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CAREERS TODAY–Cautionary Tale From a Jobless Executive

Dear Joyce: At 54, I am an ex-senior manager. My titles have included executive vice president and general manager, senior vice president of business development, and vice president of sales and marketing. In 25 years of management experience, I’ve had profit-and-loss as well as global responsibilities for more than 150 employees.

I am sick and tired of human resource department managers sending me unsigned letters of rejection or telling me they will keep my r & #233;sum & #233; on file. Of all the departments I have managed , engineering, sales, administration and production , it appears that the HR departments have the least professional regard.

But HR people haven’t cornered the market in objectionable treatment. I am consulting at the rate of $125 an hour but am invited into interviews where small company presidents use the ploy of asking how I would handle certain problems when what they really want is to pick my brain for free rather than hire me.

Age discrimination is alive and well. I get passed over for positions I could do in my sleep. The “overqualified” rejection is polite: “You’ll get bored and this job isn’t an adequate challenge for you. We wouldn’t want to lose you in six months.” Maybe they’re right; I don’t know.

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I still have kids in college and retirement to pay for, as well as living expenses, so I can’t just do volunteer work. Please don’t give me cheerleading tips to “Get in shape. Do a good r & #233;sum & #233;. Hold a positive attitude.” I have that working for me.

I need facts, approaches, leads , all those things I’m supposed to know being a manager at 54. I sure missed the boat on learning how to seek employment. I didn’t know treatment in the job market could be this bad until I got a little taste of it, now that I am in a search.

, C.L.

C.L.’s letter is a cautionary tale: (l) The best time to learn job-search techniques is when you have a good job. (2) Obtain career insurance by being visible in professional organizations and keeping your circle of contacts in good working order.

Turning to C.L.’s immediate problem, here are some approaches:

1. Redirect your emphasis to networking, not answering job ads and slamming into HR staff whose younger gatekeepers see you as a high-maintenance (in health and pension costs) applicant. Don’t ignore ads but look for side doors , call friends and their friends and their friends until you hook up with a hiring decision-maker inside who will see your strengths, not just your liabilities.

Expand a strategy of making direct contacts with employers. Use your developing network to find out about job openings before they’re published. You must have made some friends in your industry in 25 years. Start with them and ask each for the names of three more contacts that you can call , keep the chain going, even if you have to make 30 calls a day. Maintain good records.

2. You’re a manager, so manage your own job hunt. Schedule 10-hour days, six days a week. Determine how many hours a day you’ll devote to sourcing jobs by calling, reading ads, sifting through the Internet’s job boards; how many hours you’ll devote to researching company and industry leads before following up; how many hours you’ll devote to E-mailing or postal-mailing a thanks letter after job interviews. Flexibly stick with your schedule, but give yourself vacation days.

3. Turn your difficulties into enjoyable achievements. On separate index cards, write every obstacle, challenge or problem you think is impeding your job search , such as age, job leads, market-rate pay or spousal support. Put the cards in a big jar. Rise 30 minutes early each day, draw out a card and write possible solutions to the day’s challenge.

4. You need more information about how to handle your challenges. Begin your campaign by taking a week for a reading catch-up. Besides bookstores and libraries, look at a career superstore Web site, Impact Publications (www.impactpublications.com).

Kennedy is a Cardiff-based syndicated writer and author of career guidance books. E-mail questions to her at (jlk@sunfeatures.com).

& #352;2000, Los Angeles Times Syndicate

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