Want To Be Employed In Your 50s And 60s? Do These 4 Things Now.
I wrote a blog post a while back imploring expat Kiwis to return home.
But the overwhelming emotion expressed in the more than 400 comments and emails I got from expat Kiwis was frustration, if not outright anger.
Many of them blamed the high cost of living on their decision not to return home – a subject for another blog, by someone far more qualified than I am.
But the rest of the comments were predominantly from people at a senior level in their career, who despite having clearly gained some excellent experience abroad, felt they were completely locked out of returning home.
HERE ARE SOME OF THEIR STORIES…
“My experience in moving back after 12 years away is that my overseas experience is not valued highly…With a very few exceptions, when HR/recruitment specialists talk about experience, they are looking for 5-8 years experience (whereas I have more than 25).”
“I came home after 19 years away and was very happy to be home….(but) every job for a 43 year old with a finance background required a deep local network. Employers happily met with me but all said they preferred candidates they had known for 10 plus years, with a local network….There are hardly any senior roles in NZ (another thing I found is that people stick to good jobs for a very long time as there are so few alternatives).”
“Four of my 7 grandchildren are there and I’m quite desperate to return but have no hope….of obtaining a position. I have now been away over ten years and have been trying for the last three or four to return home.”
On the surface of it, it seems that these people are having trouble returning home because they’ve been abroad for so long. But I believe most of these stories actually have more to do with the writer’s level of seniority, than the fact they’re an expat.
IT’S HARDER TO FIND WORK ONCE YOU REACH A SENIOR LEVEL
If I’m honest, I wrote that post with a certain group of people in mind: what we in the industry call the ‘OE returner’ profile. These are people at an intermediate level in their career (say 5-15 years experience); the type of people our clients have the most trouble finding.
These intermediate-level professionals have absolutely no problem re-entering the market, provided they’re following a few crucial guidelines. It’s simply down to the structure of the market: there are many more roles at this level, and (due to the tradition of the ‘OE’), fewer people to fill them.
Once you reach a senior level though, it’s much, much harder to find good opportunities – whether you’re already working in NZ or not. Incidentally, I’m not convinced this is a uniquely NZ problem, but I have a hunch that it probably is exacerbated here by the tendency of multinationals to base senior roles elsewhere in AsiaPac.
It’s something that’s troubled me for years, partly for selfish reasons. I’m still in my 30’s, but I’d love to know what I need to start doing now to make sure I have no trouble finding satisfying, well-paid work in my 50’s and 60’s.
I’ve spoken with dozens of senior-level people over the years who, despite their sometimes stellar careers, have found themselves struggling to find a decent job. Their stories are often heart-breaking.
But there are people who seem to escape this destiny. Their careers are thriving, they find new opportunities with ease, and most importantly; they love their work.
Since I wrote the expat blog, I’ve spent a lot of time speaking to these people, asking what advice they’d give others approaching or already at a senior level in their careers. They were all in agreement on four things.
DO THESE 4 THINGS NOW
Whether you’re already at a senior level in your career, or still in your 30’s or 40’s, doing these things now will keep you in demand for as long as you want to keep working.
1. Replenish your network
The vast majority of senior roles are filled through recommendations and word of mouth; you won’t find them on job boards. So now, more than ever, you need to focus on your network.
Most people know this already. Where they go wrong is in letting their network stagnate. Your peer group is going to age and retire. You need to keep replenishing your pool of professional contacts by nurturing relationships with people on an upward trajectory in their careers.
All of the people I spoke with were also expert at networking outside of their profession – forming strong ties with CEO’s, sales and marketing or ops people, for example.
2. Keep your eye on the ball in your 40’s
If you’re in your 40’s, this scenario might sound familiar: You’ve worked hard to get where you are, and now you’re coasting along pretty comfortably. You take your foot off the gas while you focus on other areas of life that need attention: Elderly parents, children, outside businesses or investments and so on.
That’s understandable. But you still need to keep learning and growing in your career. Otherwise, by the time you try to get back into the game, you’ll find it’s already too late.
3. Figure out what you do best
Just having years of experience under your belt isn’t enough to win you job security or a good salary. Employers will invest big money in you only because you have something they badly need. So understand what you can do that few others can, and focus on that.
And don’t assume that your specialty will always be in-demand. It’s up to you to follow emerging trends and figure out how you can develop your existing skill set to solve the most pressing problems employers are currently facing.
4. Look after yourself
Something seems to happen when people hit their 50s and 60s. All of a sudden, there’s a divergence between people who seem 10 years younger than they really are, and those who seem 10 years older. It’s got nothing to do with wrinkles and grey hair, and everything to do with energy, curiosity and enthusiasm – things the people I spoke with had in spades.
For them, part of the equation seems to be attitudinal, stemming from their commitment to keep learning, and sharing ideas with people outside their peer group. The other part is physical – getting enough exercise and sleep, eating well and so on.
WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T LEAVE IT UP TO CHANCE
You may have found it easy to find good work for most of your career. But it will get harder.
Unless you’re independently wealthy and happy to retire early, you’re going to need a strategy to make sure you’re in demand right through your 60s. Don’t leave it up to chance.