Podcast #206 – Baby Boomer Job Search Strategies in 2021 with Robin Ryan


This week, I will be interviewing Robin Ryan one of the top career coaches and resume writers in the US.

Here is a snippet from her website:

The Boston Globe calls Robin Ryan America’s top Job Search Expert. If you are looking for help with your career, call on Robin Ryan. The media frequently calls on Robin to offer her expertise. She’s appeared on over 2000 TV and Radio shows including Oprah, Dr. Phil, NBC Nightly News, CNN, and NPR. Her advice has been seen on the pages of the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Houston Chronicle, Forbes, Money just to name a few.

She also writes a regular column for Forbes.

This episode is sponsored by Career Pivot. Check out the Career Pivot Community. Make sure and pick up my latest book, Repurpose Your Career: A Practical Guide for the 2nd Half of Life Third Edition.

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Now on to the podcast…

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Welcome to the Repurpose Your Career podcast. I have the real joy of having Robin Ryan on the podcast, who is one of the nation’s leading, or as she calls herself America’s Top Career Expert. So, Robin, welcome to the podcast.

Thank you for having me.

Marc 5:15
As I’ve been having various people come on the podcast and talk about what they’re seeing, who’s your target customer? Who do you work with?

Robin 5:23
Many are between 40 and 65. So a lot of baby boomers right now. But I also have a pocket of students that are new grads. My own son just graduated in June. And I set up that program a couple of years ago when a client called and said, can you help my son? He’s never going to find a job. And so I did. And so I get some of those younger ones. They are so discouraged because they feel like there’s just nothing out there for them at all. A

And then the Baby Boomers, the ones that I work with, have either lost their job or they’re going to lose their job. And they suspect that’s going to happen soon. They took the retirement but didn’t really want to. So just so much change this year for everybody. Nobody’s happy. There’s not one person out there that’s happy.

Marc 6:27
I’m gonna have an employment lawyer on the podcast in the next couple of weeks. And she’s been calling it a dumpster fire of a year. Wow. That’s a big one. What are you seeing? What industries are they coming from?

Robin 6:48
You know, that’s a great question, because it isn’t like they’re just in one fraction. Certainly, in the beginning, people from the hotel industry came. And certainly, we did a lot of work with people from Boeing who are leaving. Some of the other big fortune five hundred that did layoffs, Deloitte, some of HP, and some of the others, I got a lot of those individual clients that came to me. But the piece that I’m finding now is that I’m seeing more executives, and they’re in different areas. And what they’re saying is that management decided after going through COVID they didn’t need as many managers. They didn’t need as many leaders and that they were maybe too top-heavy. And so they were letting people go because how one guy put it to me was what they told him was, “Hey, don’t take it personally. But if we don’t let people go, the whole ship is going under.” So you know, it was something that they were forced to do. Now, these people might be in different parts of the country, got a lot of people that were executives in the retail industry. So these are industries, you know, the entertainment industry, the retail industry, the airline’s industry, it shouldn’t be surprising to anybody that we’re talking about, you know, hospitality, these people are now looking at career changes, doing something completely different. And that’s probably the hardest news for them. Because most of them don’t want to do that. They’re too old. They don’t want to change. They say they don’t want to change at this age. But you know what the sad realization is, it’s not whether you want to, if you want to work, you’re going to have to work with the guy right now who his whole job was working for a huge hotel. And he planned galas. And he planned all the fundraising, galas, huge job. You know, it in May or June, he said he had like 21 of them planned. And of course, they all got canceled. But now he’s realizing this, this has gone away these big meeting planning events, these are disappearing. And so the sad realization and he’s telling me he’s just so super depressed because he loves the company land loved what he did. And it’s a loss. It’s grieving, you know. So it’s a big transition for a lot of people and staying at home. Now that we’re in the ninth month and we’re more isolated, emotionally very hard on people.

Marc 9:29
Where are you seeing people actually getting hired?

