I’m too old! They’ll never hire me!!

And you are one hundred percent correct.  No one is going to hire an old, depressed, whiner.  And if that’s you, I can’t help you.  No one can.  You are a self-fulfilling prophecy.

No joke.  A woman comes to my office as a candidate for an executive assistant position.  She has 20 years experience, lives within a commuting distance from the employer, and has everything he’s looking for.  But, she’s been unemployed for two years.  She complains to me about how difficult things have been for her.  I tell her to put that all behind her because I think she’s perfect for this job.  I tell her they need someone who is an independent thinker and problem solver.  “No problem,” she reassures me.  “By the way,” I say, “first impressions are important and when I first saw you I noticed that you were carrying three bags.  You don’t want to come across as a ‘bag lady.'”  “I have to have three bags!  One’s for my shoes!”

For those of you unacquainted with Manhattan office fashion, women walk around the street in sneakers and when they get to their appointment they change shoes.  Why they just don’t get a comfortable pair of business-like walking shoes, I don’t understand, but it really does not matter.  What does matter is that this candidate was telling me that she was set in her ways and could not change.  The idea of putting the shoes in a bag inside of a bag did not occur to her.  A problem solver she was not.  Argumentative she was!

But that’s not all.  When she mentioned that she would need to buy a skirt for an interview, which I told her I could arrange for the next day, I reminded her that she was sitting in the heart of Manhattan’s Fashion District and there were discount stores everywhere.  She said she had to be very selective because she had to watch her money and did not think she could find something so quickly.  I told her that if she got the job her financial problems would be over, or on the way to being over.  She then told me that it really did not matter, no one was going to hire her, but she would go and find a skirt and just return it if she didn’t get the job.

So now I knew that (a) she was not a problem solver and (b) she was not the most honest person on the planet.

Finally, when I could not take any more of her whining about her age, I asked her if she wanted to interview for the job.  She told me she did not know but I could submit her resume and in the meantime she would be discussing it with her career counselor.

I told her that I would find it hard to believe that her career counselor would object to her interviewing for a position.  And then I raised the question with her of whether or not she was spending her money wisely on a career counselor who had not gotten her a job in two years.  She told me that they had become friends.  I wanted to tell her that she did not need a friend, she needed a job, but I decided not to.

Before she left I told her I would not submit her until she told me that she was really interested in the job and would, if all went well, accept an offer.  That was a Monday.  On Wednesday I interviewed a woman more than half her age, with very little experience, but a great personality.  She was hired that Friday.  The other candidate called me the following Monday to tell me that she had thought about it and was not interested in the position.  I reassured her that that was alright and told her the position had been filled.

Now what would have happened if she had had a positive attitude?

Last week I closed an IT search.  Two candidates.  One in his mid- to late-twenties, the other, probably in his early sixties.  The former had a one-page resume, the latter a seven-page resume.  My client wanted to see the older gentleman.  He did OK but there were no sparks.  The younger guy did a lot better, but his references were not great.  Not than anyone said anything bad about him, just that one was a relative and another a personal friend.  So the older guy got a second chance.  He met with someone else at the company and it was love at first sight.  His references checked out.  Everyone described him as “brilliant.”  He got the job.

Did I mention the fact that the young guy had a devil-may-care take-it-or-leave-it attitude and the old guy had an I-can-do-this-and-will-be-great-at-it attitude?

It all comes down to attitude.  You can be a very old 20-something and a very young 60-something.  On my radio program I interviewed a 75 year old math teacher who had just received her Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut.  Listen to the show and tell the truth:  How old would you have thought she was if you had not heard me ask her at the beginning her age?  Here’s a woman with more energy and a greater positive attitude than most people I know who are a quarter or half her age.  She’ll never have a problem finding work.  She wouldn’t permit it!