For those of us who’ve been in the workforce for a number of years, the world of work as we know it has changed dramatically.
I often have conversations with my father who has no concept of what I do for a living. He comes from a generation that graduated from college and started work at a company, stayed for 30 years until retirement and walked off into the sunset to enjoy their golden years. I call him a dinosaur because those kinds of jobs don’t exist anymore and working anywhere for an extended period of time is next to impossible.
When the economy fell into recession, many jobs disappeared. As employment rebounded, those eliminated positions did not return. Instead, companies restructured and leveraged technology to do more work with fewer people. Left out of the hiring or re-hiring pool, many experienced workers have found they must reinvent themselves or re-imagine their work life to move forward into the next stage of their career. So where does that leave people on the more seasoned end of their career trajectory?
Here’s how to reinvent your career after 50
- Address the Grief, and Move On.
As I coach clients through the process of re-imagining their work lives, we have to first address the grief of losing their primary career. This process is intense and important. You gave your all to a company for number a years. You made an impact and feel you made a difference only to be pink slipped. Grieving your loss is necessary to acknowledge the hurt and to work through it, so you can restore your energy and be ready for the next opportunity that will come your way.
Like the end of any relationship, once you get over the shock, you have to take a step back and ask yourself some key questions. What do you want the next stage of your work life to look like? What will it take to get where you want to go in your career?
- Define the New You.
Launching the “new you” requires tough self-analysis of your skills and what you have to offer. Do you want to be self-employed? If so, what services can you offer and do you have a substantial network of colleagues and friends who can give you introductions and referrals? Do you have a ready pool of contacts you can turn into potential clients? Or, do you feel better working for a company and letting someone else manage business development. The big question is determining what you want now! Knowing that, you can position your search to find the resources you need.
- What Can You Take On?
You also have to look at quality of life issues as you prepare for what comes next. Are you ready and willing to work as hard as you did before? That’s a fair question, particularly if you’ve spent the better part of your career at one company. If you have to prove yourself all over again, are you ready for that challenge? Or, do you want to shake up your work life and have some fun while earning a living?
The skills you’ve gained in your career may need to be flexed in a different way. At a career fair, I met a seasoned executive who had been downsized by a major financial institution and was looking for the second act in her career. Not ready to retire, she was divorced with a child still in college and had a specific need to stay at a particular salary range. So, she focused solely on finding a new job in financial services, an area where she had spent the majority of her career and which was in her comfort zone.
- Skills that Catalyze Your Reinvention.
For my coaching client, reinvention meant expanding her search and applying her financial services background to potential opportunities in nonprofit management. She had the business development piece, supervisory experience and had overseen a sizable budget. These key skills made her a perfect match for a job opening in a nonprofit organization whose mission she was passionate about. While she had thought her career would be spent working in a for-profit company, the shift to nonprofit management allowed her to reinvent herself and refocus her energy in an organization involved in good works locally and nationally. She was thrilled!
Taking the risk to see yourself in a new role and applying your hard-earned skills and expertise to do something you love is an example of a career re-imagined. Those opportunities are out there, if you stay focused, stay true to yourself and stay positive. Being a seasoned professional does not mean you are obsolete. The important thing is honest self-assessment and the readiness to move when the right opportunity comes.
Study the trends in the professional areas that interest you and target your skills to those workplace needs. In your second act, the CEO may be only slightly older than your child! It’s on you to figure out the best working relationship and new ways of communicating that highlight your unique skills and contribution. It’s never too late to re-imagine your work life. The old adage if you can think it, you can be it still applies.
Now, go out there and get it!