Obstructed by Age, Promoted by Experience

Gary Croatt faced age discrimination everywhere he turned, but his age and experience opened a new door for him.

Gary Croatt recently found himself on the wrong side of 60 years old and out of work.

Until a few months ago, he was a salesman for a real estate investment trust company in Arizona where he sold to financial services agencies from Arizona up the Rocky Mountains range to Montana. Then, in March 2010, Croatt was laid off.

He immediately launched an ambitious job search, but everywhere he went, Croatt, 62, said he could tell that the hiring figures were intent on hiring someone in his 30s or 40s and gave him little attention.

“Initially, the thing that got me down was all the rejection,” Croatt said. “What am I going to do?”

Croatt saw a paradox taking shape in the financial services industry: a landscape of businesses hiring only 30- and 40-year-olds and customers, mostly baby boomers with retirement savings to invest, who “don’t want to give their money to some 30-something.” His solution: Start his own business.

Many job seekers, after months of barren job searching, resign themselves to a role as consultant for hire or start a new business as an alternative to employment. Their prospects can be dim. But Croatt said he doesn’t see it that way. He sees his route to self-employment as an outgrowth of the job search and the lessons and confidence he picked up during the process.

Croatt, a SalesLadder member, participated in Ladders High-Touch Premium program of intensive coaching, which forced him to consider the concept of his personal brand, something he hadn’t done before. He realized that he was walking around with a lot of good experience as a certified financial planner with a long track record of success. Working with a career coach who helped him develop a story around those credentials and a certified professional resume writer who helped him craft a resume to tell the story, he discovered that he possessed some exceptional skills to offer someone. The career coach also prompted him to approach networking in an organized manner, which helped him uncover what a powerful resource he had in the professional contacts he had built up over his career.

To Croatt, his personal brand as a financial services expert and a powerful network sounded less like something he wanted to offer to an employer and more like something he could offer directly to clients, especially those who preferred to hand their financial concerns to a more experienced financial planner.

The business, GRC Financial, LLC, is starting to take off. Croatt has already landed four contracts as a consultant/advisor to small financial services companies in Arizona, with a couple of more in the pipeline. “Knowledge and contacts” are commodities of which he has a surplus, he said.

“It’s much more satisfying,” he said. “When I get up in the morning, virtually anything I do I have a revenue stream attached to it.”