Friday, March 09, 2007

Over 50 and Changing Careers in High-Tech

I’m 52 and have been self-employed for over 20 years. During that time I have owned and managed two different boutique marketing services companies that specialize in creating, developing, and managing 3-D marketing environments and face-to-face marketing events. My client base has always been hi-tech/ telcom. My work has been project based, mostly large integrated B-to-B initiatives. My client contact level has always been VP or C level.

Within the next 5 – 7 years I would like to relocate to a new market, one where I currently have no presence, nor can gain it because of the geographic distance.

The market I’d like to move into is smaller and has a growing community of small/medium sized internet based advertising/marketing firms, primarily B-to-C. While I have the management and client interface skills that might be attractive to firms like these, I have no practical experience with web-based advertising/marketing.

My thoughts are this –
• In my current market, I could get a job working for a company similar to ones in my future market in account service/management, even if it’s an entry- or mid-level job.
• Due to my lack of specific experience I don’t think I’m hirable in any other area within my target companies, nor do I have the luxury of time to learn.
• Also dealing with clients, interpreting their needs, and communicating those needs to a creative/technical production team is one of my strong skill sets, though I would require additional OJT for the internet-based technical production.
• This would give me 3 – 5 years of specific practical experience before I make my move.

After this diatribe, here are my questions –
• Will anyone hire me in an entry level/mid-level position at age 52, specifically considering that the firms I would look to are populated with 25-35 year olds (though I do have the ability to engage and work well with that group)?
• How would I structure a resume to get considered? Moving into a new and smaller market, will I be employable with this addition to my resume at age 57-58?

Any other thoughts? Thanks for your time.
-- David

by Bridget Oakes, Senior Search Consultant

Monster has an interesting article, Career Change and the Seasoned Worker by Susan Bryant. While the advice in this article applies to your situation in a general sense, I’m sure it’s not the whole answer.

Let’s take your questions one by one:

Will anyone hire me into an entry level/mid-level position at age 52, specifically considering that the firms I would look to are populated with 25-35 year olds (though I do have the ability to engage and work well with that group)?

I want to be clear: Age discrimination is a very real problem, but I don’t think that’s the challenge you’ll be facing in your situation. Yes, many of these internet marketing firms are populated by the “wired” generation, but that doesn’t mean that relevant experience isn’t of value in these companies. However, you do have two huge disadvantages here:

#1 – You are competing for jobs for which there are many qualified candidates.
If I was reviewing resumes for entry- to mid-level positions, and I came across someone with your level of experience, I would think, “Not the right experience and way too expensive” and promptly move on to the next resume. Many employers have also had bad experiences with the recently “self-employed”, as they can be unwilling to take direction from others. I’m not saying this is the case with you, I’m saying it’s another hurdle you’ll have to face in the process.

To overcome this, you are going to have to aggressively market yourself to companies in this field, and address these concerns directly. Sell your skills that directly apply to the position (like client interface and management) and your willingness to consider lower level positions to learn this new business. You must be absolutely clear that salary, benefits, management status, title, etc., are your secondary considerations. You are in this to gain experience on the cutting edge of this technology.

#2 – Your motives may not appeal to employers. You are looking to gain experience in your current region with the long-term goal of relocating to a new area in the next couple of years. Many companies will see your attempt to use them as “stepping stones”, which might raise some big red flags.

This is going to be more difficult to overcome, and with the exception of not mentioning your long-term goals, I can’t think of a way around the issue. However, your long-term goals will likely be discussed in any interview, so it’s best to face it head on and honestly, and let the potential employer decide if this is a relationship they are willing to pursue.

How would I structure a resume to get considered?

In a situation like this, a resume is not your friend. This is not a situation where you can apply for positions in the local newspaper or online and expect to see results. Get off the internet and get on the phone. Talk to these people and give them your sales pitch. I’m sure you’ve made cold calls before, and that’s exactly what it’s going to take now.

Moving into a new and smaller market, will I be employable with this addition to my resume at age 57-58?

That will depend on your quality of experience, quality of results, and ability to apply that experience to the new market, all of which will be more relevant than your date of birth.

However you approach the situation, this is going to be a challenge and I make no guarantees it will work.

Some General Thoughts:

Evaluate your plan.
What specifically is holding you back from making forays into your target market now? Geography has never been less of an issue! Along the same lines, what is prohibiting you from maintaining your current client base and business model from a new location?

Get serious about the change.
Make the time to learn these new skills; taking the time to do this is critical to any business let alone a job search. You need to make a commitment to learn about these new technical skills. You cannot expect that someone will be willing to take the time to teach and train you. Making an honest effort to learn these things on your own will be a giant leap in the right direction and will serve you well when you discuss potential employment.

Enlist help.
You may want to try to locate a search firm that specializes in your targeted field, and talk to them about how to approach this career change. You will face challenges here as well because the search firm will have to face these same issues when marketing you to companies.

Examine other possibilities.
Do you have existing clients that could benefit from working with an internet-based advertising/marketing firm? Is this a way to build a relationship with a firm in your desired geographic area and partner with them to expand the services you currently offer?

David, I wish you the best of luck with this challenging transition.

Bridget Oakes is a Senior Search Consultant with Partners in Technology. With nearly 10 years experience in executive search and recruiting, she is well equipped to provide advice and guidance to candidates searching for new careers, and welcomes the opportunity to do so through The Job Lounge.

Susan Ireland’s Two Cents
Job Lounger, do you have a question? Email ( it to me and I’ll post your question and an expert’s answer here in The Job Lounge.

1 comment:

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