In 130 days I turn 50, and I’ve got to admit – job seeking has never felt so intimidating.
My job history is somewhat spotty, and I know this is a big black mark against me. In addition to this, the first roles in my resume have dates like 1991 on them. Obviously these are now not actually listed on said resume, because apparently having worked in 1991 is also very dodgy.
I have also never spent more than 3 years in one role – hence the “spotty” description. There are many reasons for this, mostly centred around trying to juggle single parenting and a career in the events industry that demands availability 7 days a week, including many nights. Throw in some ongoing mental and physical health issues, and yeah, the job history is a bit of a hot mess.
I had to leave my last job, one I truly enjoyed, at the beginning of January this year. My anxiety was spiralling out of control, spurred on by nagging back pain which made me incapable of sitting (or standing) at my desk for long.
My boss was truly sympathetic and supportive, but there comes a time when you realise that you simply can’t do the job, and that you’re letting the company down.
So, here I am – 130 days away from turning 50, unemployed and still dealing with major anxiety / depression and the tail end of the recent neck injury. This post, however, is not going to focus on that potentially murky pit of despair! I’m writing this to motivate myself (and possibly others in a similar boat) to get myself back out there in the job market and put together a plan on how to do so!
I’m only looking for part time work at the moment as (a) physical pain is still a restriction on longer hours and (b) I’m focussing a lot of time on my blogging, which is finally starting to earn me a few dollars. I definitely need something, though, and soon!
So here’s what I’m thinking:
Update the Resume
If life gives you lemons, make lemonade, or so they say. OK, so my job history is all over the freaking place and my CV could make a seasoned recruiter develop an instant migraine. While the main focus of my career has been event management, I’ve also worked as a medical receptionist, in a whole range of administrative roles, as a food and beverage server and in retail sales.
What’s the upside of this? Well – it clearly demonstrates that I can apply my experience to pretty much anything! I know this myself – adaptability and learning new systems are kind of my superpowers. That, as well as some strange gift for working really, really efficiently. I can’t really explain it – it’s just something I’ve done naturally since my first job. I’ve never had an overflowing email inbox, or to-do lists that never grow shorter.
So how do I use this? This is the hard part. I think it’s going to take a skilled and professional reevaluation of my CV to re-shape it to focus a little more on skills, rather than a simple chronological list of previous roles.
Online research indicates that while the so-called “Functional Resume”, which focuses almost entirely on skills, is often a popular option, many recruitment agencies and employers find it difficult to read, and it can give the impression that the job seeker is trying to hide something. This type of resume can also get missed if being processed electronically.
The way to go seems to be the a combination of chronological and functional styles. As Jacob Share said on his article discussing tips for older jobseekers:
“Midlife job seekers need a resume that looks forward, not backward. To quote from the article- “a résumé shouldn’t read like the testimonial at your retirement dinner.” Rather- “Change the perspective from “look at everything I have done,” to “look at everything I can do for you.”” (via Forbes.com)”
I think that last sentence of the quote is key, and my plan is to find an affordable (!!) resume specialist to help me achieve this.
A good resume will only get me in the door for an interview, and after that it’s going to be up to me. I admit, I need to make a few slight changes to myself, too.
Positivity – It’s easy enough to say that I need to change my perspective to “look at everything I can do for you.”, but I also have to believe it. While part of me definitely does believe it, there’s another niggling part of me that’s questioning my own value. The anxiety is largely responsible for this, I know, so it’s time to stop just sort of pushing it to one side and face it. I Am Worthy.
Health & Fitness – When you’ve spent 2 months mostly sitting up on your bed or on the couch, your overall fitness level suffers. While my neck pain has restricted what I can do considerably, it’s easing up now and it’s time I got my body moving again. The diet could also do with a makeover – time to start focussing on healthier food!
First Impressions – Yes, it’s time for a hair cut and style! I’m not going try to hide (and neither should I) the crow’s feet and other signs of aging, but it’s important to at least look professional. The hair scraped up in a scruffy bun is fine at home, but it’s not going to cut it for the job market! I’m also going to have to break out the more formal office-wear. My last job had a very casual dress code, so I’m going to definitely be brushing some dust off the suit jackets!
Networking – Oh, I got jitters just even typing that word, thanks, Anxiety! Still, it has to be done. Another benefit of a long and varied job history is that I have built up a large, albeit slightly shaky, network in my city. These are people who have worked with me, or that I’ve done projects for, or recommended to others. These are the people who KNOW my strengths, so I need to get in touch and let them know my awesome skills are once again available for hire, and see if they can put me in touch with someone who needs them.
So, that’s the plan. If you have any other tips on being a midlife job seeker, handling anxiety when looking for work or anything else, please drop me a comment below.
Oh – and wish me luck!