Career and Age

While it is illegal to discrimate against employees on the basis of age in most markets, it is still an almost universal practice globally.

Virgin Airlines in Australia was recently found to have discriminated on the basis of age in their hiring practices. The authorities were not able to find any evidence of systematic discrimination during the hiring process, but instead did a statistical analysis of the age of all Virgin Airline employees, found a huge skew towards young people, and Virgin was found guilty.

This is unlikely to happen to many firms, and age discrimination will continue to be an issue for anyone over about 35. Employers now just use euphamisms like “over-qualified” to mean too old, or just use alternative reasons to reject candidates they feel are “past it”.

Being “too old” usually means that you are outside an age band which the employer considers typical for the given level of seniority. They may feel that an older person cannot be shaped as easily, or won’t be flexible enough to adapt to the corporate culture. If their qualifications and experience exceed that which is required, they will be concerned that the employee will get bored and discontented in the role. They may be scared that the employee will be more qualified than they are.

While we all know these concerns are unjustified, things are not going to change in a hurry, so it is important to factor this into your career plans. You may be 25 now, able to walk into a job any time you want in a talent short market, but in ten years time in the middle of a recession, things will look very, very different. It is hard to imagine, but make sure in 2017 you don’t find yourself across the desk from an interviewer (who was 15 years old in 2007), looking at you with contempt in her eyes and saying “we will call you”.

 Plan ahead. Make your you have a skill-set which will remain in demand, and keep it up-to-date. Don’t put yourself in a position where you have to apply for jobs you are “over-qualified” for.  Network heavily. Specialise, but have foresight, and if your specialisation will be extinct in ten years, make sure that you know what the next big thing is going to be in your industry.

Plan ahead!

Negotiating Salary – follow-up post

In an earlier post I made some suggestions about negotiating salary.  Penelope Trunk just wrote an interesting post on her blog on how to negotiate from a position of weakness. In the context of salary negotiation this is very relevant if you are unemployed or very underpaid,  and are negotiating salary with a new employer. Basically it is the art of pleading for a favour. See the original post here .

Should I get an MBA?

I just answered a question on Linkedin on getting an MBA, and thought it was worth posting here. Whether or not to do an MBA is a staple of the careers and business section of newspapers, so I guess a lot of people are interested in MBAs as a career tool.

An MBA could well be beneficial for your career development, you just have to have a clear goal in mind. A Cost vs. Benefit analysis is a useful decision making tool here.

The tuition cost is anything from $40 to $100k depending where you study. Plus either a year or two out of work, or if you study part-time, three to four years of most of your non-work time. The opportunity cost plus tuition cost adds up to a lot…depending on your salary, you are looking at something like $300 to 500k.

So the benefits should be fantastic. Look past the acronym and the hype, and you find what is essentially a generalist graduate degree in Marketing, Operations, Finance and HR. MBAs are highly valued by certain large companies and consulting firms, which pay well, but you want to be getting a huge increase in salary or work satisfaction to pay off the cost of getting the degree.

If you go to the right school, the networking benefits certainly can’t be under rated. I did a short part-time course at a business school, and found the new friendships, networks as well as the new perspective on business to be fanastic…but didn’t do much else but study and work for six months…it was hard to imagine doing it for the three to four years it would take to finish the course.

If you are considering an MBA should make sure you absolutely love studying and gaining knowledge and that you have 100% buy-in from your family and any other stakeholders in your personal life.

You should also make sure that an MBA will clearly improve your professional brand. If you are just coming out of your undergraduate degree, and you have great marks, doing an MBA could be good if you want to get into consulting…just make sure you continue to get good grades.

If you have been working in jobs for many years where you have zero P&L and management responsibility, doing an MBA is unlikely to be a good move for you. It just won’t fit with your experience.

If you are pursuing a career as an “employee” i.e. trying to climb the ladder within a big firm in the traditional fashion, then an MBA may well be looked on positively, particularly if you are on the cusp of moving into a management level position.

Using Recruiters – Part 2

 The second part in my series on how job seekers can use third party recruiters more effectively

Getting a meeting

A good recruiter is aware that having a great resume is not necessarily an indicator of placeability. As long as your resume looks moderately okay, i.e. doesn’t make you look crazy or completely incompetent, a recruiter will generally meet you if he/she thinks you look like you might be ‘placeable’ . You can refer to my earlier post on placeability, but it is essentially a function of how attractive you are to their client employers, and how likely you are to accept an offer if you get one. You will be a lot more placeable to a recruiter who specialises in your area of expertise, so if you have sent an unsolicited resume, try and make sure you have sent it to someone who is knowledgable and respected as a recruiter in your area of expertise.

After you have sent in your resume, it will not hurt at all to follow up with a phone call…and then another phone call, and another if necessary. If you appear super-keen, that tells the recruiter that you are more likely to accept an offer if you get one, so your placeability increases. You shouldn’t give the impression that you are dealing with multiple recruitment firms – that makes you a much less attractive candidate to invest time in, as you may end up getting a job through someone else.

There are a couple of things to watch out for when meeting recruiters. Many larger recruitment firms have very strict KPIs (key performance indicators) which recruiters have to hit on a weekly basis. This is how large firms guarantee a certain level of performance per head of staff. A very common KPI is number of candidate meetings. If you get a call on a Thursday from a recruiter who is very keen to meet with you the next day, even though he doesn’t seem to have the perfect job in mind for you, it may be that you are just making up the numbers on his weekly candidate meeting KPI target.

Some firms have candidate ‘ownership’. A recruiter may just want to meet you so that they ‘own’ you, and get a portion of the fee if you happen to get placed. The problem with this is that it will make you a less attractive candidate for any job, because if that job is ‘owned’ by a different recruiter within the firm, he/she will have to share the fee with the recruiter who ‘owns’ you the candidate. The job-owning recruiter will prefer to place one of their own candidates.

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Using recruiters – Part 1

Recruiters are a fantastic resource for job-seekers…they spend much of their time developing and maintaining relationships with hiring managers…meaning they often know about requirements before the internal HR people do, and can use their credibility with that manager to get candidates they represent interviewed for jobs.

Every professional should work on building relationships with recruiters in their area of specialisation. But don’t be naive…recruiters work for you only as long it is in their best interests. You should go into the relationship understanding exactly what is motivating your recruiter.

The first thing to understand is how recruiters are remunerated. Most recruiters are extrinsically $$. A candidate who interviews to work at a recruitment firm, and says they want to be a recruiter because they “want to help people”, will be laughed out of the room.

 Most recruiters are payed a large commission on top of a relatively small base salary, so their results really make a difference to their take-home pay. Some firms pay bonuses based on group performance, and others on individual performance. In some firms the recruitment fee is split between the person who found the candidate, and the person who deals with the client. Some recruitment firms will work mostly on “retained” assignments, where the client pays a portion of the fee up-front…others work on a 100% success fee basis. Sometimes one recruitment firms works exclusively on a role , other times multiple recruitment firms work on one role.

The relationship with the client, and the way they are remunerated, will impact how the recruiter behaves during the screening, interviewing and offer processes.

Ask the recruiter what their relationship with the client is, and how they get paid…this will help you understand how they are motivated…and how you can use them, to help you.

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Hot career planning tip

If you are considering whether or not to take a job, and you are having trouble deciding if it is the right move for you, try this trick.

 Put a date on your resume 3 years in the future, and write the job into your resume. Look at your resume with the opportunity included and examine how you feel. Are you happy to be that person? Does the job seem to lead naturally into the next role?

This will help you make sure that you are accepting the job for strategic reasons, not opportunistic ones.