A Splash Landing into the Job Market, Part 1 of The Modern (Older) Job Hunter

NASA Space capsule splashdown - on Frugal Guidance 2

Let’s start with a Future Fable.

The astronaut remembered the day he splashed-down on earth after a 25-year mission to the stars. (How could he forget?) Soon, there were crowds and parades and even an old-fashioned ticker-tape parade in Manhattan. Mission Control announced the trip was a total success. Privately, though, after the landing and the debriefing, they told him things had changed. A lot.

He expected an adjustment period after arriving back on Earth. What he didn’t expect were the social changes. Exploration wasn’t a priority anymore, the space program was dying. People were worried about more terrestrial priorities, some of them scary. Politics was just weird. Worst of all, he now had to consider finding a new job. After 25 years, the technology he was good at was obsolete. Plus, now he was an older man. He wasn’t the adventurer or the athlete he was when he left. (25 years of mostly weightlessness will do that to anybody.)

Everything felt different.

The new kids are different, too.

When he embarked on his space journey, he was one of those young adventurers: aggressive, optimistic, strong, an explorer. Today, the kids (funny how the years change your perspective) seem much better prepared for the marketplace. They know and use entirely new technologies. They communicate in new ways. Their expectations from an employer are completely different. They are their own employer now, hanging out their digital shingle and, with a bit of youthful chutzpah and aggressiveness, sculpting their own career and life with a different set of priorities and a new kind of network.

Does this feel familiar?

Many people who are laid off (or quit or take an early retirement) after 15, 20, 25, or 30 years on the job with a single company feel a lot like that astronaut. It feels like coming out of a space capsule into a new, competitive, digital, social, aggressive world. The HOW about job hunting is completely different now.

And even the NATURE of work has changed. Employees are disposable. Contractors, freelancers, outsourcers and, yes, even robots, are in. The corporate environment that invested time and money in nurturing an employee for their career is out. (Boo. Hiss. As if human beings were simply commodities to be bought and sold.)

The Right Stuff isn’t right, anymore.

As every astronaut eventually asks after they leave the last space capsule, “What do I do now?”

As you’ve figured out by now, the astronaut is a metaphor for anybody who held a job in a corporation for what he or she thought as a career, but is now hitting the pavement with the rest of the earthlings.

Astronaut Selfie - on Frugal Guidance 2

On Frugal Guidance 2, we’re starting a new series on Job Hunting for (mostly) mature workers.

First, let’s look at a few of the changing realities in the job market from the last time you may have looked for a job, especially if it’s been a while.

From Newspapers to Social Media

First, newspapers were out and online job listings were in. Then ordinary job listings were out and job aggregators were in. Then job aggregators were out and social media were in. Now social media is augmented by personal networking and working to build relationships with people inside the company who can recommend you for a job. Many HR departments used to hate that. Now they encourage it, at least part of the time.

This is not, actually a new idea. Many readers of the What Color is Your Parachute books are seeing things come around full circle.

The Résumé

Résumés are still résumés, right? Well, not exactly. Résumés used to be a list of employers and job responsibilities. You distributed them like business cards. Today, you need a short marketing blurb on top with relevant keywords for the particular job description. Instead of listing job responsibilities, you list skills and successes, with stats if you have measurable results. Instead of sending out one résumé to everyone, you customize it for each job application. After you do that, you also need to make sure that your emailed résumé is easily parsed by an Automatic Tracking System (ATS) as well being easy to read on a hiring manager’s phone.

Business Cards

Business cards, in spite of all the technological replacements, are still quick and easy. You can improve them, though, with URLs to your LinkedIn and other media and/or blogs.

Also make it easier for others to contact you by including informational signatures to your emails. You can build up email lists if you have enough info to share (and you probably do). Make sure you can text your contact info or use one or more of the many apps that do the same.

What Was on Paper is Now on Screens

Job hunting uses screens now – desktop computers, laptops, tablets and smart phones are all job hunting and social media platforms now.

The Dreaded / Loved Social Media

Social Media has clearly changed the hiring marketplace. If you haven’t built your social media network before you became unemployed, that needs to be a top priority right now. You need an online hub for your job search (and your career). For many people, this is LinkedIn. HR recruiters are looking for people on LinkedIn, on other sites, and via Google. You need to learn a little bit about keywords and SEO (Search Engine Optimization). You need to monitor what’s happening on your social media and how it looks to potential employers. One thing that hasn’t changed in the past 8 years is the maxim, “LinkedIn gets you hired, Facebook gets you fired.” You need to be smart as well as strategic.

Learn Stuff

Even learning new skills has changed. Now it’s often done online in videos, MOOCs, podcasts, blogs and (thank goodness) in books. The advantage is that if you see a particular skill in a job listing, you can check Wikipedia and / or take a short course in that topic in a few hours. This way, you don’t sound dumb if it comes up. You can ask smarter questions, too.

Organization is Still a Marketable Skill

Be organized. Doing all this requires goal setting and time management. People sometimes are still surprised to find out that job hunting can be a full-time job. Fortunately, you may be able to transfer these skills from your previous job.

We’ll explore many of these factors in this series. Hopefully, after our series, you’ll be able to successfully get your job hunt off the launch pad.

NASA rocket blast-off on Frugal Guidance 2

Coming Soon: more articles on job hunting for the modern (older) job hunter.


Splashdown photo is courtesy of NASA.

Astronaut selfie courtesy of NASA, featuring astronaut Mike Hopkins on a spacewalk from the International Space Station, with another astronaut, Rick Mastracchio reflected in the helmet visor. (It doesn’t actually follow the story line of this article terribly well, but it was too good a photo to pass up.)

Blast Off photo was an image from NASA TV showing a Boeing Delta 2 rocket during launch in 1997. Courtesy of NASA.

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