JOB HUNTING AFTER 50
If you're a job seeker over 50 and are being interviewed by a millennial (age 25-35) don't freak out if they're not wearing socks.
It's just a thing they do. Let it go.
That was the advice from Erica Briggs
at last weeks' Job Fair for the Over 50s, which was organized by Goodwill Industries of the Columbia Willamette. Goodwill's Job Connection service puts on job fairs and
skill trainings all the time for the general public, but the time has come to get niche. The fair was held at the Portland Metro Workforce Training Center at 5600 N.E. 42nd Ave. More than 100 people showed up to meet 19 Portland-area hiring managers who were specifically looking to hire in this age group. They walked from table to table, doing casual meet and greets and dropping off resumes.
In a classroom across the courtyard there were 20-minute seminars on subjects like how to interview with a millennial and how to update your resume.
Unemployment is low by Oregon standards: 4.4% in March 2019. (It is 4.3% in California and 3.8% in the US.) And that means employers are welcoming groups they might routinely ignore: All kinds of minorities, including people past their peak working years.
Wages may not be rising quickly, but benefits are improving and the turnaround time is shrinking. The median period unemployed Oregonians are was nine weeks in 2017, whereas it was 23 weeks during the Great Recession in 2010.
Goodwill's educational specialists Lisa Allen and Erica Briggs led the classes. Briggs said she once had an interview subject who came in flips flops. Her millennial colleague said to give him a try and he turned out to be one of their best employees.
The message was, don't judge by appearances.
One attendant said they had been interviewed by a millennial and the millennial's body language was all off. "Like they were uncomfortable," she added.
"They may not have been able to check their phone during that time," suggested someone else innocently.
Longevity, loyalty and ambition
The teachers were dealing with a communication barrier between two groups
who seem to need each other. Allen
said don't emphasize staying with one company.
"You might say 'I'm really proud to say that I've worked at one place, I've been at Google for 10 years. And that makes me feel good.' But sometimes a millennial might look at that 10 years and say 'How come you stayed there that long?'"
At that point, she advised, you talk more about the quality of the experience than the quantity.
"That's really what they're interested in. And that's a trend that's actually shifting things around. So, talk about the things that you've accomplished in those jobs."
Her second point was about loyalty.
"Again, the idea that being in the same place for a long time is impressive. Not so much with millennials. Millennials change jobs frequently, every two years. (If) they're not getting what they want, they leave."
She said dispel the notion of sticking it out, and stress what you liked about the job: the work and the people.
Briggs said stories are important.
"It's important to have stories to back up your claims of all your awesome things that you know how to do. But make sure that when you're telling your story you keep it short and succinct because I know we tend to go on. Keep it very clear, and how that experience directly relates to the job that's available."
Read the fine print
Allen also offered a tip to read job descriptions all the way through. She knew of one man who noticed that it said "write your name backwards in the subject line." It was a hack to weed out people who don't follow instructions.
"He got a call two days later. And they said, 'I can't believe you read the whole thing!' So, it's getting way more complicated. You've got interviewers now who won't even get on the phone with you for the first interview. They'll give you a phone number to call. You've got 30 seconds to get the answers to preconceived (questions) that they tell you over the phone. There's not even a human being on the phone with you. And if you pass that screening process, then they'll actually give you a call back. (Looking for work) is more casual, but more complicated."
With all the talk of bare feet, someone asked what to wear to an interview? The advice was to stake out the parking lot at closing time and see what people who worked there wear, then step it up a level.
"You want to show respect, right? And you want to feel good about yourself."
The next call was to keep up with social media, chiefly LinkedIn, since all employers look you up there sooner or later. One woman complained that she had been on a course to learn how to use LinkedIn but had forgotten it all. Allen urged everyone to join industry associations and follow them to keep up on the latest trends and read articles posted about their field.
Allen added in closing to rally the jobseekers, "Remember, there's lots of people to hire in this world. And they've asked you to sit in front of them, so feel good about yourself. We have maturity, we have knowledge, we have wisdom, we have experience. And we're right there. And we'd like to also sustain their business. Right? You have great selling points."
Real jobseekers of Portland
After the millennials class one attendee, who did not want to give her name because she was fleeing an abusive partner, said
she recently had a $35 an hour job in government in Florida, but was finding it hard to find anything similar after moving here to Portland.
Another one, Karen Coleman, said she had worked in collections, taught behavioral science, worked in human resources,
in logistics with the Red Cross and in grant writing. She reflected the view in academia is that millennials are teacups, well-formed but liable to shatter at the first challenge.
"The thing about these millennials, they know it all today, something goes wrong and they'll be 'Help!'"
Coleman also has management experience but was not really looking for that.
"I'm not hung up on being the manager today because the nice thing about being the manager is when things go well, you get all the accolades. You might get the bonuses, but on the other hand, if things go wrong, you're Captain Smith, you're going down with the ship."
Kate Guinn was there prospecting for the janitorial firm MSNW where she is the regional branch administrator. MSNW is growing in Portland, hiring in landscaping, janitorial and maintenance.
Guinn said most of the people who dropped off their information were people who've done landscaping or janitorial before. Pay starts at $12.50 for a beginner janitor. They train from scratch. They also have floor care technicians (waxing and polishing) and lead janitors who make around $15 based on the client's budget, supervisors.
MSNW uses an app, but that's about it for technology.
"We are primarily a paperless company," said Guinn. "We do have an app that is available to our employees, when they log in, we the clock in their time, do pay stubs and enter W2 forms. But the essential functions of their job, it's not a requirement that they be super tech savvy. And it's just good old-fashioned hard work. I think it applies directly to this demographic of people because just as long as you work hard and are willing to do the job and learn the job, you're in."
She considered it a "very successful" day.
"I met a lot of great people, a lot of great candidates, and we have several interviews set up as a result. So we're excited. If someone's a rock star, then we'll start with that person. But we try to interview two to three people." Interviewers typically ask what chemicals they would use, how they would handle a situation.
Chelsea Moe is the store personnel clerk at WinCo at 182nd and Powell, doing hiring, payroll and benefits. In talking to around 50 jobseekers that day, Moe was stressing the "wonderful benefits" available to new staff.
"Most of our positions start as part-time but we do offer benefits to part-time employees (who average 25 hour a week). There's a lot of people don't know that. And we have a 401k plan and paid vacation after one year."
The most basic job is cart clerk, going outside gathering of the carts. The starting wage for that is $12.05 an hour. Then there are free crew stockers, who stock shelves. They get paid $12.20 an hour, or $12.70 if they work between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m. Wages go up 50 cents an hour after the first 1,040 hours worked.
"I would say at any given time, we have three to four positions posted. We're always looking for it. Typically, it's the free crew, the deli and cashier."
Moe said she can't explain the turnover in staff. But she had no special questions for people over 50.
"If you can do the job, that's what we're looking for. That's all we need."
She also talked to quite a few job coaches and job trainers — people who are finding jobs for other people.
Moe read out a few of the business cards: "Goodwill, employment specialist,
client service coordinator, Workforce Training Center, Native American Youth and Family Center, appointment specialist..."
Age doesn't faze her. "I wouldn't judge for the sake of gender, race, disabilities or anything like that. We're going to give everyone a chance."
Reporter, The Business Tribune
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