By Peter Weddle
This is the first installment in Peter Weddle's three-part series, “Putting the Boom Back in Baby Boomer Careers.” Editions 2 and 3 are coming soon; for a virtual book signing of Peter's new novel, A Multitude of Hope: A Novel About Rediscovering the American Dream, visit here.
Most of us Baby Boomers looking for work these days accept the label of “job seeker.” That’s how employers job boards, job clubs and blogs address us, so we buy into that designation. But, stop and think about how that term positions us in the job market-- it sets us up as a supplicant for work, and supplicants are at a significant disadvantage in the search for a good job.
At least 16 million Americans are currently unemployed. We Baby Boomers make up 40 percent of those who have been out of work for a year or more. None of us wears a scarlet letter indicating that we are a job seeker, but that’s the way we see ourselves. It’s more than just a label -- it’s a self-image and a pernicious one at that.
Such a perspective inevitably shapes the way we conduct our job search. It affects the tone of our resume and our posture in an interview, the way we network with peers, and the kinds of jobs we go after. No less important -- and maybe more important -- it determines the nature of our relationship with prospective employers.
When we Boomers allow ourselves to be trapped in the job seeker box, we are subliminally acknowledging that we offer nothing of recognized value and, therefore, have everything to prove in the job market. We are implicitly admitting to employers that we do not have the stature, credentials, experience, or track record that would cause employers to be seekers of us.
How can we get out of this dilemma? We must see ourselves differently. We have to invent a new, more affirming role in the job market. We must re-imagine ourselves as a “person of talent.”
How to Become a Person of Talent
Our culture has created a perverse view of talent. We’ve been led to believe that it’s reserved for extraordinary people and exceptional deeds. We recognize the talent of Lady Gaga and Roger Federer, but not the talent of a city bus driver or retail sales clerk or finance professional. That’s wrong.
Talent isn’t winning a World Series ring or starring in movies. It isn’t a skill or an occupation. Talent is the capacity for excellence, and happily, it is also an attribute of our species. Like our opposable thumb, being able to excel is a characteristic of being human. Every one of us has been endowed with the gift of talent.
Unfortunately, however, many of us have never taken the time to pinpoint our talent and even more of us don’t bring it to work with us. So, the first step in repositioning ourselves as a “person of talent” is to discover our capacity for excellence. We must figure out where, when and how we do superior work.
Now, some will say that talent is a passion. It’s not. As I point out in my book, A Multitude of Hope: A Novel About Rediscovering the American Dream, a person can be passionate about an activity, but not perform enough to make it a career. I’m passionate about golf, for example, but Tiger Woods has nothing to worry about from me.
Talent is the intersection of passion AND practicality. It is what a person loves to do and does best. For most of us, such self-awareness doesn’t come naturally. We have to root around inside ourselves to figure it out. We have to get to know ourselves better than we ever have before.
Moreover, making that discovery is only half the challenge. Once we know the nature of our talent, we are obligated to give it the care it deserves. We must nurture it with the continuous infusion of new skills and knowledge so we can rely on it to excel at work. Talent may be the capacity for excellence, but only we can give it the capability to perform on-the-job.
The moment that’s done, we change the way we look and act in the job market. We are no longer a supplicant, butrather a person of talent – a rare and precious asset that employers will compete to hire. We don’t have to seek a job because employers will seek us. Their openings are reset as alternative opportunities to advance our career, and our ability to choose what works best for us means we are the winners we were destined to be.
Peter Weddle is the author of over two dozen employment-related books, including A Multitude of Hope: A Novel About Rediscovering the American Dream, The Career Activist Republic and The Career Fitness Workbook: How to Find, Win & Hold Onto the Job of Your Dreams. Get them at Amazon.com today.
Formerly the Chairman and CEO of Job Bank USA, Peter Weddle is an HR consultant, recruiter, author and commentator with an international reputation. He has authored or edited more than two dozen books, including "Recognizing Richard Rabbit: A Fable About Being True to Yourself", "Work Strong: Your Personal Career Fitness System" and "WEDDLE's 2009/10 Guide to Employment Sites on the Internet". In addition, he oversees WEDDLE's, a print publisher specializing in the field of human resources. WEDDLE's annual Guides and Directory to job boards are recognized for their accuracy and helpfulness, leading the American Staffing Association to call Weddle the "Zagat of the online employment industry." Peter Weddle is also CEO of the International Association of Employment Websites.