Long-Term Employee Exit Strategy

"I am 49 and have worked for my current employer since 1989. We lost two big clients this year and the owner has encouraged me to look for another job since the outlook for this small company (7 employees) is not good. Do you have any tips for someone my age who has only worked for one marketing/advertising company for so long? I am a jack of all trades - I do a little selling, magazine production and design, and I am the default IT guy."

Sorry to hear about your situation. It is tough, especially after committing yourself to a company for that long.

I have several pieces of advice - I'll let you pick and choose what works best for you.

1. I don't know what your relationship or level of trust is with the owner, but I am going to be honest. The owner encouraging you to seek another job might be a kind gesture, but could also be in his/her best interest. No matter what the intention, the writing's on the walls and I agree that it is time to move on. Even if new clients come in, move on.

2. You will want to be proactive in re-entering the job market - move quickly. You will be more attractive to employers while you are currently employed - job hunting while unemployed, especially at your point in your career, is tough. Your boss might have to let you go soon, but would prefer you leave on your own terms.

The first thing to do is "re-brand" yourself. As a marketing expert, you will be good at this. I highly recommend finding a professional photographer (not just a friend with a camera) and get the best, VP looking headshots you can. Before that, make sure to get a great haircut, bleach your teeth, get a new suit that fits well if you don't have one. Add your new headshot to your Linkedin, but also your facebook and other social media. This will get your friends and peers to see you as a professional. This will freshen up and modernize your image.

3. Because you have been at one company for so long, other agencies that have had interest in you, and recruiters, likely view you as a "lifer". Other agencies might avoid approaching you for a job because of your tenure at your current agency. This isn't a bad thing, just mutual respect between agencies. Keep this in mind.

4. Update all aspects of your Linkedin. Don't add that you are "seeking employment" anywhere. If your linkedin is barren, add text to your experience to make it appear more like a resume. Rewrite your "About Me" and focus on your expertise. If you have a Strengthsfinder, feel free to add that information (if you don’t, I highly recommend the book and the test). Present yourself in the best light possible and "sell" yourself without looking like you are trying.

5. Make a list of the Agencies and in-house Marketing in your area. If your city is big enough, find a business directory that should have a list of all of them. Look at the career pages on these sites for anything that appeals to you. Or call someone in leadership directly and express your interest. If you want to work with a Headhunter/Executive Recruiter, contact them before applying to any agencies.

6. Next is the hard part. When the question is asked about why you are seeking new employment, you will want to vent a little, or explain your situation to save face. Don't.

When talking to recruiters, let them know that you are ready to try something new and intriguing. If you trust them, you can let them know about the clients leaving, but I would be careful about sharing this.

When interviewing for any job, focus your motivation on the company you are interviewing with, NOT the fact that you need to find new employment. Think about a date with someone: you wouldn't tell someone on a first date that you are seeing them because your ex-girlfriend is intolerable, or that you're seeing them because you're desperate. You would tell your date you are out with them because THEY are amazing.

7. This is a situation that a local Executive Recruiter can help with. Go into Linkedin click the “Advanced” link. Under “Location”, enter your postal code. Under “Title” enter recruiter or headhunter. Look through the options and save the names of the people you like the look of. Reach out to them and tell them you are looking. You will need to be proactive, but they should be able to help.

8. This is an opportunity to re-invent yourself. You said you are a jack of all trades. Be honest with yourself and decide 1 or 2 things you are best at, and focus on that. You need to be more specific about your skills. If you want to stay a "jack of all trades", focus on small agencies.

Good luck!