The Dorian Gray Paradigm

The Picture of Dorian Gray is a 1891 novel by Oscar Wilde which describes an individual who so wants to maintain his youth that he is willing to sell his soul in return.  The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a 1920’s short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald about a rare disease that results in babies being born old and as they age they actually become younger-looking.  Thus is the issue with job-seekers in today’s difficult market place. 

The difficulty in the American job market today is that college graduates are having grave problems entering their field of training or choice while those who have extensive experience, those generally over the age of 50 are also being prevented in finding employment due to limited opportunities.

You need only talk to recent college graduates who are investing substantial borrowed dollars to attend graduate school or those who are performing tasks that they never imagined that they would post-university just to make ends meets to hopefully wait out this never-ending recession.  The fear for many in their 20’s is that what we are now seeing is the new normal and the days of a college degree guaranteeing an appropriate and life-rewarding  job may not be possible in the 21st Century.

For the aging babyboomer it is a different story.  Those with jobs are hanging on to them for as long as possible because the future is so tenuous and because many have little faith in their investments maintaining their lifestyle well into the next decades.  With 60’s and 70’s now being the new 40’s and 50’s, babyboomers are slowing down the natural progression of younger generations performing jobs that can indeed assist in paying off college loans and generating their own baseline for their future.

Dorian Gray never wanted to age but the problem in today’s employment search is that those with enormous and exceptional expertise are competing with those who just recently completed 4 years at the finest higher-education institutions in the world.  The picture for those in that competion is not always rosey and makes for an interesting paradigm for those seeking to fill postiions with companies and associations.

One recruiter informed me recently that it isn’t age that is preventing those in their 50’s from finding an appropriate landing spot, it is their compensation levels.  She said that those successful executives of the past are going to have to set their expectations at a more realistic salary level. She said that in recent months that she had placed a 62 year old and a 67 year old in positions that are just right for them.  She mentioned that these two individuals beat the odds by being passionate about their abilities and being flexible and adaptable in the new employment culture.

Many of us know individuals in their 20’s who are exceedingly older than they appear and of course we also are aware of those in their 50’s and 60’s who certainly are not the typical candidate for the “over-the-hill gang.”  It all depends on your perspective and your professionalism.  It is no secret that successful job seekers need to continue to evolve and grow in his/her field.  No profession remains constant and job-seekers must show that they are adaptable to our changing times.

For those experienced job-seekers, you must be capable of presenting yourself as an experienced “change agent” who can see the problems and move dilligently to solve them.  With the average 5 or 6 year tenure with today’s association executive, age shouldn’t ever be a problem if you are of sound mind and sound health.  After all, Warren Buffett seems to be doing reasonably well!

When it comes to the Millennials (Generation Y), you need to be as creative as you can;  be an entrepreneur, find a niche that you can fill so well that no one can ever be able to replace you.  You also need to be willing to take a risk, a chance that older job-seekers with children and mortgages may find resistable.  Much like your older competitors, you need to network.  Use Social media as a means to find a job rather than just making friends and reporting on the next, great party.

Oscar Wilde wrote in Dorian Gray a very poignant comment: “there is one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”  No matter what age, be your own publicist.  If you aren’t going to promote yourself – who will?  In these troubled times you need to find a niche and fill it.  Dorian Gray ultimately grew old and died.  Benjamin Button ultimately grew young and died.  Age is only a factor if you allow it to be.  The right mindset will certainly make you an appropriate candidate for any job that comes to pass.  Happy hunting!

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