There are hundreds of people out there like George. He came to us last week and can’t understand why he can’t find a job. Some of it is plain circumstance, but some of it is self-inflicted.
George is 52 years old and been with the same company for the past 20 years. He had a great ride with them and got promoted a number of times. He was always told that he was doing a great job and getting reasonable raises along the way. In the last three years of his employment at the company, it was bought by a private equity firm and George started to receive all of his stock that he had earned while he was at the company. PE firms are notorious about making things a lot less “family oriented,” and a lot more “what you do for me today, dammit!”
In spite of the antiseptic approach that the PE firm took, George still had a job and was making close to $300,000 a year. He could’ve stayed on, but the culture of the organization had totally changed to be much more mercenary and, since he had been told he had been doing so well he thought, “you know, I’ve got such a great track record and I know so many people in the industry, I’ll find another job.” (Now this is the story that George tells. I’m never sure when I hear the stories, and it took me a few years to catch on to this, if George was the one that decided to leave on his own accord, or the PE firm pushed George out.)
Since the buyout, George didn’t have an enforceable noncompete and he had many contacts in the industry and after all, his track record was excellent. He thought he would have absolutely no problem getting a job. He made a lot of money on the stock and doesn’t need to work, but wants to. He thought that since he had a lot of money and didn’t have to work, companies would love to have him because he wouldn’t be “in it for the money.” He even took six months off to get his IRA accounts and lots of other things “in order.”
George figured that since he had such a wonderful track record, was so well known in his industry, had money and didn’t have to work for money, he’d get scooped up any time he wanted. After six months of doing whatever he wanted to do he decided it was time to find a job. It is now three months later and he is so surprised, and eventually shocked, that this was going to be a whole lot harder than he thought.
He has only had two interviews and those were more courtesy than anything else. He quickly found out that very few people a higher VPs off the street and so a month or two ago he “announced” that he would accept a sales job. George has learned that his ideas are real hard to sell to anybody.
The first thing that comes to a hiring authorities mind is, “well, if George has so much money and he doesn’t have to work, the first time he doesn’t like the way we do things here he can just walk out.” To the vast majority of hiring authorities, “not needing to work” means that the person they hire might not do just that. Most of them can’t afford to run the risk of, if it doesn’t work out, their boss saying to them, “why in the hell did you hire somebody that really didn’t need to work.” So, George is going to have to change that approach big time.
George, thinking theoretically, that someone might appreciate someone who just works for the love of working is totally miscalculating 99% of the people that are hiring. George has to forget this comment totally.
What George has to say is something along this line, “I was 20 years at an organization and consistently moved up. I loved the job, the company and everyone there. I did a great job and I was appreciated as much as I appreciated the opportunity. When a PE firm bought us, the complexion of the whole organization changed and it was to their benefit to ease out all of the people had been there for a very long time. Admittedly, it was a different place than it was when I joined 20 years ago or even three years ago when we sold.”
“I know they’re not very many VP opportunities that I would slip right into, but the one I had, I had to work for from the beginning position. I realize that it is likely that I may have to start out at a sales position and work my way up, if indeed that kind of thing presents itself. But I’m just as comfortable at taking a sales position where I can earn depending on my own production. I realize that I may not earn that $300,000 that I was making the first year or maybe even two, but the opportunity to be paid based on my own performance is all I need.”
“I am 52, but as you can see I’m in great shape and I have a tremendous amount of energy. I was a top salesperson before I moved into management and still love selling. Even while I was in management I spent a lot of my time in front of customers and selling. I don’t expect you or anyone else to pay me for the experience I’ve had in the past. All I’m looking for is an opportunity to prove myself, again. Let’s face it, you’re going to get a very mature, experienced salesperson with a lot of energy and a proven track record and everything else will take care of itself.”
“I know you may be concerned that if you hired me for a lesser position than what I was in, someone might give me a call with the VP type of job and your fear is that I would leave for the higher position. Let me share with you that the position isn’t as important as the company, the people and the success I’m having. I know from hiring people over many years that if an employee is happy with what they’re doing and really enjoys the company, the product and the people they work with, they don’t just leave when someone calls them about another opportunity. Look at my track record… I was 20 years with the last company!”
“If we have a good match with what I’m doing and the people in his company, I’m committed for the long haul. I always have been. Once I get into a situation and am experiencing success, I’m not likely to go anywhere. I haven’t before and it is not likely I would ever do it.”
“Now, let’s talk about the opportunity you have here and the way I might be able to benefit you….”
This is the only way to George is going to get hired. It’s still going to be very challenging for him to get an interview and get hired, but it is the way he has to approach it. The way he’s approaching it now is going to get him another nine months or more of unemployment.
All those who think that, “you know I’m so good and I’m so wonderful these people can take this job and stuff it. I can go to work just about anywhere,” need to take a lesson from George.