Tough question…but, it shouldn’t be.
Although there is no “one and only” expert when it comes to the nuts and bolts of putting together a strong and effective job search strategy, there are a whole lot of folks out there giving advice that ranges from “not really accurate” to horribly wrong.
The frustrating part for job seekers is that they often hear presentations by or have one-on-one discussions with people (describing themselves as career experts) who may speak about similar topics, but provide sometimes wildly different advice. Unfortunately, this wide range of advice/opinions not only confuses the job seeker, but often adds significantly to their already high levels of confusion, frustration, anxiety, and diminishing feeling of self-confidence and self-worth.
For example, during a recent networking event co-sponsored by my company, one of the attendees (who has been in transition for several months) told me that she had attended a presentation at a local job seekers group at which the presenter (local career/job search/recruiting “expert”) stated to the 60 some attendees:
“I see from looking around the room that most of you are in your 50’s or 60’s. Well, I’m not going to say that you won’t be able to get another job, but you’ll most likely be unable to get something at the same level as what you just came from, and probably will not be able to find something outside of that industry”.
WHAT..!!! That is not how you go about motivating a group of folks who are already feeling badly about themselves due to an unexpected job loss. Plus – It is not true!
I asked this person if she might have misperceived what had been stated by the speaker. “No”, she replied. “Everyone in the room looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders and said, ‘well, then…what are we doing here?’. At that moment I felt like I might never get another decent job”.
I am asked to speak at corporate outplacement firms and job seekers groups about 80 times a year. On my worst day, I cannot see myself telling the job seekers assembled to hear me, the invited guest (expert) speaker, that they are “too old to get a good job”…Mostly because I just do not believe it and also – It Just is Not True!!!
This job seeker went on to tell me that another “expert” (recruiter) had told her – when she asked about the most effective manner in which to present her transferable skills (her objective was to change careers) – that, “You won’t be able to get out of the industry you are in. Don’t worry about focusing on transferable skills…that is overrated and has little to do with you getting another job”.
Hiring managers are focused on what skills/expertise/competencies you bring to the table. Case in point – Several years ago I worked with a college graduate on his job search. He had graduated with majors in Computer and Electrical Engineering and was seeking to find an entry level position as an Electrical Engineer designing control systems for custom built machines for large manufacturers. His only work experience at that time was 6 years at a local grocery store…with his title being, “Beer Aisle Manager”.
On the surface, one might perceive that to be a bit of a stretch to go from stocking beer to designing electrical schematics and programming complex control systems for large production machinery. As it turned out, his skill set matched up extremely well with the key competencies being sought by the engineering firm that ultimately wound up hiring him. That firm was seeking a college graduate, with a major in Electrical Engineering, having demonstrated expertise/proficiency in the following areas:
• Project Management
• Team building
• Decision Making
• Customer Service
• Attention to detail
Guess what…he had numerous examples of his ability to apply all of these skills to produce exceptional outcomes.
After two interviews, he received a job offer…not the Beer Aisle Manager from the grocery store…but the guy who had all of those key skills/competencies that the employer felt would transfer well to their specific environment and culture.
Transferable skills not relevant…I absolutely disagree. I’ve assisted nearly 900 people with their job searches over the last 4 years and a significant number of those folks (the majority of whom, by the way, were in their 50’s and 60’s) earned a job offer as a result of proving that their skill set was transferable.
So…why do people like the recruiting expert tell a room full of job seekers that such things don’t matter or that they are too old to get a “good job”…?
Can’t answer that one, but it is terribly frustrating for those of us out there trying to provide the best advice possible to people in transition. Advice that is actionable and proven to improve a candidate’s job search results. We’re not telling people that they are too old to matter or that skills aren’t transferable…because that is just not true. We are trying to help and motivate those with whom we speak…the folks who are spending those evenings at networking events and in the basements of churches at job seekers group meetings…people who are reaching out and trusting that the advice received from supposed experts is correct.
So, how can you avoid job search/career “experts” who are really not so? Here are a couple of tips:
• Check out the speaker’s profile on LinkedIn…Do they have any recent recommendations from people who they have assisted w/job searches or from those who may have heard them make presentations on job search related topics?
• Check out the firm at which the speaker works. What do they do? What is his/her position there? What is their background (again, LinkedIn) and does that background seem to fit w/their being an expert related to resume writing, interviewing and networking skills, and putting together an effective job search strategy/plan?
• Was the expert ever in transition themselves? Have they walked in your shoes?
• When was the last time the speaker/expert actually was involved in hiring someone (I’ve had people, who asked for my assistance regarding their resumes, tell me that, “Well, my resume should be good, I’ve had an expert work on it already”, only to find out that the “expert” is their next door neighbor who had absolutely no HR, recruiting or hiring experience at all!)?
If the results of just this research don’t convince you that the person is really an expert related to job searches…well, why put yourself through the frustration of hearing poor advice that is probably mostly opinion vs. the result of years of actual experience.
Reading a book about job searches does not make someone a job search expert. Anyone can claim they are a Career Coach…doing so does not make them one.
So much of the success of a job search is the result of preparation and the effort put into researching potential employers, industries, hiring managers, culture fit…etc. Save yourself some grief and frustration by extending that same effort to those who claim to be job search/career related experts. Isn’t the job search already tough enough without throwing another log on the fire by listening to or working with a job search expert who really isn’t one?