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Dana WilsonOlder workers must first understand the realities of the career world as it exists today before they are ready to pitch themselves to employers.

Your goal is to convince employers you’re not a vestige of a bygone work era but a high-energy chameleon who quickly adapts to any environment. Picture yourself walking out a revolving door then walking back in with a new attitude and a new take on life.

Here’s what organizations are looking for:

Recyclable workers.  Just as you’d recalibrate, redesign or rebuild a machine to produce new and improved widgets, companies want workers who can wear many hats.  Employers want to know you can spin on a dime to do whatever is demanded of you.

Clutch players. Companies have discovered creative ways not to make long-term commitments. The new thinking is, “Why put anyone on the payroll if we don’t have to – or unless we have no choice.” Hence, the term just-in-time hiring.  In the past, companies stockpiled workers. They hired more than they actually needed so work could be spread out. Now, it’s wait until the critical last moment and hire a Terminator clone who can do the work for a dozen people.  Other employers are opting for short-term relationships, which are either project-based or contractual arrangements.

It’s as simple as hiring people for a clearly defined task and then showing them the door when they’re finished. Cyclical and seasonal companies do this all the time. Clothing and toy manufacturers and department stores require more bodies around the busy Christmas season to make, package, ship and sell their goods. If they are lucky, at the end of the season, these people will be reassigned to other areas where their skills can be tapped.

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Don’t be put off by the temporary nature of the work. There are no guarantees and you could be back on the street in three months. But it’s also an opportunity to learn and make contacts. Even if it doesn’t materialize into a long-term job, you’re ahead of the game because you have more skills to market.

New take on job hoppers

Remember when job hoppers were considered rootless, itinerant screw-ups who couldn’t hold down a job if their life depended upon it? The prejudice against job hoppers was part of the old work ethic. Companies searched for stalwart workers who had only two or three jobs throughout their entire career. Let’s not forget about IBM and a slew of other Fortune 500 companies that promoted the concept of lifetime employment and then abandoned it when the going got rough. What they withheld from their troops until the last gruelling minute was that profits were more important than people. But give them a big round of applause for removing the stigma against job-hopping – today’s ultimate survival tactic.

Package experience

Don’t apologize because you’ve had five jobs over the last 15 years. See it as a strong selling point. Tie the experiences together to make a compelling case for your consideration. The point is to make each job an opportunity to learn and grow. Each one took you farther along the vast career highway. Security isn’t the thing; it’s improvement and self-fulfillment. In other words, you’re a better person for each job. Even career changers can take this tack by finding a common skill to sell from two totally different industries.

A recommended exercise is making a list of all the jobs you’ve had and then writing out the good and bad points of each one. Uppermost, jot down what you learned from each. The painless exercise will help you sell yourself better when you are asked about prior jobs.

Now you’re ready to explore avenues you’ve never considered – or even known about.

Dana Wilson is a freelance writer.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the authors’ alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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