I see examples all the time. Younger job applicants with degrees and/or diplomas but limited experience who can’t get ‘appropriate’ full-time jobs that can allow them to start building a career. At the same time, older workers with an established track record and demonstrated accomplishments can’t get their foot-in-the-door if they don’t have a degree. What’s going on?
Since this particular blog post was inspired by an older worker with experience but no degree, I’ll focus this post on that situation. As this person noted, when applying online, he cannot get past the initial screening without having a degree. One clear option is to find ways to be considered for jobs through other – offline – means and other venues. Attending any kind of social function or networking through trade associations might lead to contacts who can help you to gain access to information interviews or apply for positions without using an online portal.
Many smaller businesses do not use elaborate automated online screening processes so those might be better options. In those situations, it’s likely that you can submit a cover letter and resume by email, fax, or even in person. When a person rather than software is reviewing application materials, you may have an easier time demonstrating why you should be invited for an interview.
Another strategy is to make your services available as a contractor rather than as an employee. On the surface, that may look unappealing since you may feel like you’re losing out on pension and benefits. On the upside, a contract position allows you to maintain some autonomy and the money you spend on self-insurance for health and dental coverage becomes a tax deduction/expense. Plus, over time, long-term unemployment is often worse than contract work (also see this more recent, two-part blog post on alternative self-employment options for more mature workers).
It is also possible that what starts out as a contract position can evolve into a permanent one. In some situations, a smaller organization may be reluctant to commit to a job candidate who is “unknown and unproven” but they may be comfortable taking on a contractor to test the waters. After some time, after you have clearly demonstrated your value as a solid contributor that employer may no longer see hiring you as a potentially risky decision. At that point, they may extend your contract for an extended period or try to convert you into an employee instead of a contractor.
Need help dealing with a delicate or high-stakes career or HR issue? I invite you to contact me privately. I offer a free 15 to 20-minute initial consultation by phone. Or, if you prefer, you can contact me by email, or via direct message on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.
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