As an experienced advertising executive turned headhunter turned career strategist for the last ten years, I have been interested in the role of “risk and reward” in a job and career search process and how age affects these factors.
Numerous articles in recent years extol the value of learning to fail as part of becoming a strong executive and member of a company or consulting team. In past years, failure was avoided at all costs, but with the advent of more youthful executives succeeding more quickly in the worlds of finance, technology and other industries, companies have sought out job candidates who have failed as well as succeeded in their careers.
This suggests to me that younger executives should be able to explain their mistakes and what they learned from them, so as to demonstrate learning and maturation along the way.
So in the first ten or fifteen years of your career, you should present yourself as a high-risk, high-reward candidate. “Hire me and I will apply my “wins and losses” to building your business and helping your company succeed. We may hit some rough spots, but we will prosper from understanding and solving them”.
The reverse is applicable, I believe, to executives 45 and older. In this case, you should reduce the perceived risk of hiring you. “Hire me and I won’t disappoint you or upset the applecart.”
Think about it. The company is considering you for a position in middle or upper management. They know you can do the job by reviewing your resume. What they really want to know in the interview is, what will you be like to work with? Will you work well with younger supervisors? Will you ascribe to the way the company does business or will you insist on bringing old ways to the new company? Will you be open to being one of the team as opposed to leading the charge when there are others in the lead position? In short, will you work out here?
So what should you do? Cool your jets! Listen to the questions in the interview with a third ear…what are they really asking of you? Respond with an attitude of “helping” rather than the attitude of the ambitious twenty-seven year old you used to be. Cast your answers in supportive as well as creative terms. They know you can DO the job; they really need to know HOW you will do the job.
So, REDUCE THE RISK of hiring you if you are 45-Plus. Make it easy for them to take you on. Be part of the solution rather than the problem “can we manage him/her?” Be open to an initial consulting relationship which gives you and the company a trial period of time, usually six months, to fall in love with each other (if it does not work out, as a consultant, they are a “client” on your resume instead of a formal job). Make no demands beyond fair compensation and meaningful benefits. Stay on the subject of the job rather than bring up distractions that can negate your candidacy. Be your most likeable and supportive self. Get the offer! Then do your due diligence (which is another Blog subject).
Make it easy to hire you if you are over 45. Reduce the risk.
Make it a bit of a risk to hire you if you are under 45. Increase the promise of a big reward for hiring you.