Losing a job at any age is difficult. It is particularly challenging when you are displaced later in your career. Questions percolate such as who will hire me at my age? Can I learn new systems at this point in my life? Where do I begin looking for a new job? Some people may even crunch numbers to determine if they have a viable retirement plan. It can all be so overwhelming and scary to process.
I was recently laid off from a company I had been with for 14 years. My goal was to run out my career with them but on a random Thursday morning in February, they had other plans in mind for me!
After listening to the displacement information that management conveyed to my department, I made the executive decision that the first order of business would be mimosas with my daughter. (Very good choice) I then assessed the situation and determined that I didn’t need to have all the answers that day as to what I would do and how I would get there. I did, however, decide that I needed to establish a timeline. I was fortunate that given the size of the company and years of service, I had racked up many months of severance. Although I would receive a steady paycheck and benefits for most of the year, tick tock tick tock, the weeks pass by quicker than you would think when you are out of work.
I struck a balance to create a proactive job search while pushing back feelings of desperation in my pursuit. This plan included identifying “must haves” and “nice to haves” when accepting a new position. I had the mind set that getting laid off was actually a good thing! It was an opportunity to find the perfect position that suited me at this point in my life. (I told myself that regularly until I believed it). With a plan in place and goals in sight, I blanketed job sites with my resume, met with recruiters and began interviewing.
That’s when the fun began. I had not interviewed in years and apparently based on some initial flops, it was evident that my interview skills did not match my qualifications. After consulting with experts and fine tuning my approach, here are tips to nail your interview!
1) Zoom call ready: We are all familiar with the old adage “dress for success.” When attending a zoom interview (all of my interviews were on an interface platform) make sure you dress the part, head to toe. Dress professionally yet stay true to your personal style. Add a pop of color or a scarf if that is your vibe.
Ditch the yoga pants or pajama bottoms and put on your skirt or slacks. Wear your heels or boots as you would if attending the interview in person. If your hair, make-up and entire outfit is on point, your confidence soars.
2) Optimize your space: Find a quiet space in your home, preferably where Fido can’t be heard or seen. Remove distractions from your background so you are the focus of the interview. Ensure your space is organized and well put together. Keep things simple but don’t hesitate to include a few small items in your background that tell a little bit about you.
Avoid sitting in direct contact with overhead fluorescent or incandescent lighting which is not the most flattering. Find a seat that provides direct, natural lighting which will compliment your look.
3) Test your technology: I had an interview that I assumed was a zoom call but it was actually Microsoft Meeting. Luckily, I realized my mistake in enough time to download the program. Make sure your video and audio are activated. Test systems so you are ready for the interview when the call begins.
4) Emphasize results: I interviewed with a company where I had all the qualifications for the job yet I was not offered the position. When I asked for feedback from the hiring manager, she said I provided a list of tasks but I did not discuss the results or impact of my work throughout my career. Providing a laundry list of what you have done is great, but more importantly, what improvements did you make to the workplace, what are the tangible and measurable results and impact of the work you performed.
5) Prepared scenarios: Of course we never know exactly what will be asked in an interview but in most cases, there will be at least one or 2 questions that start with “tell me about a time when…” Be prepared to provide a thoughtful scenario based on how you either improved a process, added to value to your department, resolved a challenge or even mitigated a mistake you had made.
6) Research: Employers want to see that you are interested in their business so research the company ahead of time and ask specific questions about topics that interest you about them. For example, if you are impressed with their philanthropy work supporting local communities or their state of the art technology, come prepared with questions to learn more.
7) Practice your skills: Interviewing is a skill like any other. The more you practice the better developed the skill. Ask a friend, partner or spouse to invite you to a mock zoom call so you practice not only the technology but you can also roll play attending an interview. If you have a friend who is a manager and conducts interviews in his or her line of work, even better. It is tempting to have fun with the process, however, if you take the role play seriously, you will gain a lot from the experience.
8) Ask for feedback: If you don’t get hired for a position that you thought was a good fit for you, don’t hesitate to ask for feedback. If you prepared for the interview, researched the company, created an appropriate background and dressed the part, you earned the right to ask why they went in another direction. Of course be respectful and wish them luck with the selected candidate but also let them know their feedback will help you as you continue your job search.
It could sting so be prepared: I was told everything from “You are qualified but I can’t put a finger on why you are not the right fit” (Not helpful) to “you didn’t wow us” (Semi-helpful?) and “You didn’t provide us with results and impact” (Very helpful). The point is there will be rejection along the way and the more you understand why you didn’t get the job, the stronger your candidacy will be next time.
After about an eight week job search, I was offered two positions in the same week. It is admittedly a little intimidating to think about learning new processes and systems at my age however I am actually really excited about the new adventure.