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Boomer Execs On The Market

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With national unemployment poised to burst through the 10% level for October, it’s not surprising that thousands of execs over the age of 50 are tumbling into the job market.

Downsizing in virtually every major industry has spared no one – and no level.

In fact, with the rate of corporate saving so much higher when eliminating executive positions (high salary and, usually, fat benefits) veteran execs have had a target on their backs.

In my own little world, I know more than a dozen such people. Each has been squeezed out of positions in 2009 – or forced into the job market after a long absence to offset 401(k) losses - and a couple have already landed new gigs. With lots of talented candidates available for every open job right now, landing on one’s feet isn’t easy. And while there is no magic potion – no quick fix – there are some things you can do if you find yourself in this position:

Your Career Brand – this is an old saw by now - but many 50+ execs (heck, many 40+’ers for that matter) have not really needed to search for a job for a long time. Assess yourself and your key attributes and skills and shape all that into your personal “executive brand.”

Market Targeting – if you have been out of the job market for a time, it’s not necessarily the best approach to target the same career path you exited 5, 10 or 15 years ago. Most industries have morphed in the intervening years, so you need to think creatively about where your strengths can best be leveraged. Get creative in terms of industries – and give consideration to Education, Government or Not-for-Profit opportunities.

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The 21st Century Resume – most Boomer Generation job-seekers haven’t dusted off the resume for many years. If yours hasn’t been updated since the 80s or 90s, you are going to need a makeover. It’s not just that the format has changed in the past decade. The personal brand description has to take center stage and you’ll need to tease that out of a maze of attributes you probably take for granted and haven’t thought about for years, if ever.

Networking – I hate to raise this because it sounds almost cliché, however it’s the single most important thing to which you’ll need to pay attention. Like the resume, you probably haven’t thought much about “your network” lately, but you need to wrack your brain (and your contacts folder) to scrape up every friend, colleague, friend’s colleague and colleague’s friend you can. Most jobs – and most good jobs – come to seekers through a network conduit. Despite the proliferation of internet solutions, a lot of networking is really fairly old fashioned: people like to hire people they already know and trust - or people who are vouched for by someone they know and trust. (That’s not to say the internet and technology can’t support and expand your efforts in this regard. Along those lines, having a robust LinkedIn profile is a must.)

Start before you need to – job searches are taking longer than ever right now for a variety of obvious reasons. The best advice is that execs shouldn’t wait for the pink slip to start this process. Even if you think your position is secure, it doesn’t cost anything to overhaul your resume, upgrade your personal brand message, research alternative industries and career options, and review your professional network. It’s the cheapest insurance an executive can buy.

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Erik Sorenson is CEO of Vault, the Web’s most comprehensive resource for career management and job search intelligence. Vault provides top talent with the insider information they need to make critical career decisions. An Emmy award-winning media industry veteran, Erik served as president of the MSNBC cable news channel through 2004. His experience spans radio, local and network broadcast television, cable and syndicated TV, and the Web.

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