Older, not networked ... done in?
Emphatically not. Nancy Collamer, author of “Second-Act Careers,” lays out tools, including websites, for your next step and will inspire you to shape a new career (Ten Speed, $14.99). While many of the best-networked people of a certain age uncover opportunities wherever they go, you can succeed without one. Her book will help you explore an idea until you act on it or move forward on another.
Collamer, who’s also a coach and speaker, advocates defining a niche. Identify what you offer that differs from others in an industry or occupation. “This is a particular area where you have in-depth knowledge,” she says, “making it much easier to stand out. Social media is allowing people to become king or queen of their niche domain.
“Also, it’s much easier for people to help you,” she continues. “You become known as a go-to person. Referrals come much more easily. Marketing is easier.” This also makes finding your way in unfamiliar terrain smoother.
At 58, technology professional Mark Heavey of Gig Harbor, Wash., provides IT support services to small businesses throughout the Seattle-Bellevue area. Because of the trend to outsource and insource, the latter from such countries as India and China, he recommends to people of all ages that they retrain rather than continue in IT. He does have networking skills, but that’s not how he landed where he is. Research was key.
Under the dba of Mark Heavey he’s built a relationship with OnForce Inc., an online marketplace for short-term, onsite IT assignments. The Lexington, Mass., company supplies contracts in 99 percent of zip codes and four Canadian provinces. He’s been an independent contractor for OnForce since 2008.
“You apply to it,” Heavey explains. “If they have a need in your geographical area, you get matched to buyers. I started on my own and then found OnForce through an industry publication. They give access to certain types of buyers, companies with national presence, but they needed someone in my area to represent them.”
He estimates he’s one of 40 OnForce independent contractors there.
This year he and the company negotiated a contract for “all of its business with one client in a 15-mile radius around Bellevue that I can handle,” Heavey reports. “Some days it’s more than others.” He continues with other assignments through them – at this writing over 300 this year alone.
Of course, while you can’t silence your own questions about ageism, you can place yourself where it positively influences hiring and contract decisions. Do research, like Heavey, and start by applying judiciously online.
“A person’s experience should be an asset, not a liability,” remarks RJon Robins, founder of HowToManageaSmallLawFirm.com in Miami, Fla. He currently employs four people older than 55 and expects his next posting to draw four more.
“Based on experience,” he says, “the best candidates will probably be older rather than younger.”
Like Heavey, he focuses on “industry.” He draws candidates from an industry-specific job board that attracts people who’ve been in legal administration. Contractors will provide part-time home-based coaching services as managing partner, COO and CFO for small law firms around the country. They spend about two hours completing the application process, down to typing their name in backwards in the subject line (to ascertain if they follow instructions). Compensation for the part-time contracts ranges from $75,000 to $100,000 per year.
What if you can’t tell by a posting if an employer is age-friendly? Collamer recommends eliciting information in interviews with an open mind. “Take a list of questions,” she advises. “Have your antenna up. Ask about the traits they’re looking for. Listen for ‘high energy-level, very long hours, too expensive and too overqualified.’ ”
Meanwhile, she recommends, move forward with this spirit: “Here’s my niche, brand. I’m the go-to person for X.”
Now, build your network.
Dr. Mildred L. Culp of WorkWise® welcomes your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.