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Planning Retirement Online

A Guide to Job Searching in Later Life

Part 1 - Planning your campaign - continued

 Analysing Yourself

No sensible marketeer goes to market without a full understanding of the product they are selling – both positive and negative. Similarly, no one enters a buying situation without a full understanding of what they want to buy. As a job seeker, you are both buying and selling – so an early analysis in these areas is essential.

What you are marketing is a very complex resource (you!), which comprises your education and qualifications, your work experience, your transferable skills, your strengths and, possibly, your interests (where they could affect your marketability). You will immediately recognise these as being the areas that will be covered in your CV, production of which will follow naturally from the analysis you are about to do.

There is no need to make this too much of a memory test. Draw together, before you start, key documents from your past – particularly your employment – that will yield much of the data that you require. In this are included past job descriptions, person specifications, appraisals, letters of praise (or criticism) etc. Hopefully these will provide much of the material to help complete “pictures” such as the following:

Education and Qualifications: arguably, in later life, these (at least the education element) may be so distant as to be of little relevance to your application, but err on the side of including them. So what did you achieve in terms of a degree, A or O levels? What professional qualifications have you secured during your career? What courses – functional, general, behavioural etc – have you attended that may make a difference to your acceptability?

Experience: the crucial attribute in many cases is the actual job experience that we can demonstrate. It may well be appropriate to only specify your most recent roles when it comes to writing the CV, but it can pay dividends, during your research, to go right back over your career in case you pull out earlier jobs that may have a direct bearing on one you are now applying for. Review all your jobs, remind yourself of what the job entailed in terms of activity and responsibility, what the key achievements in the role were, which jobs you did well at (and the reverse!!), what skills you employed in each role. Reminding yourself of which you enjoyed doing may also aid the “buying” side of this analysis – if you enjoyed them once you may well do so again!

Skills and Knowledge: Looking back over your earlier jobs will – particularly if you have appraisal documentation to draw on – bring to mind the specific skills and knowledge that you have had to display. Many of these attributes will be transferable ones that directly add to your marketability. In terms of skills, think in terms not only of functional and technical skills, but also the “softer” behavioural ones, as these are often a key differentiator in recruitment decisions.

Examples:

Functional

Market research
Financial analysis
Conference organising
Project control
Diary Management
Training others
etc

 

Technical

Microsoft Office
Java programming
Double entry book-keeping
Lathe operation
Shorthand (xx wpm)
Bridge Design
etc

 

Behavioural

Initiative
Communication
Tenacity
Leadership
Persuasiveness
Relationship building
etc

 

When reviewing your skills and knowledge, do remember to draw on your interests and family activities as well as work (amateur football managers may well claim leadership skills, houseparents may claim budgetary control skills etc)

Strengths: analysis of your strengths and development needs will fall out of the review of skills – some of these will be ones that you are really good at, and probably enjoy, whilst others are not so strong and will either be excluded from the CV and your conversation, or you may choose to address them in development terms as part of your campaign. As well as your own view (and that of any appraisals) as to which are high and which low, canvas other opinions as part of your networking activity. Where you do identify strengths, always capture and note a specific example of where you have demonstrated the competence, for use during the later stages of selection.

The buying side of the analysis is not so exhaustive, but you do need to give consideration to the following if you are to be in a position to judge the suitability of positions for you.

“What will make a position interesting and enjoyable for me?”  Important for anyone, this can take on key significance for the over 50’s, particularly for those who may find themselves released, either voluntarily or involuntarily, from a few decades of relative “drudgery” and excessive time commitment. They may be looking to spend a few years up to retirement doing something they really enjoy but perhaps for less money, (either because of a redundancy payment or simply reduced expenditure with grown-up family).

“What are my needs and values?”  What is now – for you – the bottom line in work/life balance? What level of salary and benefits does your current lifestyle require? What are you prepared to sacrifice to get the most out of what may be your last full-time job? What values, if any, do you espouse that might limit the type of role or organisation you might join?

“What are my short-term and long-term ambitions?” More likely, perhaps, to be the former than the latter of these. Maybe even none at all now. But project yourself forward to, say, your 65th birthday – looking back – and ask yourself what would you want to have achieved?

“What health, location or other restricting factors do I have?” Think these through before you start, to avoid going down rabbit warrens that you have to withdraw from later. What is the view of your partner and other family members?

Working through the above 'buyers' questions will not only impact the type of job and/or employer that you choose, but may well also open up bigger issues relating to  permanent or contract work, self-employment, full or part time etc.

Carrying out the above self analysis activities will be time-consuming and also challenging, but will very soon prove to be justified in terms of:

your ability to describe yourself comprehensively and attractively on your CV, at interview and in networking conversations

increasing your confidence in yourself, and the way you talk about yourself, because you have researched it and thought it through

establishing, from the start, what it is that you want in your next job or career step

You may well even find that you enjoy the process!

Don Wilde, the writter of this Guide, has many years experience in outplacement and career consultancy, latterly on a self-employed basis but prior to that within the IT industry. He has experience in a variety of human resources, business and project management, and staff development roles.
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