Monthly Blogs 2018

Career Crossroads after 50…No Stopping, or Slowing Down, at 65

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November, 2018

This is the eighth in a series about how nine clients, friends and family members successfully transitioned, transformed or stayed the course in their careers after age 50. This month I will be describing how my sister Liz, pictured above, has decided to continue her work indefinitely, even after reaching the typical retirement age of 65. My sincere thanks to Liz for sharing her wisdom and boundless generosity.

The graphic above reveals the degree of difficulty and the economic considerations for most career alternatives. The continuation option has been placed in the middle of the model to symbolize that it is not meant to be a career move towards a new direction, but rather it is a decision to stay on the current path for the foreseeable future.

In my January, February and March blogs, I described each of the nine career alternatives, with corresponding strategies, economic considerations and degrees of difficulty. Please refer back to these three blogs as you prepare for your own career transition or transformation. 

Liz Dow’s Continuation Story

My sister is the long term CEO of Leadership Philadelphia. Its mission is to mobilize and connect Philadelphia’s professionals to serve the community. Each year nearly 200 business and non-profit leaders are served by the program. Each month, over a ten month period, the leaders served by her largest program spend a day together studying a civic issue central to the city of Philadelphia.

By the end of the year, her clients will have received individual and group leadership evaluations, development and training, civic education, and help finding a non-profit board to join.

Background

Liz’s first job out of graduate school was Director of Financial Aid at Swarthmore College. She left to earn an MBA at Wharton, which led her to over a decade in senior positions in consulting and banking. The big career shift happened in her early 40s when Liz realized that she had achieved the Wharton dream: success measured through titles and compensation. This was not her dream: doing work with a sense of purpose.

At that point she shifted gears, swapping financial rewards for meaningful impact, and took over a nearly bankrupt non-profit organization. Over the years she has grown its impact, operating results and reach. It is now a powerful hub of connection for professionals across sector and race in Philadelphia.

Reason For Her Career Continuation

As an entrepreneur, Liz has invested 25 years of sweat equity in her organization and intends to continue this as long as she is the best qualified CEO to run it. Why stay, when she was at a point where others choose retirement? She loves the work.

Each year her team recruits nearly 200 new clients, and Liz takes the time to get to know each one. When she learns their stories, she actively reaches out to connect them with one another weaving them more tightly into the fabric of the community.

Her approach and its results led author Malcolm Gladwell to label her, “Philadelphia’s #1 Connector.” With Liz at the helm, Leadership Philadelphia continues to be a trusted convener in the city. She is integral to the brand and respected as a thought leader.

Results

While focusing daily on running leadership development, civic affairs training, and operating profitably, Liz continues to innovate with special civic projects to keep the organization on the cutting edge. These projects range from identifying, convening and studying the city’s connectors; to doing a joint radio essay project highlighting alumni leaders on the local NPR station; to mobilizing “Pay it Forward” service projects.

This year for Leadership’s 60th Anniversary, she is curating Master Classes in Empathy, Compassion, Connection and Common Ground to encourage people to focus on their shared humanity.

At this point in her career, Liz has accumulated considerable social capital, a web of unparalleled connection with Philadelphia’s leaders, and a reputation for working to build bridges. This positions her to help unite diverse leaders across sectors, races and generations. “Lately, at some level, I have come to realize that the city needs me for the non-partisan behind the scenes glue I create. At a time when my children are grown and thriving, it’s nice to feel needed.”

Reflections, Lessons Learned, and Advice From Liz

“My advice is to think about who needs you and what you need. Part of deciding not to transition out of this position is the result of a high level of self-awareness, crafted as I have taught young leaders to develop theirs. I know that my achievement drive needs to be fed. I meet my affiliation needs by deepening my relationship with clients.”

“My investment in developing and connecting leaders for the common good allows me to feel that my work matters. I also watched my role model, my dad, work till age 80 and saw the joy and fulfillment that it brought him. I want to demonstrate that level of fulfillment for my children.”

“My decision to continue on this path is the echo of the decision I made 25 years ago: to let go of other people’s norms and expectations and leave a lucrative corporate job. Back then my inner voice said, “Leave!” Now my inner voice says, “Stay!”

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Career Crossroads after 50…First a Four Month Sabbatical, then a Career Transformation

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October, 2018

This is the seventh in a series about how nine clients and friends successfully transitioned or transformed their careers after age 50. This month I will be describing how a good friend began his transition with a four month sabbatical, then made a successful career transformation just as he was turning 50.

The graphic above reveals the degree of difficulty and the economic considerations for most career alternatives. The sabbatical option has been placed in the lower middle of the model to symbolize that it is not meant to be a sustainable career option, but rather a “between jobs” break. This career alternative involves intentional time off for personal reasons, professional renewal and/or development.

In my January, February and March blogs, I described each of the nine career alternatives, with corresponding strategies, economic considerations and degrees of difficulty. Please refer back to these three blogs as you prepare for your own career transition or transformation.

Bill’s Sabbatical Story

Background

Bill’s background includes an MBA in Finance from the University of Minnesota, and four years of active duty in the US Navy. He spent 25 years in retail information systems (IS) with the US Navy, Deloitte & Touche, Target Stores, TG&Y Stores, National Convenience Stores and Tonka Corporation, with the last three jobs as Vice President.

During his corporate career, Bill lived in seven different cities, six states and spent two years overseas. He owned and sold four houses, and has been married twice, to professional career women. In all he has raised three kids who have five grandchildren.