Robin 9:33
It’s taking a lot longer. And so I warn people that, you know, if you’re an executive, you’re looking at probably a year. If you’re, a middle-level person, at least six to 12 months. Where people are getting hired in the tech sector, which does not necessarily help all of the baby boomers. We are seeing people, some people getting hired in health care, but you have to have the specialty skills and so on. A lot of people don’t have those. I have found the hiring process to be pretty slow. And the other career counselors and experts that I talked to have said it’s been slow. Not saying it’s not in existence, but it’s been slow. If you are applying for an opportunity, the employers are very picky. They want everything. And they haven’t been willing to take career changers yet. They haven’t been willing to say, “Well, you’ve got everything, but you don’t have any of our industry experience.” And so we’re not going to do it. Because when they can’t see you, instead of doing four interviews, they’re doing like eight interviews, all the way up to the top. They can’t make up their mind. They’re so scared, they’re gonna make a mistake. No one can understand. How are they going to come on board? How are they going to start doing the work when, you know, they’re not in the office, and nobody’s leading the way? So, you know, it’s been a more challenging time. So an answer to your question is some people have started their own businesses, some have thought about consulting, only to find that the consulting arm has been pretty devastated by this pandemic. Some are doing part-time things, and some are on unemployment or living off severance. So it’s going to be a slow process, you’re not seeing people getting hired really quickly. It’s not lickety-split, it’s not going to be that way there because we’re looking at it has to start to recover. One other factor is the remote work is a paradigm shift. And it is a permanent change. Many executives, many baby boomers are happy about this, because they don’t want to relocate, they don’t want to move. But sooner or later, when we come out of the pandemic, there’s probably going to still be jobs where, you know, you’re doing customer-facing work, and they’re going to expect you to either move to their location or fly all the time. So you know, you have to keep that in mind too. When you’re making your choices. It’s very hard when you have a client that will say, Okay, now I know, I’ve been this great executive. I know I’ve, you know, run all the retail stores in the country, but I live in the middle of nowhere in, you know, Oklahoma, and I’m not moving. And, and I’m not near an airport, either. So you’re like, Okay, that’s really a problem. So that people move into Montana. That’s just somebody you know, a couple of people’s stories. That’s not the reality yet.

Marc 12:40
Yeah, it’s interesting. I’ve just written two blog posts, one was on how to transfer skills across industries. Because changing industries is really, really hard. It is, right? I’ve helped multiple people transfer industries. And when people look at your skill sets, they look at your business skills, and then they look at your industry skills. And they always look at the Industry Skills first. Even though that’s the easiest thing to learn. And so it’s really strange. It’s really difficult.

Robin 13:17
As I said, employers are scared right now they’re not making fast decisions. They’re not Do you know, a lot of the big fortune five hundred, still have hiring freezes going on. So they’re not promoting people inside, they’re not giving out bonuses. You know, they’re concerned as to what’s going to be left standing. The other major concern to is the people who are on unemployment, hoping that the government will do something so that we don’t have these 12 million people with no income at all here, right, the day after Christmas. They have been looking for a while, you know, they have been job hunting for a while. And a lot of them are discouraged. And when they get discouraged, they don’t look at all. They just stop.

Marc 14:04
We were talking before the call that there are, they believe, there may be up to 5 million baby boomers who have left the job market or who’ve been laid off and are not looking and therefore they don’t show up in the standard unemployment rate. Right. And at some point, they won’t likely want to come back and find a job but the answer comes when you know when to do that.

