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.

He says he has no specific time frame in mind for finding a job, but allows, “I don’t want to be out of work for five years.”

No Taste for Retirement

Someone a few years older may understandably be a bit less patient. Peter Macaluso, 62, laments that he has been seeking work for eight months now, despite a stellar resume. And he makes no pretense that he doesn’t understand why.

“To be honest with you, I’m sure it’s purely an age thing, though no one talks about that — it’s the 800-pound gorilla in the room,” he says. Macaluso tries to get the topic out in the open when he networks or interviews, pointedly saying he wants to work 7 to 10 more years, is in great health, and runs half-marathons.

Recruiters have told him that his background is almost ideal: several different jobs lasting 5 to 10 years and two stints as a CFO who took companies public, though the most recent of those was in the late 1990s.

Most recently Macaluso was vice president of finance and controller at EasyLink Services Corp., a public, $100 million business-to-business messaging company. After Internet Commerce Corp. acquired EasyLink in 2007, he helped with the transition for a year knowing that the job was to be eliminated. “I had time to psychologically get ready to do something different,” he says, “but it hasn’t happened yet.”

Macaluso, who has spent most of his career with telecommunications and Internet companies and is looking primarily in that area, says his most productive networking has flowed from his membership in The Financial Executives Networking Group. Among his dozen or so interviews, several came from leads found in FENG newsletters and chapter meetings. A New Jersey resident, he is open to relocating on the East Coast.

Along with his job search, Macaluso has been consulting for a small accounting firm and may take on a big project from EasyLink. He also has investigated joining one of the firms, such as Tatum LLC, that provide finance executives on temporary assignment.

From a personal financial standpoint, Macaluso’s severance package from EasyLink has left him unaffected — so far. And despite his struggle finding work, he remains optimistic. “There are definitely jobs in the finance field for people with experience,” he says.

Slow Going

Companies are filling their open positions with extreme scrutiny, though. Marcus White, 50, says that while he is guardedly optimistic, he is frustrated at the pace of the hiring process.

“I know there is hiring going on, but it is painfully slow,” says White, who has a strong background in financial analysis. One opening for which he recently interviewed consisted of a phone-screening interview, an online skills assessment and personality assessment, an initial meeting with the hiring manager, three one-hour interviews with other people, a half-day with the main customer that the position would service, and then a final round of interviews with the hiring manager, the CFO, and the vice president of human resources.

“It was quite a gauntlet to run, which I’ve heard from my fellow job-seekers is not atypical,” he says.

White was director of operations analysis for the Life Fitness Divison of Brunswick Corp. from 2004 until July 2008, when the struggling company went through a major downsizing. In that role he was the chief finance resource for Brunswick’s chief operating officer and the vice presidents over manufacturing and supply chain operations. At Brunswick and other employers though his career, White has supplied financial analysis for business development and acquisitions, among many other activities.

Not having found a job in six months of aggressive searching, White, who initially intended to stay in Chicago, has expanded his purview. He says he won’t move “just anywhere,” but the West Coast, Northeast, or elsewhere in the Midwest are all possibilities.

He’s also open to switching industries, and believes finance skills are very transportable. His background is in manufacturing, but he thinks that not only could he add value to any kind of manufacturing business, even moving to a service industry would not be a big stretch.

For his part, White is still unsure whether his age is a factor in his job search, though he thinks the fact that few posted jobs ask for more than 10 or 12 years experience provides a clue. Regardless, like the other in-transition executives, White is networking during most of the 40 hours per week he spends on the search. This time is spread across six or even seven days of the week, and when there are evening networking events, the day can last until 10 p.m.

A break in the economic doldrums would be a godsend. “As the recession grinds on there are more and more job seekers in the market, and I don’t know how good the prognosis is for a lot of them until things turn around,” he said.

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