Catalyst for Change

Bill had become tired of job relocations and family separation. He wanted to settle his home life. His kids had graduated from high school and moved out to attend college. Bill wanted to start building equity and savings, and had an increasing interest in using his experience as a retail Information Systems/Chief Information Officer consultant.

He had a succession of major roles in the management and consolidations of information systems staffs due to mergers. This had happened four times, and he had found the reorganizations and subsequent downsizings depressing. In the last consolidation, Bill received a golden parachute of one year’s compensation. He was free to go, and needed a break before returning to work.

Just prior to Bill’s sabbatical, he engaged executive coach Richard Leider. Leider’s advice was to, “View change as adventure, shock the system and take risks.”

Results

Bill was very adventurous during his sabbatical. He decided to backpack around the world with his wife. Luckily, she was on board from the start. They bought an airline pass that would enable them to visit 14 countries over four months, mostly staying in youth hostels.

They met interesting people of all ages and backgrounds, and experienced incredible, exotic places. This experience eliminated all desire to return to corporate life. He developed a sense of empowerment, independence and entrepreneurial thinking.

Bill researched, and started, a very successful independent consulting business upon his return. His sabbatical turned out to be the catalyst that helped him move from a succession of corporate leadership roles to what would become his next twelve years as an independent retail systems consultant.

Reflections and Lessons Learned

Looking back on the early stages of his consulting practice, Bill learned that startup risks (loss of income) were less than anticipated. Additional household income and support from his wife also helped lower Bill’s anxiety. He learned repeatedly the value of peer and sales rep networks that were instrumental contributors to his success in growing his practice.

Bill finally had stable housing and a healthy income that enabled retirement savings accumulation. He learned to overcome his tendency to undervalue his services, and over time his fees increased and his time away from home decreased. Consulting travel, however, was extensive, occurring weekly for his twelve years until retirement. In the end, Bill preferred this travel to the many relocations in his past, and over time he was able to spend more time working from his home, less on the road.

By age 62, Bill was able to officially retire with comfortable retirement savings. He shifted his focus to volunteering, family, and personal activities that allow him to fully enjoy his life today. From time to time, he ponders what emerged from his four month sabbatical, and has no regrets about leaving his previous corporate identity.

The advice Bill received from his executive coach, Richard Leider, prior to his sabbatical reminds me of these prophetic words, attributed to Mark Twain, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bow lines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

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Career Crossroads after 50…Finding Better Work, and a Much Brighter Future

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September, 2018

This is the sixth in a series about how nine clients or friends successfully transitioned or transformed their careers after age 50. This month I will describe how one client made the transformation to new work that was a major departure from his previous work and industry.

The graphic above shows the degree of difficulty and the economic considerations when seeking a major work shift. This career alternative involves a change in the nature of your work, uses different skills and expertise, and often involves a change in industry as well.

In my January, February and March blogs, I described each of the nine career alternatives, with corresponding strategies, economic considerations and degrees of difficulty. Please refer back to these three blogs as you prepare for your own career transition or transformation.

Tim’s Story

Background

Tim began his career as an accountant, and spent 19 years in various financial roles, eight as a CFO. He has a total of forty years experience in manufacturing. For 24 years he was either CEO or COO at one of two companies. He is a strong believer in servant leadership and building a culture of accountability.

Tim has a Midwest upbringing, is family oriented, and genuinely cares about the people with whom he works.

Catalyst for Change

The previous business Tim was involved with (for 28 years) changed hands five times during his tenure as CEO. He survived the changes, but the final sale involved an international business group headquartered in Chile. They eventually decided to move the top role to South America.

At the time, Tim was thinking he was ready for a new experience, and in many ways, he felt that it was time to move on. Despite that, he says he would not have chosen to exit. He was 52 years old at the time he left the company.

While in transition, one of the options that greatly interested Tim, was to work with others to create a version of a private equity firm to acquire compatible companies which could be held or sold over time.

I saw Tim light up when he shared this idea, and it came up many times in the months we worked together. Tim had completed one significant acquisition in his career so he knew he had the skills to do this work. He enjoyed the experience, and it was very successful.

The biggest problem with Tim’s private equity dream was financial risk. He did not want to endanger his family’s financial wellbeing. He needed to discover a different version of his dream, and that is exactly what happened.

Results

With the help of a network connection, Tim landed in a small privately held business with a strong and stable ownership. The company had a real desire to grow, with a strong leaning towards acquiring other existing good businesses.

Tim started as CFO, with no real plan as to what would happen from there. He was unsure of his ability to reinvent himself, having been in the same business and industry for so many years.

Tim successfully transitioned from a company in the steel industry to one in the printing space. He was also shifting from a $100M mining equipment business with a $2B parent to a similar sized entity in a different industry, minus the resources of a large parent company.

Tim had done only one acquisition in his entire career, but his new job from the start was acquisition oriented. His company has accomplished sixteen acquisitions since Tim started eleven years ago. His business has flourished and is now the 23rd largest print company in North America. Growth has been well over 500% since Tim started.

The owners are values based with a a priority of creating an excellent business and developing people. The company works to be nicely profitable yet keenly aware that it also needs to be a good corporate citizen, and takes good care of its people. Tim is the only non-family officer.

Reflections and Lessons Learned

Tim was allowed the opportunity to create the vision of the business and execute the strategy that led to tremendous growth in a relatively short time.

As he reflects on his experience these past eleven years he says, “The scenario has played out similarly to what my vision was in transition, without the financial risk. The plan worked! In addition to running the day to day affairs of the business, creating an industry leader has been both challenging and immensely rewarding. The process of assessing, acquiring and then managing and growing these companies has been a tremendous personal growth and learning experience that totally exceeds my expectations.