Robin 14:30
One other thing that I’m seeing too, is that I’m getting boomers that have come to me and said, my wife or my husband said I got to talk to somebody before I do this. They have found the pandemic to be extraordinarily difficult to perform their particular job. One guy is a marketing director for a medical device company. And he arranges all these conferences and goes to the conferences and they Demonstrate through surgeries how to do knee implants or hip implants and whatever. And he’s saying, it has just been so stressful and so hard. And just so, just so awful for me that I decided to retire. Well, I thought, Okay, well, that’s an isolated case. But then I started getting more emails and more calls for help. And, you know, what can I do? And should I leave? You know, that’s a really big question in a lot of people’s minds. You know, if I’m finding it so stressful, should I leave. And then I had one lady who was in a tremendous panic. She’s 63. She said, I work with a lot of young people, and they don’t care. And their behavior in her mind is not that good. And she said so the company was ordering everybody back to the office. And she felt because she had some underlying health conditions that this was gonna put her life in jeopardy, especially because she said, I don’t have any confidence in the young people worrying about me. And you know, not being careful. And so when she went to the HR and to her manager, they said, Well, your option is you can quit, you know. So I mean, you either come back or you quit, you know, you’re done. And I, people have been faced with very hard choices, very hard choices that because many times a baby boomer has underlying health conditions, by the time you’re in your 50s, and 60s, you know, my husband says, My husband’s a chiropractor. And he says, By the time we hit 40, we all got arthritis, maybe we don’t feel it yet, but we all got it. And, you know, by the time you get to be in your 50s, and early 60s, you know, the body doesn’t work the same way anymore. And you may have underlying conditions, maybe you’ve gone through cancer, maybe you’ve gone through, you know, other autoimmune diseases, maybe have diabetes. So there are many factors that people have to take into consideration for their own safety, too. This is not an easy time for anybody trying to make career decisions for themselves.

Marc 17:03
Yeah, next week on the podcast, Phyllis Ramsby who’s an employment lawyer, and this is an exact topic we’re going to be talking about, because, in general, I’m 64. I happen to be in almost perfect health. I’m not perfect. I’m kind of unusual, by the time you reach this age, my wife certainly has a number of pre-existing condition conditions, as they say, right. So you know, it’s, we live in odd times. So of the people, you’re working with, yeah. What have you seen that’s worked? And what are they doing?

Robin 17:39
Okay, so I am seeing some things that are working. The first thing is, many people that come to me are asking now for a resume and LinkedIn. And by marrying them together, and also understanding, I think what I bring to the table is after 30 years and writing over 5000 resumes, that I really have an insight into the industry, the business, the skill sets on all sides. And I’m able to work with HR and recruiters. You know, I teach resume writing and LinkedIn writing and interview coaching to Sherm society, Human Resource Management. And so that means I’ve got recruiters and HR directors, HR managers, HR, VP, HR staff, people, all in my classes, they’re learning for me. So I think that having a very targeted resume is important. It has to be results-oriented, you have to show what you’ve achieved. You can’t come to the table and say, well, the other good stuff I did was 12 years ago. But that’s not going to help your case. Some people, younger people, not so much older people, but younger people have been getting new skills, they’ve been going to LinkedIn learning, they’ve been picking up new skill sets, they’re advancing their Excel skills, they’re advancing their computer skills. I don’t see that with the boomers, most of them are not doing that. But the ones that are having success, LinkedIn has been really good in a couple of ways. One, you have to have a really good profile. It’s got to show your skillset. It’s got to show some accomplishments. It’s got to show you know who you are as a person, you need to have 300 to 500 connections. So creating that so that it really markets and brands you well that’s the first piece. And then the second piece is using those connections, trying to find referrals, trying to get the conversation started with people you know, as opposed to searching anybody who has the named recruiter after their name. If you’re in financial services, look for someone that you know who’s in financial services, and maybe recruits in financial services, or look at where your other colleagues work, for example, you decide to apply for a job in American Express, go to LinkedIn, go to Facebook, search your connections, does anybody work at American Express? Does anybody you know, know somebody who works at American Express, and then the smartest thing in the world you can do is ask for the referral, would you please forward my resume on, only 7% of people are able to get referrals or use referrals. And yet, the new stats that we’re seeing says 46% of them get hired. So the, you, that’s a good technique to get away from the pack, but the pieces all have to be together. One other trick is cover letters, cover letters are making their way back if you write a good cover letter that focused on the employer, not on you. So the difference would be, you know, I saw your ad in the paper, and I’m applying and I’d be a really good candidate, blah, blah, blah. You know, it’s about me. Instead, it started out with I’ve got 10 years managing large teams, on big projects. And that’s the expertise I bring to your project manager position. So if you do something like that, you capture their attention right away. And then you highlight a little bit of your experience, maybe you explain something. But a mistake would be to write a generic or one cover letter, use it over and over again. And the other mistake would be to not understand that it needs to supplement and really capture attention quickly. That first opening paragraph if you don’t catch them there, they don’t read the rest. So you got it. You’ve got to really market yourself Well, in this kind of economy.

