Confronting Job Loss after 50
The world has become a shaky place – thanks to 2008 global financial crisis. Though the origin of the crisis is the USA, the collateral damage is still being felt all over the world leading to slower growth, lower investment, higher inflation (in emerging markets), and higher unemployment.
Hence, despite no fault of one, we may simply lose our job. However such job losses can be easily coped with if we are in the mid-twenties or thirties. The simple reasoning is organization structure is a pyramid with more people employed in the bottom than the top. Therefore there are more opportunities at the junior and middle level than the senior level. Hence, job loss becomes extremely difficult to cope if you are 50+; since you will invariably be in a senior position which is where most of the optimization happens.
Some of the immediate reaction to a job loss includes one or more of the following:
Dusting up and beefing up your CV
Reaching out to friends and acquaintances
Reaching out to placement consultants
Getting active with job sites/newspapers for job vacancies
In my observation, I find these measures more of a “reactive” response than a “proactive” response. In other words, we do all of the above post job loss or while we are serving the notice period and not before. When things go fine, we assume that it will be fine forever and hence the lethargy to take proactive actions. However, corporate failures can be swift and unanticipated. What may seem like a stable multinational (Enron) can quickly be flamed to dust in no time due to myriad reasons beyond your control.
I feel that if you have crossed 50, looking for a replacement job may actually produce sub optimal results especially if you have spent long time in your previous job. This is due to the change in the business environment that we operate in. As a response to cost management, companies resort to out sourcing of many of their non-core, and to an extent core, functions. Also, in a competitive environment, companies expect more from less. Hence, it may expect existing employees to increase their contribution thereby avoiding new recruitment. Such compression reduces the need to hire especially at the senior level.
Given this trend to outsource functions/tasks/operations, it may be a good idea to flip the coin and be on the other side of the spectrum in order to convert a threat into an opportunity.
In other words, be that provider of service which will help companies optimize cost and add value. With such a paradigm, following options emerge:
Consulting on a “Result” basis: It is quite tempting to start a consulting outfit (mostly with your initials as the name!) and go around shopping for assignments. To me it is the least differentiator (since there are many consultants around already). Instead, you may want to start thinking about “ideas” that can bring about cost efficiency and profitability improvements for a sector/sectors in which you have prior experience and familiarity. Propose that idea for implementation to key players in that sector whereby compensation for your service is directly linked to the “result” rather than your time. “Take it to the next level”: Not all ideas can hit the bull’s eye. As we implement, we may encounter various impediments necessitating mid-course correction. However, after a while, the idea gets perfected and is ready for commercialization on an even grander scale. This requires different skills set thinking in terms of a businessmen setting up a business. With clients already on a roll, try creating a business plan that will involve setting up an organization to handle the same idea on a larger scale with better technology and service parameters. This is how great companies were born and more importantly grew.
Expand your “network” to offer ideas: Most of the time our motive to be part of a network is to receive help rather than provide them. Alternatively, create a network comprising of like-minded people that will be interested to hear ideas from you and relate that to what they are doing. In the process, the “engagement coefficient” will dramatically improve providing more opportunities in the process. LinkedIn and Facebook provide ideal platform for such ambitions.
Engage in teaching or training: There is no other better way to synthesize your thoughts other than narrating your experience. Teaching provides an ideal platform for articulating and perfecting your ideas. It sharpens your skills in many ways since it requires meticulous planning, preparation and most of the time revisit to basics. All this helps in your business engagement when you engage in idea selling. Additionally, if your teaching can focus on training, it can also bring you in contact with corporate executives who may then become the key source of your business.
Having sufficient savings and capital is not a prerequisite to implement any of the above. The essential ingredients that we need are ideas, confidence, clarity, purpose, goal orientation and more importantly ability to dream. None of them need money as the source.