It required a shift in management from a strategy of maximizing what we had to work with, to creating what could be. It required stretching self-imposed limitations and finding skills I didn’t believe I had. I have been fortunate and am grateful for the opportunity to live out my dream and grow both personally and professionally in the process. If such an opportunity comes your way, believe in yourself and don’t be afraid or too proud to rely on others for help.”

My Afterthoughts

As you might guess, I am a huge fan of Tim and what he has accomplished in the past eleven years. I meet with him several times each year both because Tim has become a good friend, and his career transformation and business success inspires and enables me to pass on the hope that comes from his story.

One thing that is unique and inspiring is that Tim’s company is not in the business of growing a company over five to seven years and then selling it. Rather, it buys and builds its acquired companies, holding on for the long term.

Tim’s example not only deviates from the usual private equity timelines, but his story also goes against another trend. You may have heard that most senior executive jobs last an average of only three years. Tim will soon be starting year twelve in a job he began at age 52.

Here’s to career longevity, and finding a new and better path. And here’s to buying and building companies, and building new careers with staying power after age 50!

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Career Crossroads after 50… Will a Portfolio Life Become Your Second Half Story?

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August, 2018

This is the fifth in a series about how nine clients and friends successfully transitioned or transformed their careers after age 50. This month I will be describing how one former client made the transformation to a portfolio life. The graphic above reveals the degree of difficulty and the economic considerations when seeking a portfolio life. This career alternative involves a redistribution of time committed to work, community and personal activities. 

In my January, February and March blogs, I described each of the nine career alternatives, with corresponding strategies, economic considerations and degrees of difficulty. Please refer back to these three blogs as you prepare for your own career transition or transformation. 

Pat’s Portfolio Life Story 

Background
 
“I was a career marketing and consulting professional, with a particular focus in customer experience. I spent the first 13 years of my career on the client side, and the last 30 consulting with clients. As my consulting practice evolved, I realized that what clients valued most in me was the trust they could extend, knowing their interests would be primary. When I started my own practice in 2010, I wrote my 5 core values on Day 1. My foremost value was to always act in the best interest of the client. Always. That governed my approach and helped build several life-long relationships — the legacy of my work that I value most.

Catalyst for Change

As a solo practitioner, I typically maintained 1 or 2 client assignments concurrently. Late last year, I had finished a lengthy, rewarding — and exhausting — client project. It allowed me to produce the sort of signature impact on a major brand that was the ultimate goal of my practice. When I went into my office each morning in the weeks following, I realized my reservoir of energy was sapped – the drive that had been so evident for nearly 45 years was missing.

I was pursuing new business, but just going through the motions. I discussed my feelings with my wife. Our two-career approach had enabled us to achieve our financial objectives, she planned to continue working several more years, and I was just months from turning 65. When she asked, “Why don’t you just retire?”, her support, coupled with my desire to start my portfolio life, made it easy to say “good idea.”

Results

The discipline of writing out a strategic plan for my portfolio life was foundational. I set a goal to have at least 3 projects, or commitments, identified in each ‘slice’ of my portfolio life: Vocation, Avocation, Friends & Family, Self-Development, and Giving Back. As one is completed, the next rises to the top. The ability to become ‘ego-centric’ – in a positive context – enabled me to identify the true passions that I wanted to pursue in every category.

Serving on boards, providing strategic guidance for non-profits, one last effort to salvage my golf game, cooking lessons, time to plan the travel that is our most beloved hobby as a couple, more attention directed to childhood buddies, college classes for the pure joy of learning, etc… Eight months after writing my plan, I am completing consulting deliverables for 3 non-profits, I exercise and golf more than ever, my cooking has improved, I’ve re-connected with friends back home, and I’ve planned a major celebration of our 30th anniversary for 2019.

Reflections and Lessons Learned

‘Retirement’ can be the capstone of your life’s work…rather than a consolation prize. You get to drive the agenda – you do the work you care to do, for the causes you support, all done on your terms. You determine how big each slice of the pie is. The freedom from traditional work/career demands may inspire you to more activity, not less – but it is activity that is so fulfilling because it aligns with your passions! David Corbett, in his Portfolio Life: The New Path to Work, Purpose, and Passion After 50, eloquently defines the opportunity a portfolio life presents: “Where our deep gifts, and our gladness, meet the needs of the world.”

Pat now uses a title/signature of ‘CEO of My Portfolio Life.’ Friends ask what he is running, and he replies, “Me! It’s symbolic, but important to me. It means that this is more than a pastime or a project — it is a second or third career and arguably, the most important one.”

Some Personal Notes, Additional Learning Resources, and What is Ahead for My Next Blog Series

I am committed to the portfolio life option as an ideal way to live and work in my second half, and am preparing for a transformation that begins in January, 2019. My December, 2018 blog will reveal how I have been bridging to this career alternative over the past few years.

If you want to learn more about pursuing a portfolio life, read my October, 2014 blog. To hear my 30 minute podcast on this topic, released this month, click here.

In January, 2019 I will begin a new blog series titled, “Portfolio Life After 60.” I would love to learn how your portfolio life has evolved if this has become your second half story. Please send me updates from time to time. Let’s help one another navigate our next chapter.

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Career Crossroads after 50… From “Overqualified” to “When can you start?”

