How to minimise the chances of losing your job or maximising the chances of finding a new one when you are over forty five.


I read this article titled “Higher-skilled workers make up bulk of layoffs” in the Singapore news today. It tempted me to update “Lost & Found”, my previous blog on a related subject.


Irrespective of market conditions people continue to lose their jobs and find new ones. During a recession or economic downturn, the number of jobs lost are much more than the number of new ones created. These are times when even talented people become victims of retrenchment and for them, getting a new job is tougher than it is in better market conditions. Losing a job is not a good thing for anyone at any age. However, for people over forty five not having a job presents an even more undesirable challenge due to financial liabilities and also from an emotional or social standing perspective. Inability to find a job for a long period impacts the entire family. What can this group of people do to avoid getting off the track? And what can those, who have already lost their jobs, do to return to the right track? Here are some tips based on my experience:


  1. Value-add: Irrespective of the market conditions, successful enterprises/businesses are those that deliver value to their customers at the most competitive price. Each employee is an integral part of the enterprise, must deliver value every day, and should be remunerated in line with their value add to the enterprise. In general however, over time a remuneration higher than the optimal remuneration for the value-add delivered gets paid. This makes the enterprise uncompetitive especially when the market conditions are not so good. For people in long service, their salary would have overtaken their value-add to their organisation. Their organisations can potentially replace them with a candidate at a lower level of remuneration for the same level of value-add. Therefore, it is very important for the forty five plus age group to continue to evaluate and get feedback from their bosses/managers about their value-add to the organisation. This could result in taking on additional responsibilities and therefore enhancing their value-add. Proactive evaluation and measures to do this can avoid potential disaster. Adding value invariably produces results and gives you job satisfaction. If you have already lost your job, then while preparing for any interview you must do proper home work to find out how your skillsets can add value to a potential employer, and you should highlight it during the interview. Your value-driven approach may also make the interviewer consider you for a different but suitable role other than the one you are being interviewed for. Irrespective of your last salary drawn you need to look at the salary in line with the value you are going to deliver to your new employer. With such a value-driven approach, your chance of securing a job is much higher.
  2. Networking: No matter how busy you are, you should give importance to networking. If you are attending a networking meeting, be well prepared and seek new ideas and pastures that would help you to grow. You should also help other people in your network. This will not only bring you goodwill but also new business and career opportunities. If you are already out of a job, expanding your network is a crucial first step in the job search process. You will find that your long term relationships and connections can make it much easier for you to get a job.
  3. Adaptability: To ensure that you are on the right track and are constantly moving in the right direction in your career, you must be able to adapt to the new changes as they come. Every change presents new opportunities. While in a job, you should always be conscious of changes within the organisation and make sure that you are in close proximity to the stake-holders in order to spot the opportunities which a change can create. Such opportunities could be in a different department or in a different regional office. Your flexibility towards accepting a new role could give you a great opportunity to learn and enhance your skillset which, in turn, could be an insurance policy for your future career prospects. If you have already lost your job, be flexible about any short or long term contract positions. As long as you can add value and you have a good reputation for the work you do, be ready to evaluate any job opportunity.
  4. Skillset development: For various reasons, many executives ignore their personal or professional development during the middle of their career. Your skillset is the best insurance policy you could have for your future career. While you are still working, you must try to remain relevant by enhancing your value to your organisation and by upgrading your skill-set on a continuous basis. This could also mean being hands-on in an area of focus. Besides this, it is highly recommended that you should develop a skillset outside of your work as you cross the age of forty five. If you are out of a job, you should also try to get trained in a specific area which could complement your existing skillset and give you an instant boost in getting a good job opportunity. For example, if you are a business domain expert, developing IT skills could open up a new set of job opportunities.
  5. Drive: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Successful enterprises are result driven high-performance entities. They must achieve results at all times and so should you as an integral part of the enterprise. You must align yourself with the pace and culture of the organisation. While being interviewed for a job, there may be doubts in an interviewer’s mind about your ability to handle the pressure of the job and deliver the desired results within stipulated deadlines. Once you are across the table with an interviewer, you must ensure that your drive and readiness is apparent from your energetic speech, a can-do attitude, appropriate body language and erect posture. Regular exercise is also very important for you to be fit and appear to be in control.
  6. Right attitude: While on the job, you must be genuine and committed to your boss/manager at all times. You should ensure that your manager looks good because of your work or value-add. As your manager goes up the corporate ladder so do you. Remember, every successful leader needs trusted and competent followers. If you are leaving a job, never burn your bridges with your manager. If you are out of a job and are in an interview, you must be honest in highlighting the relevant attributes in your resume, e.g., loyalty if you have not been a job hopper, good relationship with your past supervisors even though you may have felt uncomfortable due to differences in perspective because of age or cultural differences, etc. This gives the interviewer the required comfort and confidence to hire you for the job.

Your value-add, skills, drive and attitude can be the biggest insurance policies for your job.