- You sometimes have to deal with a few snakes to reach the ladders
When it came to getting my first job I was lucky. Job vacancies were always advertised in the local paper on a Wednesday or Saturday and they ran into pages. So when I decided two thirds of the way through my sixth form year that I had had enough of school, and to be fair school had most probably had enough of me, it was without a thought that I applied for a job as a medical photographer. Spending time with a camera in a hospital mortuary was way more preferable than another day in a classroom. Though completely under-qualified for the role I managed to convince the interviewer that I knew enough about photography to get the role. I was 17 and had attitude.
Recently, I have become increasingly concerned at the number of people who feel that once they hit 50 their career pathways narrow and that where they are now is as good as it gets.
I can recall being told as I approached 50 that it was a shame I had never got a tertiary qualification so I could have better job prospects. In reality, while I had enjoyed some amazing jobs it only got better after I turned 50. I believe that was because I never lost the attitude of the 17-year-old.
So, for those people either approaching 50 or who have already hit that figure, here are my top four tips to retain or gain employment.
1. Often, in order to move up a ladder, you have to sometimes drop back or move sideways to gain experience and broaden your skillset. Put your ego aside and think about where you want to be in five years. It is like that childhood game, you sometimes have to deal with a few snakes to reach the ladders. Moving around in your career means you inevitably gain more skills and that in turn will always provide more options. Also, dealing with the odd snake only builds resilience which is a growing requisite in these changing times. The days of staying in the same job and sitting back waiting for a promotion is long gone. You have develop transferable skills that can add value in another area.
Don't wait to be asked either, keep alert to possibilities all around you.
2. Why would people recommend you? It is really important to be mindful of what the people you come into contact with on a daily basis think about you. Are you easy to work with? Are you known for getting the job done? Are you known for going that bit extra? Are you respectful? Flexibility is a great attribute no matter how big or small the organisation. Never underestimate in a small country like this who knows who when it comes to referrals.
3. Rejection is never personal. It seems the older we get the more likely we are to over analyse why we missed out on a job.
Okay, so you missed out. Again, remember back to when you were young and just moved on and knocked on the next door. When going for a job, try to make human contact and don't just push send and walk away. When you first send through the application use the excuse to check whether the email has arrived and if you don't hear back make another call. This will show you are keen and hungry. If you miss out, they may remember you for the next vacancy.
4. Don't worry about ticking boxes. Often looking at a job you think you only tick two of the five required criteria. If it's flying a 777 that may be highly relevant and every box matters. In many cases though, if it is something you are passionate about, what do you have to lose by putting your name forward? I have never met all the criteria for a job, yet it never occurred to me not to apply.
Remember, networking still matters. Today, more than ever, jobs seem to be advertised as much by word of mouth than through normal channels.
And finally, I have never yet heard anyone say their careers came through luck, but to quote former All Black captain Richie McCaw, if you work hard you give yourself a chance.
Sue Foley is Director of Corporate Affairs, Westpac