Dear J.T. & Dale: I’m 57 years old. I’ve was laid off two years ago and have been looking for a job ever since. I have accepted the fact that I will never make the salary I made before, but now I can’t get anybody to consider me for positions junior to what I was doing before. What am I doing wrong? – Laura
J.T.: It’s probably not that you are doing anything wrong; you are just not doing enough of the right things. At this age, you have to have a great career story that connects the dots and explains this journey. You need to network with companies where you would like to work and explain to them all they have to offer you that makes you really want to work for them, even if it’s at a junior level. This kind of self-marketing takes practice. It has to be a balance of intellectual humility and emotional intelligence. Unfortunately, this is something we are not taught, and many people as they get older fail to communicate themselves effectively, especially with younger hiring managers. My advice is to get some coaching on the way you’re presenting yourself and on your networking strategy.
DALE: Many people who’ve had long careers are stuck with the old escalator mindset – you land your first job, then the company offers you a series of promotions and raises, moving you steadily upward. This meant that you just did good work, and your progress took care of itself. Nope. It’s no longer that kind of economy. I’d urge you to stop thinking of labels like Senior and Junior and think instead of these two career determinants: skills and connections. Restart your career efforts and this time sell your skills, as opposed to looking for a job, and that mind-shift allows you to broaden your thinking to consider contract positions, as well as consulting and other forms of self-employment. Then, ask yourself, who are the best candidates for buying my skills? That’s where your long career becomes a massive advantage. Everyone you’ve ever worked with could be a connection. You’ll need to learn how to use LinkedIn and other resources, but you’ll soon find and reconnect with your former colleagues, and many of them will be pleased to help you.
Dear J.T. & Dale: I realize this is going to sound silly, but I honestly cannot take it anymore. My co-worker just got fake nails for the first time. She absolutely loves them; however, they make the worst clicking sound on her keyboard. I sit next to her, and the clacking is so loud that I want to scream. Please tell me there is something I can do to fix this problem, because I am going to go insane. – Larissa
J.T.: I’ve been giving career and workplace advice for 20 years, and this is a first. But, honestly, I get it – my husband has said to me that I am a loud typist. I offer you the same advice I gave him: Invest in some noise canceling headphones. And if your coworker asks why you are suddenly wearing headphones, you can politely explain that you love her new nails but have come to find that they are a bit of a distraction when she types; however, you didn’t want to bother her with it, so you got yourself something to solve the problem. That way she’ll know how much you respect her and didn’t want to hurt her feelings.
DALE: Anyone who’s a regular reader of this column can guess my response this issue: Yes, we have here another shut-your-piehole situation. Further, I’d say that J.T.’s advice – to shut your earhole – comes with a downside. Some colleagues, possibly including your managers, are going to feel you’re shutting them out. They might even think you’re listening to music or your cellphone and not focusing on your work. Maybe they’ll say something, and you’ll explain, but, oh my, now it’s a mess. Better to exercise some self-discipline and overcome the annoyance. It’s just white noise if you let it be.
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a career coach and the founder of the leading career site www.workitdaily.com. Dale Dauten is founder of The Innovators’ Lab and author of a novel about H.R., “The Weary Optimist.” Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803. (c) 2021 by King Features Syndicate Inc.