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Planning Retirement Online

A Guide to Job Searching in Later Life

Part 2 - Routes to market


Faced with the question of how to go about finding a new job, particularly if we have not chosen to be in this position, invariably sends us first of all to press job adverts and agencies – and of course web-based examples of both. But if we look back at how we have obtained jobs in the past, it will often have been through people we know or through making speculative approaches to organisations. In fact it is an established fact that currently 60% or more of people’s next jobs come through either networking or speculative approach, rather than adverts/agencies. Furthermore, the older/more experienced/more senior we are, the balance moves even more towards networking, for obvious reasons. You may care to note, however, that there are two functional areas, secretarial/administrative and IT technical, where this is not true and adverts/agencies/internet score highest.

Using our networks and making speculative approaches do, of course, require us to show initiative and self confidence, and these attributes are not always easy to surface at difficult times such as redundancy. BUT if you can overcome this hurdle there are clear advantages in adopting these routes, not the least being the lack of competition. If you apply through an advert or agency you may well be one of several hundred going for a job. If you establish a network or speculative route, you may well be the only candidate, if only because your name may well come before the hiring manager before he or she has even advertised the role. A manager will often know that he is going to need new hires – whether due to expansion, staff leaving, internal promotions – some months before he/she actually puts a recruitment plan in place. Your name crops up – particularly if with a personal recommendation – and he/she can solve the recruitment problem and save a large amount of time and money. There is also a much higher chance of the role being based around your particular profile than if there are many applicants, some of whom will no doubt fit the apparent requirement exactly.

So, when faced with the need to seek out job opportunities, you may well want to try out all four routes – but you will soon find which are working best for you and worthy of particular effort. The rest of this section looks briefly at each of the routes with a few hints and tips.


Whether we are talking about high street employment agencies, specialist recruitment consultants, or web based agencies, there are the good, the bad and the ugly. You should prepare to be disappointed when the “almost certainty” of you obtaining a job within a week or two turns out to be unfounded.

You MAY choose to register with every appropriate agency (both land- and web-based) in sight, and hope to hit the maximum number of opportunities in that way. An alternative, and potentially less frustrating way, may well be to talk to a number of them, see how you feel about their interest, commitment and portfolio, and then just register with a small number (up to six?). With a small number you are probably better placed to build a personal relationship and keep in regular touch with them (exert a degree of control).

However much care and trouble you have taken over producing your CV, which expresses things in the way you want to, some agencies will insist on rewriting it to their own format. This is reasonably logical from their point of view, and you have little choice but to let it happen, but do insist on seeing the version that they produce. This way you can stop them making claims about you to potential employers which you will not be able to sustain at interview.

Although I will urge you in a later chapter not to discuss salary details with hiring managers until as late in the process as possible, agencies will expect to be told your current and anticipated remuneration levels. Discuss this freely with them, but make it clear that this is not, if possible, for discussion with their client at this stage.

Note that I refer above to the employer as the agency’s client, and this is important. You are NOT the client (if you are being asked for a fee by an employment agency this is illegal) and the agency's fees are all coming from the hiring company. It therefore follows that the agency is keen to fill the vacancy and earn the fee regardless of who gets the job. To an extent, therefore, you are “commission fodder”, and the best way of ensuring that you are getting the edge with the agency is by establishing a positive relationship with your particular executive/consultant.

Do not dismiss the Job Centres as a source of jobs – even relatively senior positions can appear on their database. Some of you, particularly if you have been made redundant, will need to visit the Centre anyway, and a little extra time spent at the terminal might pay off.

In looking for agencies/consultancies to approach, ask around for recommendations. Search the yellow pages for agencies specialising in your functional area. For professional Recruitment Consultancies there is a directory – Executive Grapevine – available at many public libraries.

Consultants/agents usually have a good (often long-term) relationship with their client companies. Use this to gain information about the company before interview, and to gain feedback afterwards.

Advertisements (Press/Internet)

Searching through countless papers and web sites can be a frustrating job – albeit made easier with most internet sites because of search facilities.