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July, 2018

This is the fourth in a series about nine clients and friends who successfully transitioned or transformed their careers after age 50. This month I will describe how a former client downshifted two levels in her early 50s.

The graphic above illustrates the degree of difficulty and the economic considerations for a downshift role option. This career alternative involves moving from your most recent role to a lower level of responsibility and/or lower title.

In my January, February and March blogs archived on my website, I described each of the nine career alternatives, with corresponding strategies, economic considerations and degrees of difficulty. Please refer back to these three blogs as you prepare for your own career transition or transformation.

Mary’s Story

It was a Wednesday afternoon a few years back when I got the call. My client sounded anxious and deflated. The hiring manager had just informed her that while she might be a great candidate for the job, there was serious concern that she was overqualified.

They would get back to her Friday after considering her candidacy a few more days. Her job campaign had gone on for several months, and she was more than ready to get back to work. Here were my questions to her that afternoon.

Was this a good job?

The job was at a lower level than her previous position, and there is always a question of how challenging and engaging a job will be if it is one or two levels below the last one. Would she be frustrated or leave if not sufficiently challenged? Would she be more qualified than her boss and become a possible threat or annoyance? Would she be excited about going to this work each day, especially after the initial enthusiasm wore off? Would her skills and knowledge fit the new role?

When I asked her these questions about the job, she told me it would be very engaging and challenging, despite its lower level. I heard in both her words and tone that she was excited about the growth and challenge ahead. She could do this job with her skills, knowledge and ability to adapt and learn. She was ready to go for it.

Was this a good organization and boss fit?

This was a premier company with an excellent reputation for work environment and corporate culture. It was fast paced and challenging, but did not seem to be a “burnout”environment. The boss was known to her, and she anticipated an excellent working relationship.

Was this a good fit personally (salary, location, hours)?

While the salary was lower than her last job, it was fair and logical for its level and the industry. She could make this salary work for her family. The location was a major city in California, and having close relatives nearby was a big plus for her. The cost of living was higher, but she and her family could make this work. The hours and demands would be draining at times, but no more so than she was used to.

If you answered yes to all three questions, why not call them now?

I was concerned that waiting until Friday could send the message that she too was hesitant about the job, had her own concerns about being overqualified, and might be wavering on the decision. Why not call the hiring manager today and preempt their “overqualified” concerns?

She made the call that same day, emphasizing her fit in each of the areas described above, and received a job offer the next day.

Could this be a strategy and script for you?

If you find yourself in a similar situation, and feel you are likely being judged as overqualified, go over the three questions above first. If you can answer each in the affirmative, consider telling the employer something like this:

Job fit script:

“You may have some concern that I am overqualified for this position, but let me assure you that his job would be very engaging and challenging. With my considerable experience to draw from and a proven ability to adapt to new challenges, I would do an excellent job for you, and really enjoy this work.”

Organization/boss fit script:

“Based on our conversations, I believe that working with you as my boss would be a very good fit. I have also learned a good deal about your organization, and like what I see. After many helpful conversations and my company research, I believe I would be a very good organizational fit.”

Personal fit script:

(If a relocation) “My family and I have had numerous discussions and have done our homework regarding this relocation. We are ready to move, and are looking forward to it.”

($) “While the compensation will be less than my last job, I am confident that you will be fair and logical in your negotiations. If your offer is consistent with the nature and scope of the job, the market, and where I logically fit on your range, I am confident that we can make this work.”

Wrapping up script:

“This all lines up nicely with what I had hoped for in my next position and organization. I believe I’ll not only be a great fit here, but will also be a significant contributor to the success of this company. I’m very excited about joining (company name) and doing this work!”

Afterthoughts

If an “overqualified” label could diminish or eliminate your candidacy for a job, I hope these suggestions help. Prior to its release, I shared this blog with my former client. She approved its content, and added these three comments:

“I gave evidence of my adaptability through an example of a time in my career where I needed to get up to speed quickly in a new role and demonstrate significant leadership due to lack of credibility in the former leader.

I recall that the discussion on starting salary was tricky. I told them that, to me, rewards had always followed my performance and that while I expected to be paid fairly and competitively, initially replacing my salary was less important to me than meaningful work, great colleagues and an opportunity to develop new skills. That seemed to resonate. It also happened to be true!

As I reflect on that period in my life, I believe I was driven more by a need to really reinvent myself than anything else. I would not make different decision as to relocation but do know I underestimated how difficult it would be making a significant change in industry (especially to high tech). Nevertheless, I believe I was successful in the transition and landed on my feet.”

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From Corporate Executive to First Time Entrepreneur at 60

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June, 2018

This is the Third in a series about nine clients and friends who successfully transitioned or transformed their careers after age 50. This month I will describe how a good friend (and my former eighth grade English teacher) shifted from thirty years as a corporate executive to a small business owner at age 60.

The graphic above illustrates the degree of difficulty and the economic considerations for the new venture option. This career alternative involves starting a consulting practice, buying or starting a business or buying a franchise.

In my January, February and March blogs archived on my website, I described each of the nine career alternatives, with corresponding strategies, economic considerations and degrees of difficulty. Please refer back to these three blogs as you prepare for your own career transition or transformation.

Mike’s New Venture Story Background

Mike describes himself as a “child of the 1960s,” which he says were also his “wilderness years” where lifelong values and beliefs became rooted. After graduating from high school, he first attended Amherst College, then graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1964, majoring in English literature. Mike next taught high school English at Breck School in Minneapolis, and, for one memorable year, at Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii.

