Dear J.T. & Dale: My position was eliminated recently, and I am starting my first big career search after 18 years of full-time employment. Help!
J.T.: First, let me congratulate you on 18 years of employment. That’s an excellent track record. However, it may also work against you.
DALE: There was a time when employers balked at hiring a “job hopper.” Many still do. What’s different is our societal obsession with the new, thus establishing a hazard on the other end of the “job-hopping” continuum: “job-sitting.” You might think a long tenure with one company would evoke admiration for patience, persistence and stability. However, unless you have a history of personal development and career growth within that organization, prospective employers are going to wonder why you stayed in one place, and why you were suddenly turned out. It is the nature of hiring managers to wonder what went wrong.
J.T.: You’ll overcome those suspicions by being a subject-matter expert, one who can immediately help a new employer. Where to start? Create your interview bucket list — a list of companies that you want to work for. Then start putting to work all those contacts you developed in 18 years. There were suppliers, consultants and current and former co-workers to whom you now can turn for introductions.
DALE: Your goal will be to turn those introductions into conversations in which you will sell yourself by not selling — you go in determined to learn enough about their companies to figure out how to help them solve problems, save money or further management’s goals. In other words, you go to those first meetings with questions, not boasts. Do you really think being a seen-it-all yammerer is impressive? No; we all want to work with those who ask and listen, and then — key word THEN — suggest.