What you’ll discover: As an older job candidate, the differentiating, competitive edge that you bring to the interview conversation will open up all sorts of great opportunities. You just need to see yourself as the prize, not the supplicant.
Last week Melanie Duncan, one of the online coaches I follow, recommended the book How to Pitch Anything: An Innovative Method for Presenting, Persuading and Winning the Deal, by Oren Klaf. Her own pitch for the book was so compelling that I decided to get it right then and there (doesn’t take much to talk me into buying books on Kindle). Turns out, I had already bought it back in January. Amazon has so considerately written code that basically says, “Hey Dummy! You already have it!” Only nicer.
So this weekend, as summer irreversibly flopped over to fall in the Santa Fe high desert, I curled up with Kindle, cat and Earl Grey tea. And let this book blow my mind. Wave after wave. Over and over again. I’ve since told my friends and clients about it, saying, “If you read only one chapter, read Chapter 7 where he pitches a $1 billion airport project. But then if you skip ahead, you’ll miss the story of how he barged into the Las Vegas offices of a pyramid scheme kingpin, demanding the return of $650,000 that belongs to an avocado farmer.” Anyway, I think you’ll like it.
Klaf’s entire premise is built on the foundation of “frames,” the points of view that we bring to the table. These points of view seize power, give it away again, capture and hold attention, disrupt, control, turn around, and then land the deal. I took six pages of hand-written notes on just the frames conversation alone. When you read the book, you’ll see how cool it is. (Especially the story of the French waiter and how he uses frames.)
If you’ve read Pt. 1, you’ll know that the pipsqueaks want us to agree with them that we belong in the Over The Hill frame. And they’ll be delighted to give us all sorts of advice provided that we agree with them that there is a loser in this scenario. And that loser would be us.
Time to flip that frame, baby!
One of the frames that Klaf tells us about is the “prizing frame.” You’re the one who is the prize. Not the person who decides whether or not to offer you the job. As Klaf says, their money is worthless unless they’re able to spend it on something that will bring them value. You’re the one with the value.
Need some convincing? Here goes:
There is only one you.
You offer a unique experience profile, combined with personally acquired wisdom and skills. Younger professionals are still in commodity phase of their working lives. They’re good for plug-and-play jobs. But when companies need discernment, judgment, perspective, creativity, and experienced-based idea input, they’re better off going with you.
You’re not looking for safe spaces.
You know which bathroom to use. You know which pronouns to use. You’re okay with leaving your dog at home. You’re not likely to turn your workplace into political activism Ground Zero.
You’ll show up.
A client of mine tells me that finding a qualified candidate and getting the candidate to accept the job offer is only the first part of the battle. She says that she’s seeing a trend where the youngest candidates will accept the job offer and then just simply not show. She has to continue to court the candidate in the days and weeks to follow with special welcome swag baskets sent to their homes. The onboarding experience has to rival the big waiter welcome scene in Hello Dolly! And then the excitement has to continue indefinitely.
Lifecycle needs are your business.
You may still be growing personally (and adding critical, updated skills along the way), but you’re not looking to your job to reflect your personal potential. You’re good for a gig, or maybe two years, or five years. You may need some time off for hip surgery, but that’s just a matter of a few weeks – nothing compared to the months of paid maternity/paternity leave. (One of my clients tells me he’s sending me to Singapore, as soon as I get my own limp-and-hobble dealt with. There was once a time when I’d jump at the opportunity. But now, I’m thinking Skype and I won’t even have to change out of my PJ bottoms. So I’ll be saving him a bundle in business travel.)
Your experience is your differentiating value.
Employers are under increasing pressure to not look too closely under the hood of academia. To avoid unwelcome, expensive scrutiny by agenda-driven groups who are indifferent to the link between profit and performance potential, hiring managers are forced to treat that BA from Evergreen College as equal to the one from Harvard. (Let’s just say it isn’t, and leave it at that. At least not yet. But the gap’s closing.)
Your real-life experience is ultimately more powerful than any college degree at this point. In fact, it’s especially more valuable because you can speak about your accomplishments and what value you brought to previous employers and projects. If you expect that you’d feel more confident if you had that MBA, go ahead and get it. Just know that it will be taught by a professor who will be teaching from a book. And the contributions you will be bringing to the classroom will be based on real-life experience.
Soup-to-nuts success stories beat academic credentials every time. Just remember that. And be prepared to tell some great stories.
You don’t need a “best friend” at work.
Many of those expensive employee engagement metrics go out the window. As far as understanding the connection between what you do and the company’s strategy is concerned, you can figure it out for yourself. For those areas where you might need additional understanding, your conversations with your manager will be on an equal footing. You’ll get it fast, and you might even bring a fresh perspective — a new frame — to the table that will open up tremendous opportunities your manager hadn’t even considered.
You just need an outlet to plug in your laptop. And to know where the coffee pot is.
And to be included in company fun. Never too old for a good time.