After marrying in 1968, he and his wife lived for a year in Sydney, Australia, finally completing their around-the-world adventure with a nine-week bus trip from Katmandu, Nepal to London. Returning to Minneapolis, Mike was an advertising copywriter for a few years before receiving his MBA in marketing, and spending 30 years in general management with two Fortune 500 firms, first in marketing roles at General Mills, then as a General Manager at Land O Lakes.

Catalyst for Change

Taking early retirement, Mike bought a small business in 2002, where he remains active. The idea of buying a business came from his 25 year old son who had just completed a computer science degree. Mike’s daughter found the company in the “companies for sale” section of the newspaper.

His company of nine employees provides IT support for small businesses, with 35+ clients, which has grown from two (Mike and his son) to nine employees. During this period, he and his wife have moved from the suburbs to a condo on the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis, remained close to their two children who live in Edina, and become the happy grandparents to three boys ages ten, eleven, and thirteen.

Mike is active in the downtown Minneapolis community, but has been very much challenged by the trials and tribulations of starting and growing his business, where his son is the president and daughter the general manager.

Results

Beginning in the year 2002, no longer surrounded by all the support services that are part and parcel of any Fortune 500 company, Mike found himself, with his son, directly putting on all the hats associated with any business, many of which, he says, didn’t initially fit very well…such as making literally thousands of cold calls to attempt soliciting new customers, consuming enough coffee at networking encounters to fill a small sized swimming pool, and personally chasing down and confronting slow (or no) paying clients.

On the more personal lifestyle side, he has been involved with a downtown men’s group, as one of six founding members that has grown to an organization of over 60 individuals, almost all of whom have moved past their permanent career years.

Some people might describe Mike as an individual who appears to have been driven, compulsively seeking change. He changed colleges, experimented with a variety of vocations before settling on business general management, took on the challenges of not only starting a new business, but doing so with his son and daughter, changed from suburban to urban living, took up an entire new set of friends and acquaintances once moving downtown, spent a year active in a Zen Buddhist community. Mike has also been involved with Zero Population Growth (ZPG), the Sierra Club, and in the last three years, weekly Toastmasters meetings, spent 10 years writing and publishing a novel-again, perhaps almost driven, compulsive behavior.

Reflections and Lessons Learned

Compulsive or not, Mike acknowledges that if there has been arguably one defining characteristic to his life, it has been constant reinvention. He will tell that as decades went by, and he would periodically reconnect with his mother, she would repeatedly say that she “no longer recognized” him. Uncertain as to an explanation, he sometimes simply says he expects that “perhaps it’s because I’m fear based, Darwinian in a way.”

Well into his thirties he battled with family depression and anxiety, with which he for a time successfully coped with, again, compulsive early school achievement. “But it all fell apart when I hit college,” he says. “I was no longer a super star, a big fish in a small pound.” It took almost ten years to rebuild his life, which he did through therapy, medication, his wife’s invaluable help, a series of life “experiments”, and the inevitable hard lessons that come with operating in the everyday real world.

Specifically, during his MBA experience, he was told that if he possessed one important skill, it was the ability to take vast amounts of information and condense it into 25 words or less, bumper sticker style. He says that this allowed him for 30 years to move up the ranks of general management by being able to successfully write endless annual and long-range business plans, sell dozens of very large investment projects to management and the company’s board, and make hundreds of sales and customer presentations.

At age 60, however, he transitioned abruptly from a work centric to a family centric world. All his energy and job dedication now focused on his wife, children, and grandchildren. He says that he is not aware of a single member of his men’s group who does not say that, in one’s final years, nothing is more important than one’s family!

Along with this has been what he calls his goal of engagement. “At age 76, I experience life now as mostly one personal engagement after another. Growing up I was shy and introverted. I think that this is still my default position, but I’m ever mindful of what I sense as a looming Darwinian threat. Thus, I’m now so much more aware of the importance of the tribe. As I grow older, my energy, physical and cerebral capabilities are obviously and inevitably declining. I can no longer go it alone. That’s where my goal of continuing interpersonal engagement comes in. My wife tells me she sees me as no less capable today than in the past. If even true, who knows how much longer that might last. Any way you look at it, the light at the end of the tunnel grows more blindingly bright every day.”

Conclusion

Stories help us understand the realities, struggles and triumphs of life and work. Mike has shared his story in the hope that you will see greater possibilities for yourself and others. Join me next time, as I explore another path of career transition and transformation after 50.

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Moving From One Job to a Portfolio of Work After 50

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May, 2018

This is the second in a series about nine clients and friends who successfully transitioned or transformed their careers after age 50. This month I will describe how one former client shifted from a marketing leadership job to multiple overlapping jobs after age 50.

The graphic above illustrates the degree of difficulty and the economic considerations for the portfolio of work option I call “new terms.” This career alternative involves a change in terms of compensation and time commitments. This may include consulting, contract work, interim, and/or flexible schedule. The ultimate goal is to replace the income of one job with that from multiple jobs worked concurrently or sequentially.

In my January, February and March blogs archived on my website, I described each of the nine career alternatives, with corresponding strategies, economic considerations and degrees of difficulty. Please refer back to these three blogs as you prepare for your own career transition or transformation.

Bill’s “New Terms” Story

While preparing to share his story, I asked Bill to consider what most readers would like to know about him and his journey. First, I asked about his background, who he is, and where he worked before his transition. Second, what was the catalyst for his career change? Third, what were the results of his search, and how and where did he ultimately land? Fourth, I asked Bill for reflections and lessons learned which could help others who might be considering a similar next step for their career.

