Career Tips

Older Job Seekers: Be Like Mike!

By Lisa Parker

Remember the old Gatorade commercial featuring Michael Jordan? It was essentially a music video set to the song, “I Can Be Like Mike.” Michael Jordan is, without question, the most talented basketball player in history. When I talk with older job seekers in my discussion groups, I often bring up how important it is to be “Like Mike” to employers.

Relax, I’m not suggesting anyone go on a Gatorade binge and hit the hoops to impress an employer.

Care to guess the most common thing older job seekers tell me is an obstacle to them landing an offer? “Companies don’t want to hire me. They think, because of my age, that I won’t be interested in working much longer.” When they share this with me, they tend to offer a boat load of assurances of how they fully intend to work for the next 10 years or so. Though that’s fine, that may not be the best strategy. When it comes down to it, promises of long term intentions are no more than lip service. There is simply no way to know how long you’ll be available to an employer and how long they’ll be able to retain you. Agreed?

So, let’s get back to Michael Jordan. Imagine in your mind it’s 1997. Remember, Michael retired for good from basketball in 1999. If Michael had picked up the phone back then and called the owner of the Detroit Pistons to express an interest in playing for the team for a few years before retirement, what do you think would have happened? Do you think the owner would have given him a no thank you on the basis that he was more interested in someone who could go the long haul? Absolutely not. Why? Because Michael’s value to a basketball team was so great any time with him in the mix would have been an asset to the organization.

Older job seekers, all job seekers, need to spend less time on assurances and more time on their value proposition to prospective employers. Knowing they can have you for 10 years isn’t valuable. Knowing that every day they do have you will bring an impressive return to the company is valuable. So don’t sweat over trying to prove you want to work until your last breath. Focus on what you are capable of delivering to the bottom line of the company. In addition, what are you capable of delivering that could generate returns even after you’re gone? Do that and you’ve conveniently solved the other problem often plaguing older job seekers, concern over benefit costs increasing when hiring 50+ year old individuals. At the end of the day, if you’re going to make a company more than you’ll cost them, and they can see it clearly, everybody wins.


Lisa joined the Michigan State University Alumni Association as Director of Alumni Career & Business Services on May 1, 2012. Her primary focus is to develop effective networking and resource channels for experienced alumni interested in professional development and job search strategy assistance. Additionally, Lisa works directly with corporate, education, foundation and government partners seeking to attract qualified talent, retain and develop good employees, and establish collaborative relationships in line with their established goals and objectives.

With 15+ years’ experience in third party recruiting, Lisa offers a balanced understanding of both employee and employer perspectives.

Lisa is a firm advocate of the networking process and considers it a vital element in a successful job search. In addition to helping job seekers develop and best utilize networking contacts, Lisa shares her knowledge and insight-gained aiding corporate recruiting efforts-to give Spartan job seekers an edge in terms of lead sourcing, resume presentation and interview strategy.

Among Lisa’s notable accomplishments: Prima Civitas Foundation Scholar; Michigan Works Association Volunteer of the Year; Pink Slip Mid Michigan Planning Committee; career content blogger.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Michigan State University.


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