Posted by Jim Crocker, January 27, 2012.

This article appeared January 23, 2012 in the Entrepreneur Section of the Financial Post.  It is written by Rick Spence in his comment column entitled ‘Growth Curve’. A link to the original article is included at the end.

In every revolution there are casualties. But you don’t have to be one of them. The current stagnant economy is playing a cleansing role similar to the recessions of 1981 and 1990. It’s clearing out old industries and inefficient companies, to make room for innovators who better understand today’s demanding customers.

Among the collateral damage are thousands of senior executives. Perhaps their divisions were downsized, or they didn’t show sufficient understanding of new digital/ global markets. If you’ve been reading the papers, you’ve probably read that the chances of getting a new corporate gig after age 50 are slimmer than winning the lottery.

But today’s entrepreneurial economy offers second chances to anyone who can leverage the new tools that empower individuals even as they shake old institutions to the core.

It’s all in your attitude, says Jim Crocker, an entrepreneur who has served as a consultant, chief executive of a public company (Virtek Vision of Waterloo, Ont.), and interim chief for several technology companies.

Understanding companies’ needs for different kinds of management, he reinvented his consulting firm, Boardroom Metrics, to focus on unemployed senior executives, whom he characterizes as competent, capable leaders caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Boardroom Metrics is now signing up unemployed execs as coaching clients, and also markets them as prospective consultants, interim managers and chief executive officers. “We’re now a talent agency for senior executives,” Crocker says.

It’s a double-barrelled business model that fits today’s hyper-efficient markets: Crocker collects monthly dues from those who join his circle of “Accomplished Executives,” and also takes a fee if they get a gig (temporary or permanent) through Boardroom Metrics.

He is betting 50-plus executives can find new jobs and purpose, but they have to want it. He contends many don’t understand how to get hired again or how to build consulting practices. So he coaches his team to think more like entrepreneurs: figuring out their unique capabilities and mastering social-media channels such as LinkedIn, blogging and Twitter to create awareness and demand. “It always takes longer than you think,” he says, “but we’ve been able to help most of the people we’ve worked with find their next big thing.”

Boardroom Metrics walks the walk. Most clients find the company through social media – whether it be Crocker’s blogs, tweets and YouTube videos or its website, which has been fortified through SEO (search engine optimization). Crocker tells potential Accomplished Executives their personal networks will never go out of style, but social media lets them increase their contacts, promote themselves more effectively, and build deeper relationships. “Social media is a complementary tool,” he says, “but most people don’t know how to do it well.”

First, you need to understand what you’re selling. Crocker and his partner, Karen McElroy, start by helping underemployed executives develop a unique identity, based on their experience and accomplishments, and what the market wants. Crocker says many executives commit a common error of diminishing their individual uniqueness by trying to be all things to all people. “Stop being a generalist!” he urged in a recent blogpost (boardroommetrics.blogspot.com). You may want to be perceived as a generic strategist/change agent, but you’re more likely to make the short list if you focus on your unique skills, Crocker says.

Crocker and McElroy urge everyone to master Linkedin. Most executives, especially those who never expected to be back on the job market, have a barebones profile on Linkedin at best. You have to manage your presence, playing up your accomplishments and achievements, deleting some of those old jobs from the 1980s (let people guess your age), and adding compelling recommendations from co-workers and clients.

The next step is to reach out, signing up for professional and industry groups on Linkedin, joining the conversations already in progress, and starting new ones. This is how you get noticed and make connections. Then you start connecting with these new friends in real life.

Boardroom Metrics also teaches clients to blog – to demonstrate character and thought leadership – and leverage Google AdWords, the pay-per-click tool that allows you to match your own online ads to people who search online for your chosen keywords. Some clients wonder why they have to blog more than once. But Crocker emphasizes it’s a competitive market, and brands are not built in a day.

One executive he worked with went a step further, setting up Google Alerts for companies and industries that interested him. He would use Google’s automated updates to select companies and executives to call, and to customize his key messages. Through these efforts he landed several attractive contract positions, proving old executives can learn new tricks. “It takes a long time and there’s a lot of frustration,” Crocker says, “but if you’re unemployed at 50 or 55, it’s not the end of the world.”

Rick Spence, Financial Post – Rick Spence is a writer, consultant and speaker specializing in entrepreneurship. His column appears weekly in the Financial Post. He can be reached at [email protected]