Background

Most recently, Bill had worked for several years at a national non-profit as Director of Marketing. His background included marketing leadership roles at both for-profit and non-profit organizations, and teaching college for nearly 8 years about 20 years ago. Bill is an experienced and highly skilled marketer, public speaker and instructor. He was approaching retirement age, but told me he still had the energy and ability to take a few more laps.

Catalyst for Change

Bill’s career was frequently disrupted by changes in his wife’s employment. His wife is a corporate executive who was recruited multiple times to new opportunities in different parts of the country. Bill was happy to support his wife in her upward career movement, and has taken on many additional home duties, including hosting and entertaining associated with having a high profile spouse.

Bill’s wife’s new job required them to live in a smaller community where his opportunities were limited. He could network with some of the people associated with his wife’s new employer, but this would call for some challenging networking efforts on Bill’s part.

Results

Bill become more committed to networking as time passed, and grew an impressive collection of sponsors who ultimately helped him land multiple opportunities that added up to the equivalent of a full-time job. Bill now has a portfolio of work, including two classes he teaches as an adjunct professor at a local university, and a half-time marketing job at a larger non-profit. This marketing job was created just for Bill due to his excellent marketing and social media skills and knowledge.

He needed to cultivate this opportunity over several months, and eventually convinced the Executive Director of the benefits and affordability of having him engaged half-time. Bill’s success in securing this position is also due in large part to his commitment to staying current with social and digital marketing tools and strategies.

Reflections and Lessons Learned

At the beginning of his career transition, isolation was Bill’s default mode. He confided in me that the stress associated with his circumstances had at times become debilitating. At one point he decided to approach a therapist and physician to see if counseling and medications might help what had become a growing social anxiety.

Because Bill got the counseling and medication he needed to reduce his anxiety, he was eventually able to network effectively. Bill overcame his tendency toward isolation, and ultimately landed the three jobs that now constitute his portfolio of work. If this sounds familiar to you, don’t be too proud to reach out for psychological and/or medical help if the situation calls for it.

In the end, Bill established great new relationships through church, civic and other organizations. He would advise you to first and foremost avoid isolation, make community connections and set and keep networking goals. Have faith that it gets easier over time to network and to reduce the anxiety associated with this process.

Bill would also advocate staying current in the latest tools and teachings within your profession. Especially if you are over 50, this is a significant differentiator. While you are in transition, or considering a transition, is there some coursework, reading or project that will help make you a more attractive candidate in your field?

Conclusion

Stories help us understand the realities, struggles and triumphs of life and work. With Bill’s help, I have told his story in the hope that you will see greater possibilities for yourself and others. Join me next time, as I explore another path of career transition and transformation after 50.

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Shifting From Corporate to Non-Profit After 50

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April, 2018

This is the first in a series about how nine clients and friends successfully transitioned or transformed their careers after age 50. This month I will be describing how one former client shifted from corporate to non-profit after age 50. The graphic above reveals the degree of difficulty and the economic considerations when seeking a new work environment. This career alternative involves change of industries, work culture, size or type of firm, but continuing in a similar function.

In my January, February and March blogs, I described each of the nine career alternatives, with corresponding strategies, economic considerations and degrees of difficulty. Please refer back to these three blogs as you prepare for your own career transition or transformation.

Sandy’s “New Environment” Story

While preparing to share her story, I asked Sandy to consider what most readers would like to know about her and her journey. First, I asked about her background, who she is and where she worked before her transition. Second, what was the catalyst for her career change? Third, what were the results of her search, and how and where did she ultimately land? Fourth, I asked Sandy for reflections and lessons learned which could help others who might be considering a similar next step for their career.

Background

Sandy worked in corporate America for over 30 years. Her functional area was information technology leadership, and she had spent 24 years at the same large company, with steadily increasing responsibilities. Sandy was high performing and had consistently been rated as a high potential employee. In her early 50s she had assumed that she had to stay, and there were no options for change at her age.

Catalyst for Change

Sandy began to realize that what had long been considered an asset to the organization was no longer valued. Earlier in her career she found that challenging and bringing new ideas were highly valued. This was not the case in recent years. She noticed that leaders were chosen and advanced because of a similarity in style and profile that did not match hers.

Due to a significant industry downturn, major shifts in top leadership and culture had taken place over the past five years. The scales had tipped dramatically from creativity and innovation to control. The strengths that made Sandy valuable in the past were liabilities now. Because she was no longer a fit, Sandy needed to find an opportunity that better matched her strengths and values.

Sandy also felt strongly that she needed to move to something, not just away from something.  She didn’t have many years left to work, and the opportunity to work for a non-profit was going to something she really wanted.  She had been evaluating this option for some time, and had decided it was definitely her future career destination. She would not leave to go to another corporate type job.

Results

Through networking and some good fortune, Sandy discovered an opportunity to work for a large non-profit. This organization wanted a candidate with IT skills similar to those of her existing job. In spite of what Sandy had heard about the non-profit sector, the pay and benefits for this job were comparable, and in some aspects even better than at her corporate job. She had found an organization that did everything to ensure she had what she needed to work for them.

Sandy was thrilled to find the best of what she had experienced years before at her corporate job, before the economic downturn and subsequent shift in leadership and culture. She now works for an organization that truly appreciates her. Sandy can make a big difference in a great organization whose values match hers.

Reflections and Lessons Learned

When I asked her about the lessons she learned during and after her transition, Sandy said, “I wasn’t too old to change jobs and industries. Your value is not your job. You have a choice – life is too short to not be somewhere that values you and shares your values. You have skills and experiences that other people want and need.”

