker? Now that would be fun!

What do you think? What career advice would you give the class of 2011?

70 or bust? No! Bring forward workplace changes

How old will you be when you finally retire?

Why wait until 2040 to implement workplace changes?

I seem to be receiving lots of invitations to retirement parties recently. A number of my friends and associates are heading off into the sun or sunset with a variety of fabulous plans: sailing around the Mediterranean to the Baltic, travelling around the world, spending time in summer homes, learning new sports, going back to university, volunteering, spending time with their families and taking up new hobbies. Some simply wanting to potter around in their gardens.

One thing they all have in common was that they are well under the age of 65.  So in some ways it was quite a contrast to see the cover of last week’s Economist ” Pensions: 70 or Bust,” staring out at me from a news stand, suggesting by 2040 for economic reasons, the retirement age will need to be extended to age 70.

Changing retirement age
65 has been considered by many as an aspirational average retirement age and in a number of countries is considered the default age. However, many people like my friends, take steps to retire earlier and it has been quite common for people to retire at 60, or even younger. Recently, particularly since the recession, there have been calls to scrap the default retirement age to allow those who would like (or need) to work longer, to do so. I have come across many who either wish to, or have been forced to, re-enter the workplace as property values and pension pots nose-dived. But in the future individuals may actually be obliged to work those additional years before they will be entitled to any company or state benefits – if they will even exist then at all.

70 or bust
The Economist suggests in its lead issue last week that by 2040, the retirement age in Europe will have to be increased to the age of 70 years. Since 1971, the average life expectancy rate in the advanced countries has risen by 4 – 5 years, and forecasts suggest that until 2050 it will grow by additional three years. People living longer and retiring earlier is not a problem per se , but forecasted labour shortages because of declining birth rates will not allow this.

The article also suggests that this birthrate reduction means that ” in the US, there will be only 2.6 workers per pensioner in 2050, while in France, Germany and Italy – 1.9, 1.6 and 1.5 workers per pensioner, respectively. Countries are already intending to raise the retirement age: in the United States – to 67 years, in the UK – to 68 years” . However The Economist maintains that these measures don’t go far enough.

By raising the retirement age it argues that employees will receive more years at a higher income level, governments will of course profit from further tax revenue, and a later retirement should stimulate a growing economy. However if governments are requiring individuals to stay economically active longer than previously, it means that organisational and employees practises and attitudes will be obliged to accommodate this demographic shift.

Specifically:

  • Discrimination policies will need to be enforced particularly in the areas of recruitment and retraining. A 50-year-old candidate potentially will have 20 more years on the career clock.
  • Workers in jobs requiring certain physical skills and stamina will have to be reassigned to lighter roles if necessary.
  •  Older workers will require cross generational and new technological training.
  • Older employees quite often have spousal and elder care roles. Support will be required.
  •  Flexible work schedules may be required (reduced, compressed, extended work weeks, job sharing, part-time hours, unpaid vacations will all have to be options)
  • Home offices and remote working should be considered.
  •  Re-organization of work and the redesign of jobs could be desirable.
  • Health and wellness initiatives would be beneficial.

Commonalities
It also struck me that some of these proposed measures to support an aging workforce would also be useful to women, but not by 2040. But today. So if organisations are going to be required at some point to implement changes, why not pre-empt a crisis and bring those plans forward 29 years, before we’re all keeping our teeth in jars on our desks and needing ramps for our walkers. If many of those proposals were introduced earlier, they would perhaps stem the exodus of women out of the workforce at critical points in their careers, some of whom never return. Who knows, many might be tempted to have larger families – if managing a career and a modern family simply became easier for everyone.

Those who wish to work longer can do so and those who wish to retire earlier can head off in the direction of their choosing. Then perhaps then some of those gloomy pensioner support ratios might look a little healthier. Or is that too simple?

What do you think?