Like some of you, in our house, we have a junk drawer stuffed with miscellaneous items just in case we might need them someday. For example, one time I found a great deal on 9-volt batteries and knowing they would come in handy at some point, I tossed them into this drawer. When that day arrived, I opened the junk drawer, dug around and they were nowhere to be found. After digging around a few more times, I finally called out to my wife, “Sue, what did you do with the batteries?” She responded, “I never touched them.” So I decided to do some more digging. Finally, as my frustration had reached its peak, Sue took over. She opened the drawer, pulled out the batteries, and handed them to me. They were there the whole time. Right in front of my eyes and I just couldn’t see them!
This is an illustration I often use when I talk to people about their blind spot or scotoma, as the Greeks called it. A scotoma is something we can’t see, in spite of all the evidence that is right in front of us.
Recently, I was the keynote speaker at a meeting in Phoenix. In attendance were about fifteen very well known companies. The discussion started off about what these companies look for from employees and what it takes to get hired in their organizations. There were people from every generation in this room and I was fascinated by how little has changed over the years when it comes to the job hunt. The basics like making sure you fit the job description, targeting your resume, professional dress, and being on time are all still very standard procedure. These basics have not changed much and all fifteen companies agreed on this.
The scotoma occurred to me later in our discussion. As we talked about hiring and employee qualifications, each company made it abundantly clear that they were extremely open bringing on consultants and contractors on an as-needed basis for projects, rather than hiring people full time. If they are a good fit, then maybe later they can give them a permanent position. This seems to be the latest trend in the job market and a blind spot or scotoma in the eyes of a lot of mid-career folks in transition. It’s time to look at opportunities from every possible angle, avoid the blind spot, and leverage the many years of knowledge and experience these seasoned professionals possess. Here are the signs I suggest paying attention to:
- Companies are extremely open to hiring consultants and contractors with years of valuable experience to get projects done.
- A recent job report showed over 80,000 new jobs have been created and around half were contractor jobs.
- The largest demographic in that jobs report that did get full-time jobs were between the ages of 24 and 35, right in the sweet spot of Gen Y.
So when looking at the signs, and doing my best to avoid the blind spots, I can conclude that the Baby Boomers are quickly becoming the minority in the workforce. However, their strong skill sets and years of knowledge and experience cannot be replaced by the younger generation. That experience is invaluable. It’s simply time to find new ways to leverage that talent. I suggest finding five or six companies willing to hire on a per-project basis. Focus on a new equation:
knowledge capital + cost-effectiveness + leadership = demand
If you have the experience, sell yourself as a consultant or a solo entrepreneur to five or six different places. To their benefit, you are very cost-effective. They are not paying your full salary, only a piece of it. Not to mention, the leadership skills you bring in combination with years of experience are extremely valuable. Businesses have a tremendous need for those types of skills, so there is a huge demand. It’s just that simple.