Sandy’s advice to others is, “Understand what your work “bests” are and what kind of role, culture and circumstances you are looking for – this is important to not end up in a similar place.  Once you understand and insert this into all interactions and conversations – be open to who you are meeting and how those connections can help you get to the right spot.”

Ultimately, each of us desires to use, develop and stretch our talents, in a purposeful way, within an organization that values us and shares our values.

Sandy found that early in her career, she had this. The economy and the culture of her organization, however, changed dramatically. In the end, Sandy could no longer say she satisfied any of these desires, especially when it came to being valued and sharing common values with her company.

We have three healthy choices at our career crossroads. Stay and accept it, stay and change it, or leave it. If we cannot stay and accept it, cannot stay and change it, then leaving becomes the healthiest choice. Congratulations to Sandy for the courage and good fortune she found in leaving her company of 24 years and finding a great fit for her future.

Conclusion

Stories help us understand the realities, struggles and triumphs of life and work. With Sandy’s help, I have told her story in the hope that you will see greater possibilities for yourself and others. Join me next time, as I explore another path of career transition and transformation after 50.

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Career Crossroads after 50…Preparing For What’s Next (Part 2)

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March, 2018

This month I will discuss the steps that lead to a successful career transition or career transformation after age 50. By career transition, I mean a next step that has much in common with the career path you have already followed. By career transformation, I mean a major departure from the path you have been following most of your career.

Last month’s blog began with nine career alternatives at crossroads after age 50. Click this link to read the descriptions of these nine options, with corresponding financial implications and degree of difficulty for each.

I have observed and guided hundreds of transitions and transformations in my 29 years as a career coach. When my clients arrived at a career crossroads between ages 50 and 60, most have chosen a career transition.

Prior to age 60, we are still in our peak earning years. We have gained considerable expertise, built a compelling resume, and have income demands that fit with continuing on a familiar path a while longer. Additionally, we can tap our many connections and are a strong job candidate when we choose to continue in the same, or similar, field of work.

Path to a Successful Career Transition

To get started, I suggest you employ the Ronnie Brooks method. Brooks is one of the founders of the Wilder Foundation’s Shannon Institute, and has taught this method for many years. The graphic above is my interpretation of her model. You’ll need to build a platform leading to your preferred future from the bottom up. Brooks suggests that you imagine a steadily growing platform of mattresses you toss down from above.

To get to your preferred career transition destination on the right, you need to lay down a collection of platforms, or steps, to help get you there successfully. If you are currently employed, you will need to build your transition base from the bottom up with whatever spare time and energy you have for this task.

With each of the seven steps you will be building a foundation that leads to your exit and a new start as you create this transition bridge. While this process might seem laborious and time consuming, it will make your transition more methodical and less risky. Even with just a few mattresses tossed down, a safer transition becomes much more likely.

If you are already in a career transition, or decide to take the leap from your job before securing another one, imagine yourself at, or near, the bottom of this model. You will be building steps in the same order, and this becomes your primary job, building and climbing these steps until you have successfully arrived at your career transition.

In future blogs I will share career crossroads stories which demonstrate various ways these seven platforms can take shape. If you have experienced a career transition, these seven levels will be familiar. What is less familiar is how to create a bridge to a career transformation.

Path to a Successful Career Transformation

Between ages 60 and 75, career transformation becomes a much more likely focus. At some point in this stage of our life we wonder, “When can I get off this hamster wheel?” This becomes a time to shift away from traditional and familiar work and explore broader possiblities. Eventually in this 60 to 75 age range, most of us will wonder how to narrow, shift, or eliminate our paid work and at the same time broaden our world.

You can see in the illustration above how a career transformation process compares to a career transition process. Step one is the same in both models, employing a self assessment and career audit of your past and current skills, interests, values and fit. Here is a blog to help you with the career audit process: Living Life Forward, Understanding it Backwards

The Strong Interest Inventory assessment is a very helpful tool for naming new possibilities (step 2) that can be researched (step 3) through both the internet and informational interviews. You can purchase a $9.95 version of the Strong Interest Inventory through Self-Directed-Search.com.

The fourth and fifth steps in this process come from the book, Working Identity by Herminia Ibarra. For a detailed description of each of these steps, click to my past blogs: Shifting Connections & the Strength of Weak Ties and Crafting Experiments

After sufficient time spent with experiments and new connections, then it is time to see if the new direction being considered makes sense. If it does, continue moving forward. If it does not, it is time to regroup and return to one of the lower levels of this model.

I have recommended Working Identity to countless clients and friends since it first came out in 2003. Most have told me that after adopting the author’s process, they became bolder risk takers. They also became more action oriented, spending less time “naval gazing,” leading many to successful career transformations, as you will see in my upcoming blogs.

I will offer nine case study blogs over the remainder of this year. These will be stories of the career transitions and transformations after age 50 of clients, friends, family members and myself. I hope you will continue to benefit from these blogs and forward them to others.

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Career Crossroads after 50… Preparing For What’s Next (Part 1)

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February, 2018

In last month’s blog, I identified nine top choices at career crossroads after age 50. This month I will help you decide which option(s) to pursue first. You will learn the degree of difficulty and finanicial implications for each choice. Next month I will continue to describe the process of moving ahead in your 50s and beyond.

Here again, your nine top choices at the crossroads:

1) New Environment

Change industries, work culture, size or type of firm, but continue in a similar function.