Marc 21:54
Yeah, if you listen to this, the episode last week was Sarah Harford. Sarah went from being an occupational therapist, she is now a trainer for a medical device company. Because they can’t go out and train their new customers. And what she learned was, she worked with several different resume writers was to just cut all the crap out of her resume gets super hyper-targeted. And it’s similar I, we had a woman in my online community get hired by a telehealth organization. And what she had done again, she had, by the way, she went to work with Thea Kelly, who’s been on the podcast before. And she targeted an industry that’s in hyper-growth. And just got super, super highly targeted.

Robin 22:53
Well, and also to you have to do research on the industry, you have to talk to people in the industry, you’ve got to be able to speak the language. When the recruiter starts talking to you, you can’t sound like you don’t know what she’s talking about. You have to be able to know the industry and the company, worked with somebody a couple of days ago. And I said, Tell me what you know about the company that you’re going to interview with? He didn’t know anything. And I was like, okay, they’re going to ask you, they’re going to ask you, why do you want to work here? So in our interview coaching sessions with my clients, I’m really trying to get them to see the need to be targeted to know what your top five selling points are, to reiterate those to know who the customer is, you know, who do they sell their product to? Or their service to? What do they do? What do they make, you know, there’s a million new technology companies out there. And when you ask people, what do they do not know something, they do something, they make software, that’s not good enough. We’ve got to really hone in and be able to sound very articulate. And if you’re changing industries, the more you can learn about the industry, doing informational interviews with people who work there now or used to work in the industry. Very, very helpful, that education will make the difference when you’re talking to the employer. And they got to decide between you and somebody else.

Marc 24:18
Yeah, Thea talked about on the podcast a year ago talking about translating your language. And I’ve just recently published a blog post on rebranding yourself in a new industry. And I talked about I had a several years ago, I had a director of engineering from Advanced Micro Devices, who was interviewing at Qualcomm. And they talk right past one another, even though they do the exact same job. But the terminology the two companies used is different, which was different. Yeah. And he realized afterward going, we didn’t know I didn’t understand his questions, and he didn’t understand my answers. And so it’s very important that you understand the vocabulary, the lingo. And because otherwise they’re gonna use the example I just gave that you can just talk past people.

Robin 25:15
Well, we’re finding, I have a group of people that I talked to and their top career experts in the country. And as I talk to everybody, we’re all finding that people are getting resume help, they might be getting LinkedIn help, but where they’re not getting help as much anymore is on interviewing I, the group consensus, I don’t know about my consensus, but the group consensus was because it’s online, they’re thinking, Oh, it’s not gonna be that hard, I’ll be able to do it. And they totally are underestimating how tough it is how you have to project the right answers quickly. And how much competition there is, I mean, 10 interviews is a long time, they really get to know you, after 10 interviews, you know, you might be able to go through courtship and the first two or three, but by 10, they see the words too. So, you know, you have to be able to sell yourself, but also answer questions. And one question that I’m seeing is a lot of managers and executives are being asked a diversity question, or two or three, diversity is really moved center stage to HR, a lot of companies are not paying lip service to anymore, they’re really looking at programs and things that they can do. They’re trying to be very careful about who they hire, to make sure that there’s no biases coming in. And if you’re not prepared to answer the questions, you’re gonna sit there and go, Ah, you know, and that’s not gonna impress anybody.

