So, how do you get a new job in midlife when you are, by and large, dealing with recruiters who are in early life?

While these individuals’ titles often refer to things like “talent acquisition," at these very nascent stages of their careers, have they really yet honed the skills to recognize and acquire talent? As a 50-something Gen X’er, I can tell you firsthand that it’s often beyond frustrating when seeking a senior role at an organization to have an initial screening with a 20-something that likely has very little appreciation or understanding of all your experiences. Yet, in today’s job market, this is how it goes.

So, how do you get past this step and get to the hiring manager, who will actually understand and respect your education, background, and expertise? And how do you just find a job, in general, with pervasive ageism in our country coupled with a narrowing funnel of senior roles?

Here are my 5 tips:

  1. Use concrete metrics to showcase your accomplishments: Tell the recruiter exactly what you have done in an easy-to-digest but concrete manner. Some examples include:
    • I have written and won three $1.5 million grants from the federal government.
    • I have raised $3 million from private donors for the museum I used to work for.
    • I exceeded my software revenue goal of $2 million for three consecutive years.
    • I wrote four pieces of legislation that were enacted into law.
      These are metrics that show your performance, and this is language that even a junior recruiter will understand. I realize it is challenging for many of us to self-promote, but you have to show the interviewer that you are not only a highly motivated individual, but you also hit milestones and achieve objectives.
  2. Use both your LinkedIn and your non-LinkedIn network regularly: now every time I apply for a job off a job board, I look and see if I have any first, second, or third-level LinkedIn connections to the company, and I reach out to that person to express my interest. I have even requested informational interviews. Having an insider working on your behalf by no means guarantees you will get the job, but it does give you a leg up by having somewhat of an imprimatur of approval attached to your resume. It also shows initiative, which is something that companies like to see.
  3. Introduce yourself to the organization you desire to join: a seasoned headhunter here in Washington, DC, once told me that 75% of all jobs out there are not even posted. Sometimes a company is considering posting a job and is just looking for the right person to appear, so if you really want to work somewhere, reach out to them. For example, two years ago, I was offered a job with a prominent national foundation, which I had to decline for personal reasons. However, I still remained passionate about their mission and their work. I reached out to the Vice President, who interviewed me, to let him know I was still interested in working with the organization in some capacity. Often, this can turn into a contract gig, which can tie you over until the next new thing appears.
  4. Get on the radar of the executive search firms: obviously, one thing you need to realize is that the headhunters work for the companies, not you. But every industry has its niche executive search firms, and it’s definitely beneficial to get on their radar screens. For instance, there is one top firm in town that focuses on searching for lobbyists. I make sure I let one of their recruiters know where I am interviewing, what I am looking for, and where I am in my job process. They will then at least keep you in mind when postings you may be suitable for become available.
  5. Stand out of the crowd! Use the attachments: if you are primarily applying online via job boards, like most job seekers today, there is often an opportunity (at times) to attach more than just your resume. Believe me, I know cover letters are a pain. But they can help highlight your accomplishments, personality, and interest in the company or organization. A good cover letter may be the one thing that makes you stand out from the competition. In addition, I would encourage you to attach other items they allow for: transcripts (if you had a stellar GPA), letters of recommendation (I asked for one from my previous CEO), and writing samples or presentations. In fact, if your job involves a lot of writing, you may even consider developing a personal website to showcase your portfolio. Recruiters are busy and get tons of resumes, so sending them an easily accessible link is a great way to quickly distinguish yourself.

In sum, remember that recruiters are not only busy, but they are also young. It gets harder to find a job in midlife. You are now very experienced, and the upper-echelon jobs are not as available as the entry-level and mid-level ones. So find a way to distinguish yourself from your competition in this professional job search! I hope these tips have helped.