“Mature Questions, Mature Answers”, by Barbara Bowes, president of Legacy Bowes Group

Aug 23, 2010 | Corporate Member News

Q: As a recently laid-off mature worker, I have sent out over 70 resumes with no luck. I know that I have a lot to offer. Why is it tougher to find a job today than in the past?

Barbara Bowes

A: The world of job searching has definitely changed over the years and blanketing your community with a resume just won’t do it. While you have rewritten your resume to a more current style, you also must take time to research the marketplace. For instance, since you were laid off, more than likely companies in your industry sector are experiencing challenges as well, which means opportunities will be slim.

Take time to examine your resume and skills to see what other industry sector would suit your skills and then begin contacting these companies. Call to inquire who the hiring manager is and ask for five minutes of their time. Inquire about how to apply to their firm and whether they are taking applications at this time.

However, while the marketplace and job search strategies have shifted, so too have resources. In fact, there are many organizations looking for mature workers such as yourself. For instance, check out your local bank, as they often have challenges finding front-line service workers. Check out the Manitoba Advanced Education and Training branch, as they offer mature worker assistance and could direct you to other resources. Check out the local Chambers of Commerce, as they have embarked on a mature worker program, as well. Meet with your employment counsellor and ask for further links for mature worker opportunities. Don’t despair, there are indeed jobs out there.

Q: I would love an opportunity to return to graduate school, however, I am being told that none of my continuing education for the past 20 years would be accepted for credit. What should I do?

A: First of all, as a mature individual, you truly have to ask yourself what the value of returning to university for a graduate degree would provide for your career. What is the return on your investment? Will you be able to recapture the cost of the education once you return to work? What will you do with this education? Is the purpose to try and change careers altogether? If so, take time to check out job opportunities in that field and determine if there are other means of entering the profession. For instance, in the field of human resources, many mature individuals have other pre-existing education, such as social work or education complemented by a certificate in human resources, that can be acquired through continuing education faculties.

In addition, I would speak to someone at the university face to face, because there are definitely programs that accept mature entry, particularly students with strong life-work experience. As someone who went to university part time, attended night school and took intersession and distance-education courses, I would suggest that you don’t take “no” for an answer. Instead, get out there and talk to someone face to face and find out how you can further your education.

Q: In my workplace, my colleague and I have similar positions and similar professional designations but very, very different pay. In fact, my pay is much lower than my colleague and I am frustrated. Why are some university degrees paid less than others?

A: Many employees are frequently confused about why they are paid at their designated salary level. The rationale is that employees are not simply paid by the degree they hold, but rather by the value their job holds for an employer. For instance, let’s say that you have a bachelor of arts degree and are applying for a receptionist position. This position asks for minimum grade 12 and three years experience. If you applied and were successful, the employer would welcome the fact you have a degree, but they would not pay you for it because it’s not needed in order to perform the job.

The process of determining salary levels within a company is called “job evaluation.” This is an intensive process that compares jobs within the organization and enables the employer to establish and justify the salary levels. It is particularly helpful in helping managers to understand how jobs fit into the organization and in providing the rationale for why employees are paid at their particular salary levels.

If you are still concerned about your level of pay, I would suggest you sit down with your boss and ask for an understanding of salary levels within your company and how you might progress.

Q: As a mature worker who has made a career change, I now have the right education but no experience in my desired field. Getting that first new job is really tough and I am getting discouraged. Any advice?

A: Yes, I agree. Making a career change is tough and you have to prepare yourself for the time and effort it will take to get that new job. However, at the same time, I recommend selling all of your skills and not just your new-found technical skills. After all, you have many other abilities — for example, leadership or supervisory skills, an ability to work with a team, writing, or project-management skills — that could be considered beneficial in combination with your new talents.

You also need to make an extra effort to build a new network of contacts and expand your previous network. Join your new professional association, get out there and meet people. Volunteer for your new group. Then go back to your old network and use the adage that “everyone knows someone who knows someone” in order to develop a potential list of new contacts. Let people know you are seeking opportunities. Ask for the names of people you can talk to about the industry, rather than just a specific job. And ask professionals in your new field for their advice and guidance.

If need be, do some volunteer work in your new field. There are plenty of not-for-profit agencies that could use any help, even if it’s just temporary. Keep in mind that volunteer experience is also excellent work experience.

Finally, find out which organizations offer positions in your new field and begin making connections with people already working there.

Barbara J. Bowes, FCHRP, CMC is president of Legacy Bowes Group, a Manitoba-based talent management solutions firm. She is also host of the weekly Bowes Knows radio show and is the author of the newly released bestseller, Resume Rescue. She can be reached at [email protected] 

This initially appeared in the July 31, 2010 edition of The Winnipeg Free Press

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