I was asked by an associate of mine the other day if they should just throw in the towel and give up looking for work. I realized that I needed to understand why this very talented person was at the end of their rope and ready to give up. So I asked a few questions to get a feel for their challenges, and soon found out that we had a lot more in common than just a lengthy training and development career.
She and I both share about a 25 year span of entry-level training and designing positions, followed by management. She was a Training Director of a mortgage lender, and I ended up as a Chief Learning Officer of a bank before we both started Consulting practices. She decided her passion lies in facilitation and instructional design, where as I lean toward the strategic and problem solving side of talent management. She likes the interaction with the learner, and I enjoy the organizational development side and supporting the company’s objectives with learning solutions.
So after nearly 10 years of consulting she has been trying this year to find a job managing the training function. Yet she has run into a number of brick walls. She is either too qualified for positions, or she has been out of the workforce for too long. (A side note, consulting is still working in the workforce!) She was even asked by one recruiter if she was planning to retire soon. We all know that was a shot at her age, illegal, but also a clear indication that she was not a viable candidate either. My friend decided to change her hair color and post a new LinkedIn photo on her profile.
I too long for a full-time engagement, and yet you would think from the feedback I have gotten that I have no right to be applying for roles in training. One recruiter said I didn’t have organizational development experience “because I didn’t have a job title with those words on my resume.” Another recruiter told me that I was verrrrrrry experienced, and would not be interested and probably bored after a month. In other words, I was too old for what they were looking for.
Neither of us are old enough to retire, but I felt her pain as I realized that I am getting frustrated too. I have turned down a few opportunities recently because I didn’t respect the culture of the company. While it is empowering to decline yourself, it still leaves you unemployed. And that was my only advice, was for her to keep looking, but walk away herself when something wasn’t a fit instead of waiting for a decline from the employer.
While I have seen a lot of age and gender discrimination lately in the hiring process, I have seen more incompetence in the recruiting side by letting top talent get away. Should anyone give up? I say no. Somewhere out there is a job with my name and my friend’s name on it. The only way you are going to find it is if you keep looking.
One last thought on hiring experienced people. I have no idea why that is such a forbidden act. Why on earth would you hire someone who is inexperienced or just passing the requirements. I always hired people who could outpace the current needs and help us move forward when things got more challenging. Hello, experience is a good thing, even if it means you might be hiring an older person.