Guest Article: 50 shades of silver: Seeking employment in your 50’s

Guest articles and blogs are industry opinions, anecdotes and tips about marketing. They are also stories about the marketeers that shape all of the above.

It is, therefore, a real pleasure for me to introduce our first guest to La Piccola Blog; Dave Everitt.  

Dave is a Sales and Marketing professional with over 30 years experience in the Technology sector. I worked with Dave from 2006-2008 in the UK at a major PC chip manufacturer;  the David vs the Goliath at that time.  Dave was one of the most brilliant individuals at that company then.  Determined, engaging, sales and marketing downright smart, tech-savvy, and great fun to work with.   Dave lived and breathed the brand.  He defined it through his enthusiasm, creative approach and drive with partners and press in Western Europe. He probably made HQ and the Comms/PR teams sweat slightly at times, but without a doubt massively facilitated their jobs. Dave was instrumental to the creation of that brand ID at that moment in time.

Over the years we stayed in touch via Facebook.   Recently I read one of Dave's timeline posts. He was out of work for the 3rd time in 9 years.  I was confused.   This made absolutely no sense to me.  So, I reached out and asked Dave "why?"
This is his story:  It cites economic recession, an industry that suffered the knock-on effects, ageism and hair-dye.  More importantly Dave explains how resilience and his P.I.S.C.I* approach to job hunting helped him survive, stay sane and succeed.

 Dave Everitt

Dave Everitt

"50 shades of silver:  Seeking employment in your 50's" by Dave Everitt

"I think the key word that summarises my experiences of being out of work 3 times since 2008 is resilience.   I have always been a trend setter of sorts, let's say. This started back in 1973 when I turned up for school sporting a Parker with a rabbit fur-edged hood! Back then many ridiculed me!  We are talking fur-edged hood here!   Yet weeks later everyone had them!    With trend setting in mind it’s not at all surprising that resilience has become the buzz word in today’s business world. 

My first exit from the workplace in 2008 was brutal. My 23-years with the same firm, a high profile, internationally acclaimed chip manufacturer all abruptly disappeared to nothing.   I had grown with the company heading up different remits, including European Product Marketing, a role in which I drove significant growth for a whole range of chip technology.   At the time of my exit, major Banks and retailers went bust and the tech world essentially collapsed.  I recently read that even recruiters were impacted with 80% lay-offs through 2008-2009. My role as a trend setter continued, albeit somewhat inadvertently, along a different path this time with many folk just like myself; unexpectedly out of work. Again, like me, they were coming out of long term stints with strong CVs that were abridged versions of War & Peace.  Upon arriving at the Job Centre with a smile on my face I met with some rather scared staff; they were truly scared, a huge number of capable, degree/master/PhD-qualified and hands-on, business experienced professionals appearing at their door, and no means to help them. 

What color is my parachute?
We were all directed to a local job club, a charity put together to help professionals.  My advice here; find one, create one, engage in one!  The basis of what they do is from the book “What color is my parachute."  The “Tell me about yourself”,  the self-analysis, the awareness of where your passions lie, the STAR stories (Situation, Task, Actions & Results) needed to support your key skills.   Despite this invaluable support, nobody was interviewing nor hiring in the Tech world.  So, what did I do?  I responded to an email invite to consider teacher training.   It didn’t seem to involve a Nigerian Prince requesting a transfer of large sums of money to an offshore bank account so I took a deep breath and signed up!  In 2009 I embarked on a teacher training course in Secondary Physics. A total turn in direction, but what total fun!

 Sense of humour and fun are also key to staying resilient.

Sense of humour and fun are also key to staying resilient.

New directions
My previous roles had been transferring my passion for technology to sales, marketing and media.  What joy to discover that teaching Physics to 11-18 year olds is so similar!  Convey the passion, engage the audience, make Physics relevant and BOOM, a motivated classroom! I loved it! How to inspire an audience!  Magical! However, there was a sticking point: money. My family of two borderline teenagers and a partner whom we had agreed would be a stay at home mum, needed a real income.  Therefore, a new direction had to be found.  Teaching, sadly does not pay.  The unions assume that you’re a new graduate and the pay scales are locked down under union agreement. Pay is not linked to shortage of staff, passion to deliver or experience, but time worked in education. Unfortunately for those reasons I was forced to leave, or rip my family home apart. 

But, as I mentioned at the beginning, resilience is fundamental.  In late 2009 I was contacted by a Canadian firm looking for a General Manager to head up the European business in IT security.  When I arrived at the UK office I found morale was at rock bottom, productivity low with no obvious business growth.  I brought bounce, energy and passion and in real terms turned the situation around from $2m a year to a projected $5m.  But then as soon as things were back on track I got the call from the management team to say, “thanks very much but it’s goodbye.”    I was back on the streets after 2 years, despite my significant achievements in terms of revenue and cultural climate. This time my trend setting matched the patterns in the economic climate.  Cue the double dip recession.