Marc 26:53
You know, 2020 has changed literally just about everything.

Robin 26:57
That’s correct.

Marc 26:59
Yes. And so and it’s interesting you say about the diversity because there’s no question that a lot of companies are now far more concerned about, you know, that is now on the front and center of a lot of people’s minds. Yes. So, Robin, if if you had one or two pieces of advice that you can give to my audience that is probably most likely baby boomers. What would that be,

Robin 27:29
have a complete LinkedIn profile, that’s up to date, a good photograph that’s relatively recent, that smiling you look warm and engaging, have a well-written headline, make sure you’ve got your skills listed. list a few of your accomplishments do not just post a job description. But list results and accomplishments. That’s the kind of thing they want to see the open to work tag. The jury’s out on that a lot of people don’t like it. So I’m telling my clients, you know, LinkedIn says, Oh, yeah, that’s a great thing. But a lot of people don’t like it. And I’m not recommending it. Most of the career counselors I talked to right now, we’re not recommending put that tag on. But you want to make sure in your about section that you mentioned, the type of job that you’re looking for. And what it is like, for yesterday, I worked with a software engineer, and he wants to work in AI. And he wants to work in machine learning or natural language processing. And so that’s the area he’s trying to move to. If you can be specific, then the recruiters can look at that and say, oh, okay, that person works for us. So that would be the first thing. The second tip would be interviewing, stop underestimating how easy this is going to be because it’s going to be hard. And really prepare, write out the answers to questions. Use the 62nd cell, I came up with this technique. And 25 years ago, when I wrote 60 seconds, and you’re hired, I’ve taught it for, you know, ever since then, it’s my version of the elevator pitch. And it is very specific five, top selling points, identify him for the job that you’re looking for. link them together in a couple sentences. And then you have your 62nd sell. So when you are asked, tell me about yourself. You don’t start out with you know, I was born in New Jersey and blah, blah, blah, you start out with? Well, for the last five years, I’ve been working as a program manager and I’ve been doing blank, blank, and blank. And so you go right into your experience and what you’ve accomplished and what you would bring to the job. The other tip inside the interview would be this when they’re all done. When you’re finished with the questions you’ve asked yours. They’ve asked there’s everything’s over say to them thank you very much for letting me be here today, it was good to meet you, I’m very interested in the position. In summary, I’d like to tell you what I can bring to this job. And then give them your 62nd sell again. Here’s the reason mark, they are going to write about you. As soon as you get off the line, they’re going to fill out some kind of a form a checklist, they’re going to talk about you. And you just said to them, hey, here are the five reasons why you should hire me and pick me. So don’t worry about it did you started that because believe me an hour later, they didn’t remember. And I think those two things can help a lot. I have a third thing and that is in your resume that it has to be very results-oriented. It has to be very specific. It has to show what you’ve accomplished. It can’t baby boomers in general have a terrible tendency to just take the job descriptions and plop them in. Someone got this crazy idea that if you read the job description, all the keywords must be in the job description and by plopping it into the resume that’s going to work. That never works. Please understand that that’s a mistake. It does not work. So there’s a lot of good articles out there. Mark writes a blog I write for Forbes, there’s a lot of good information that will help you improve your resume your LinkedIn and your interviewing skills.

Marc 31:26
Robin, this has been really good. If someone wanted to reach out and touch you virtually because they are in and engage with you How might they do that?

Robin 31:40
You can go to my website, it’s Robinryan.com. I welcome everybody to my LinkedIn page. So if you try to connect with me, that’s a good idea. I have more than 3000 recruiters and HR people, it’s part of my network. And our phone number 425-226-0414 Believe it or not, someone answers the phone. So in my business emails Robin at Robin ryan.com

Marc 32:15
Well, Robin, thank you very much for being on the repurpose your career podcast.

Robin 32:19
You are welcome. Good luck to all the Job Hunters.

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