Cast your net wide in press terms, even though you may well narrow it down in the light of experience. This probably means a few hours in the library rather than buying every paper in sight!! Look at the nationals, the trade/professional journals, local press including freebies. Some areas have regional publications – available through newsagents – covering just job vacancies on a weekly or fortnightly basis. Watch radio and television (particularly teletext) advertising, and study noticeboards in libraries, exhibitions etc.

If you have any uncertainly about the type of job that you want to do next, read both vacancy pages and business news pages regularly just to build a picture of what jobs there ARE out there, and what is happening on the local business scene.

When studying press adverts, do not be put off if you do not satisfy ALL the required criteria. If the job is one that attracts you and you have a reasonable (80%??) proportion of what they are looking for, it’s always worth a try (if nothing else, you might get some much needed interview practice).

When responding to an advert, ensure that every requirement stated is mirrored in your response. Either or both of your CV and covering letter should play back the things that they have asked for – assuming, of course, that you will be able subsequently to justify your claims at interview!!

If the advert invites you to contact the organisation for more information, do so. Try to get hold of a job description for the position, and possibly company information (eg annual report) as well.

A few specific notes on using the internet. This rapidly growing route offers round-the-clock access and often useful additional resources such as CV templates.

Sites are maintained by:

many of the agencies/consultancies


journals and trade magazines

individual potential employer companies (many have a current vacancies section on their site)

and there are also dedicated job sites which do some or all of advertising vacancies, enabling you to submit CV’s for them to search/submit, automatic e-mailing to you of vacancies that match your requirement etc. Chat rooms may also offer a route worth trying.


Not actually as difficult as you probably imagine, partly because you are not asking your network contacts for a job, but for advice/guidance/information – and everyone likes to give advice!!!

Your network is not just work colleagues past and present, but also your family, friends, acquaintances, clients, suppliers, sporting colleagues – in fact just about everyone you know! Anyone may just happen to know of someone whose friend has an appropriate position, for example, and it is not unknown for the “chain” to be 5 or 6 people long. Don’t be surprised if, in your 50’s or 60’s, your potential contact list contains hundreds, literally, of names.

Don’t try to tackle them all at once but, from the start of your campaign, start to build up the list of contacts and add to it as other names come to mind. Prioritise the list and then set a weekly target of so many new names to phone or e-mail.

What you are specifically not doing is the “gizzajob” routine, or your conversations will be very short. Seek their help in any way you deem appropriate – information about their locality or company, views on the kind of job they see you doing, comments on your CV, names of anyone they know in your industry etc. The objective is really to get further names to contact, but you will glean all sorts of useful intelligence at the same time.

If you are fixing to see them, make it clear that it is just for a brief meeting (20-30 minutes) and to seek their advice. Make sure that you prepare for the meeting so that you keep it specific and targeted. Do not attempt to hide your redundancy (there is no stigma involved in this these days). Take the trouble to thank them for the meeting, which – by the way – you should treat as an interview, particularly if the meeting is with a stranger as a result of a mutual contact.

Once you have created your network list, make sure that you keep it after your current job search is finished – you never know when ………!!

Speculative Approach

This is where you make an unsolicited approach to an organisation, make them aware of what you have to offer, and seek a meeting to establish whether there are any suitable vacancies.

The grounds for approaching a particular organisation are many. For example::

you read that they are moving into your area

you learn that they are expanding, starting up a new project etc

you would like to work for a company because you admire their products, culture etc

they have a large office in the next street to you

To optimise the chances of identifying suitable targets you clearly need to read the local business pages, as well as the trade press, so that you are aware of movements, expansions etc

Bearing in mind that you want to tease out any potential vacancies, not only those that are already being advertised, you should contact the appropriate line manager rather than HR (who may not be told about a vacancy until they are required to action the recruitment). Don’t know who that is? Ring the company switchboard and ask for the name of the Finance Director, Head of IT, VP of Marketing and then address your letter, by name, to that person.

Spell out in your letter why you are approaching that particular company, what you feel that you have to offer them (skills and experience particular relevant to their situation), attach a CV, and suggest that you will phone to arrange a meeting to discuss how you can obtain mutual benefit.

So – four routes into the market place, five if you count the internet as discrete. Give them all a try, learn which work best for you, and keep at it. Hopefully you will soon identify a number of targets calling for the submission of your CV – which we will look at in the next chapter.

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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