2) New Terms

Change compensation terms, including contract work, part-time, and/or flexible schedule.

3) New Venture

Start a consulting practice, buy or start a business or buy a franchise.

4) Downshift Role

Move from your most recent role to a lower level of responsibility and/or lower title.

5) Portfolio Life

Redistribute time committed to work, community and personal activities.

6) New Work

Significant change in the nature of your work. Use different skills and/or expertise.

7) Sabbatical

Intentional time off for personal reasons, professional renewal and/or development.

8) Continuation

Very similar or identical work, environment and employment terms.

9) Bridging

Move from one option to another over time. Establish timelines and personal, work and financial benchmarks. Build bridges to the next step, while on the current path.

Each of your nine choices are listed on the graphic above, based on degree of difficulty and financial implications. For a better view, click on the photo to enlarge it. Special thanks to Michael Dow Design (my son) for this graphic.

I use a mountain climbing metaphor to explain these nine career alternatives. Start by considering the three choices to your right. As the altitude increases, each new option gets more difficult than the one preceding it.

A new environment is less difficult than new terms, because with new terms you will need to find a new project each time one ends. New venture is the hardest choice, because you need to do so much to get a business started or take it over, and this choice is fraught with risk. It might, however, also be the most rewarding!

If you choose the options to your left, notice what happens with money on the bottom line. If you select options to your left, the money will be less. If you choose options to your right, the money will be less, equal or more.

Downshifting may be easier work than the other two options, but requires a strong sales strategy. You are returning to an earlier stage of your career, know the work well, or can eventually catchup with what you need to learn. This may be a hard sell, as your employer envisions you becoming bored, a flight risk (to better pay and work), or a threat to the boss if you are as capable or more capable than him or her.

To help you overcome these challenges, read my October, 2016, blog. You will find a great success story in this “downshift role” catgory. Remember that I will be doing nine future blogs just like that one. For every challenge I identify in this blog, there is someone who has figured out how to overcome it. Their stories will guide and inspire you.

The next option on the left side is a portfolio life. This is a broad transformation. Even with the fewer hours of paid work in a typical portfolio life, it is difficult to secure meaningful part time, contract, or interim paid work. In addition, this is a reshaping of life and work that takes you outside the working identity you have had for many years. Reinventing your life and work is not an easy task.

The most challenging option on this left side is new work. One has to get down off the career ladder and move that ladder to another wall. In most cases, you will start over from the bottom up, offer less experience than your competition, earn less pay than before, and have a smaller network to leverage. Again, I will have an inspirational and instructive story in a future blog to show you how others have climbed up that new wall successfully.

The middle three options are either about taking a break (sabbatical), continuing in your current or virtually identical path and organization (continuation), or staying in your current role while at the same time taking steps to prepare for a change (bridging). These options offer the same or less income, with similar or lower degrees of difficulty.

You now know your nine future career choices, with the degree of difficulty and financial implications for each. Next month I will describe the sequence of actions for moving forward, for a career transition, or a career transformation. In two months I will begin a series of nine case studies. These stories will reveal how the pursuit of these options looks and feels at age 50 and beyond. Is it time to get ready for what is ahead?

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Career Crossroads after 50… Nine Top Choices

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January, 2018

This blog begins a year-long Career Crossroads after 50 series. This month I review nine top choices for anyone over 50 who finds themselves at a career crossroads. Why an over 50 focus? Most of my clients have been over 50, or within striking distance of 50. There are quite a few of us out there! I recently turned 63. Being over 50 has some unique challenges and opportunities that I would like to explore with you over the next 12 months.

As I looked ahead to 2018, I decided it was time for a change. Over the past six years of blogging, I have followed my instincts each month. I have allowed ideas to bubble up organically and spontaneously. This year, I have decided to offer a more intentional series that will explore the career choices, strategies and success stories drawn from my 28 years in this career transition field.

This month I describe nine top choices each of us has at our career crossroads. Next month I will help you prepare for the journey ahead, whether you choose a career transition or a career transformation. After that I will offer a series of stories from clients, friends and family over 50. These stories will help you understand the opportunities, obstacles and lessons learned while pursuing each of the nine options.

If you are at a crossroads, consider which of the nine paths you would like to follow. Next month I will offer tools and strategies you will need as you prepare to take your next step. I will also focus on the degree of difficulty, and the economic factors associated with each choice.

Next December I will gather all of this year’s blogs, incorporating input from readers like you. In addition, I will create a PDF document for you to download and share with others. This will be a “pay it forward” gift I offer my readers at no charge. Please help me make this final product as helpful as possible by giving me feedback along the way.

I look forward to being your sherpa on the journey ahead. In the months that follow, the strategies and stories within these blogs will illuminate new possiblities for your preferred future.

Nine Top Career Choices After 50

1) New Environment

Change industries, work culture, size or type of firm, but continue in a similar function.

2) New Terms

Change compensation terms, including contract work, part-time, and/or flexible schedule.

3) New Venture

Start a consulting practice, buy or start a business or buy a franchise.

4) Downshift Role

Move from your most recent role to a lower level of responsibility and/or lower title.

5) Portfolio Life

Redistribute time committed to work, community and personal activities.

6) New Work

Significant change in the nature of your work. Use different skills and/or expertise.

7) Sabbatical

Intentional time off for personal reasons, professional renewal and/or development.

8) Continuation

Very similar or identical work, environment and employment terms.

9) Bridging

Move from one option to another over time. Establish timelines and personal, work and financial benchmarks. Build bridges to the next step, while on the current path.

Happy trails to you!

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