 Source:  Office for National Statistics (GB)

Source:  Office for National Statistics (GB)

Drawing on resilience
Not quite the dramatic plunge of 2008/2009 but from 2010 to 2013 it dipped. Recall Resilience!  I formed a Limited company to establish a consulting services business and started hunting for any sort of work. At the same time, I also undertook Mindfulness counselling, a mechanism to help restore my self-esteem.  I had to address those  dark moments in which  I truly began to wonder if I could ever be of value to anyone ever again.  Tough times.  

I read once that executioners are trained through brain washing techniques to establish zero self-worth so they no longer perceive value in others either.   This reality created in the brain is very real. Positive thoughts truly create positive outcomes; negative thoughts are incredibly destructive, so I advise to always  to focus on the positive.   This of course is not always easy.   Recently after two phone interviews and a face-to-face meeting with an excited hiring manager I was then fed these lines: “We do not think you are a good fit.  We are quite a young crew here.”   I was 51 at the time.   Whether illegal or not, that kind of feedback inevitably drags you down, and initiates thoughts of hair colour change.

 This is me previous to any shades of silver issues....

This is me previous to any shades of silver issues....

Staying mindful
Along with mindfulness classes I most recently attended Heart Math classes. I have also kept my spirit intact thanks to inline skating classes, Tae Kwon Do and spinning classes.  For me these have all been important social, active and energising activities. Don’t get stuck at the PC applying for jobs 24/7;  that will truly drag you into some very dark places...

This time it took until 2013 to find the next role.  By now I was highly experienced in the art of building a CV that aligns with the job description and finding opportunities by exploring connections in my network of contacts. Social media (Facebook or LinkedIn) is the place to make a noise in my opinion.  Get that connection, feed the CV in and fine tune it to align 110% with the job description. The CV is only needed to get you the interview.  Cut and paste the required experience and then add a relevant achievement to demonstrate the skill; for example:
“Able to work in the team, with a team or lead the team:  I defined the product strategy and led the EMEA sales and marketing team to take overall unit share in laptop computing in Western Europe from 5% to 12% in 18 months.”

Now then, let’s go back to our chart. The UK GDP took a dip in 2015, and again in 2016 and once again at the end of 2016.  So yes!  You guessed it already!  The trend setter is out of work again, looking for another role. This time, the frustration of age response interviews that I mentioned earlier has me seriously considering dying my hair! Perhaps #grannysilvergrey?   It is all the rage now!  My latest conclusion is that grey = 50’s and white = 60’s.   I went white in my 40’s and now, as I am in my 50’s, much of my hair has emigrated anyway.  

My 5 top tips for job hunting
So, all irony aside, what has kept me going?  What has kept me truly resilient and sane?   My martial arts training in Tae Kwon Do addresses my fitness, but it also provides the foundation for my approach to job hunting.  Tae Kwon Do has 5 tenets:  Perseverance, Integrity, Self-Control, Courtesy & Indomitable Spirit. The latter means “not to tame”, or unbeatable. They say everything we do has a purpose.    Taking these as a base, here are my 5 top tips for job hunting in your 50’s:

1)    Perseverance, tenacity and belief that now is not forever.   Something great is coming is a mindfulness position that you must undertake.  Easy to type, very hard to do. 
2)    Integrity.   Keep it honest. Background checks, referees, references, common network contacts can all be checked.  Some may think they can embellish their Resume/CV.  This is not a wise move.
3)    Self-control. Keep that large prefrontal cortex fully engaged. Keep impulses under control and build out long term goals. Writing out a 6-sentence summary of who you are, what you are passionate about, your successes and what you are looking for.  These will force you to understand the real you. This may be your greatest lesson.
4)    Courtesy.  Despite the pressure of applications, interviews, rejections, travel chaos, money and family worries, recruiters not responding, timelines extending, etc., stay civil and polite.  A recent interview had me fly to Edinburgh from London, individually meet members of a large team, get green lights from all and still I did not get the role.  However, a short time later another role with the same team opened, the dialog reopened and continues. People buy from people; it’s you they are hiring first, not what you do, even if your ego tells you differently
5)    Indomitable Spirit. This is the most important tenet.   It equates to:  don’t let the situation get you down! Remain unbeaten!  Keep your smile!  Your energy! Keep you! Be proactive and brave;  explore your network of folk you know in order to get connections to folk you don’t.  Watch TED lectures.  Follow Sir Ken Robinson, Amy Cuddy, Brené Brown.  

On top of all that, be open, always keep learning and you will find your resilience."

* Footnote 1:  P.I.S.C.I is a mnemonic derived from the good luck of the infamous Cornish Piski that reputedly carry a tiny luck charm (those from Cornwall will know well!)

Contact me here if you would like to be a guest on La Piccola Blog.