Over 50, Out of Work, Open to Change

More and more finance executives fit that description in these days of recession and downsizing. The best cure: constant effort and a positive outlook.

In the meantime, the going can be rough. “If someone is going to discriminate against you because of your age, you just have to deal with it,” says Jack Heyden, a partner at Grayhair Management, a career coaching and outplacement firm that specializes in assisting people with more than 15 years’ work experience. Regardless of age, he notes, the key to landing a job is to convince a hiring manager that you are the person best able to fix whatever problem needs to be fixed.

Bound to the Windy City

Not everyone of a certain age feels discriminated against, though. One Grayhair client, Alan Milasius, says he has seen nothing to make him think that companies view people his age, 55, as past their primes. “It’s not like I’m 75,” he says. “I’m not pessimistic about getting something, even in this economy, although it may take a little longer.”

Milasius’s experience suggests that he would have much to offer the right employer. From 1997 to 2006, he was senior vice president and director of audit operations for Chicago-based LaSalle Bank. For the last two years of that stretch, he additionally served as global manager of quality assurance for LaSalle’s then-parent company, the Dutch bank ABN AMRO. Before that, at First Midwest Bancorp, he variously filled the roles of audit director, due diligence manager, corporate secretary, and insurance risk manager. That followed nine years in public accounting with Arthur Young. Milasius has both a CPA and an MBA.

When ABN AMRO put LaSalle through a restructuring phase in 2006, he found himself downsized out of his job. He says he always wanted to try being an entrepreneur, so he spent a couple years attempting to get his own executive coaching service off the ground. Ultimately, the income stream wasn’t enough, and he started mounting a job search in January.

Milasius’s strategy includes working with Grayhair to sharpen his message to employers, and expanding his network, largely through LinkedIn, the online business networking service. He says he spends 30-35 hours per week on networking, including two full days most weeks in downtown Chicago devoted to in-person meetings with new contacts, and “has gotten nothing but positive response.” About 10 more hours per week are spent evaluating job leads furnished by Grayhair and responding to job-board postings.

Though most of his career has been at banks, he’s not limiting his job search to that segment, and in fact, moving in a different direction could provide some fresh air. He wants to use the full spectrum of his internal audit and risk management expertise, and “in a non-regulated industry you have more freedom to experiment and dig into the true risks of the business.”

One factor that Milasius acknowledges may work against him is a desire, for family reasons, to remain in the Chicago area. So far, financial hardship is not part of the equation, though he did not take his annual ski vacation this winter and sold his airplane a couple of years ago.

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