About Me

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Fishers, Indiana, United States
Brenda gained career expertise as a human resources leader at a global company before becoming an HR consultant. Her functional experience includes a variety of sales roles in the health care industry achieving success for over 30 years. She is currently in Consulting & Analytics Business Development for a health care firm. Her passion is participating in, writing about and observing the evolving workforce. For the first time in history four generations work together. It keeps things interesting. Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) are redefining retirement and what it means to age in the workforce. It is not just about money. Okay it plays a role! At 76.4 million members strong, Boomers are leveraging technology to continue their careers and the personal fulfillment working brings. Managing a late-stage career requires a strategy. There is no roadmap or one size fits all answer. This blog is about sharing, networking & finding your own right answer to working later, managing your career, redefining retirement, looking for work in your 50s & 60s and reinventing yourself.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Age Discrimination: Real & Rising Part 2

Remember when you were a kid and you thought 40 was sooo old? When I was growing up, people called their 50s the “Golden Years.”  And 65?  The image of 65 was retirement and living out your final days with a plaid blanket on your lap in a rocking chair. Baby Boomers have proven getting older is not necessarily the END of anything, especially not work. Aging even looks different now and many people feel healthy into their eighties and beyond. There are studies that confirm the more your mind is stimulated by learning new concepts, brain function improves. Social interaction also has a positive impact on the aging process according to recent research. The problem is---Corporate America and business in general hasn’t necessarily kept up with these changes.
Hiring for all except C-level jobs at many corporations is often an entry-level function--now we have a disconnect. 20-something employees tasked with attending job fairs, screening resumes and performing initial telephone screening interviews with a person old enough to be (YIKES!) their parents or grandparents. I was chatting with a friend over the weekend who is a young-looking 60, relocated and looking for a job for the first time in thirty years. She shared the story of recently walking into an interview and the recruiter (who looked 25-ish) exclaimed, “Wow, you don’t look 60!” Clearly this was meant as a compliment no matter how inappropriate and after a full day of interviews; she was not called back for a final interview. In the back of her mind, the idea that her age was an issue was not missed. The HR recruiter mentioned it, but how many others in the process were distracted by it?
We can’t turn back the clock and we shouldn't have to, but we can implement 4 ideas to level the playing field when we finally have that all important interview.
#1—Image Matters: Come to the interview or job fair in something you know you look good in. For men, it may be the suit you receive the most compliments wearing. People tell you the colors in that tie look good on you or the shirt brings out your eye color. Ladies, wear an outfit that is up-to-date, but tried and true. Knowing you look good will give your confidence a boost. Your main goal is to dress age-appropriately in well-fitting clothes for a professional interview. Many department stores offer free personal shopper service and you can get objective feedback about what styles looks best on you.
#2—Watch your Words: You will hear job-seekers lamenting about how old they are, how old they feel or how this job is a step down, but they are desperate for work. That’s not appropriate for an interview. Even if the recruiter is mature, they are not your confidante. Don’t be your own worse enemy bringing up references to age or how you hate computers, technology or how your smart phone is smarter than you, ha-ha. Even self-deprecating jokes have no place in the interview. Keep your tone  up-beat, be confident, friendly—and professional.
#3—Role Play & Practice the Interview: You should have answers to basic questions already in your head.  What are your strengths? Weaknesses?  Rehearse how you are going to answer questions about extended unemployment. Have concise illustrations ready for behavioral interview-style questions. Those questions usually start with, “Tell me about a time when….?” Keep it short and focused because a lot of experienced people (myself included) tend to ramble. When they ask you for questions, have 2-3 questions ready and make sure they put you in a good light. Don’t ask about time off, health benefits or  negative company comments you read on a corporate message board.
#4—Sell Yourself: You are at the interview to sell yourself as a high-performer with experience and maturity. You are a professional that works well with others and your skills can help the company meet its objectives. Use sales techniques to learn what problem the company is trying to solve and position yourself as the solution.  In the interview ask some “closing” questions. How do my skills align with your idea of the perfect candidate? If there are gaps, you can address them. Would I have your support to move on to the next level of interviews? If not, you can address the issue and ask the question again later in the interview. Close each person you talk with for their support in hiring you for the job.
These four ideas can help you level the playing field and position yourself for success. It is tough out there, but it just takes one great offer to move your career into high gear. If you have advice, additional tips or strategies that have worked—share your comments.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Age Discrimination: Real & Rising

A participant at a recent workshop asked the guest speaker about overcoming age discrimination during a job search. The speaker explained that age discrimination is less of an issue than in the past. Really?

It was one of those moments when you know you should speak up and say something. Before I could raise my hand to comment; the esteemed guest speaker went on to the next question. The person who asked seemed to disconnect from the presentation at that point. Three weeks later, the brief encounter still gnaws at me. Why didn’t I say something? What should I have said? At the very least, why didn’t I go up to the man after the session to validate his observation? So, the essence of this post is YES—age discrimination is a HUGE issue. It is not going away; it is getting worse. I’ll offer a few tips and ideas about actions you can take on the job and during a job search in this 2-part post on Monday & Tuesday.

Consider this:
  • In February 2010 the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the job search for (>age 55) workers was 35.5 weeks
  • Experienced workers (>age 55) faced an average job search of 54.7 weeks in May 2011 according to AARP.

You all know the scenario. The unemployment rate is hovering in the 9% range.  New jobs are not being created fast enough because most corporations are uncertain about the global economy. Not one corporate communicator among you wants to answer the calls following the headline, “XYZ Company Cuts 10% of Workforce.” So companies sit tight and don’t hire. Consumers, on the other hand, are scared witless that they are going to lose their jobs—so they don’t buy anything except necessities (and unless it is really gross, we try generics). According to a December 2010 AARP press release, beginning January 1, 2011 about 7,000 Baby Boomers will turn 65 each day! The same release says 40% of those Baby Boomers “plan to work until they drop.” I’m assuming that means drop dead. If Fidelity Investments, the largest provider of 401(k) accounts, is right and the average account balance is $71,500, as they reported in June—we know why. So, we find ourselves in an employment cycle ripe for age discrimination.

Problem #1 is the applicant tracking system. These automated systems that run large job boards and the smaller versions that run in companies all REQUIRE dates. The company can easily calculate how old you are when you apply. These systems are designed to collect school graduation dates along with dates of employment. Most will not let you move forward in applying online without supplying all of the information. (entering 9999 overrides the dates in a few applicant tracking systems). While the ADEA (the act protecting employees and job applicants 40+) doesn’t specifically prohibit an employer from asking age or date of birth of an applicant, it is supposed to be for a lawful reason and the circumstances are very limited. Most companies train their hiring managers not to discuss age, but they already know anyway from your online application.

Check out the post from August 6 for more information about online job searching:

Okay, so let’s say you survive the online applicant tracking system, the telephone screening interview and you are invited for a “live” interview with the hiring manager, other staff and human resources. They want you to have the KSAs-Knowledge, Skills & Abilities. But there is something else they are looking for and it is subjective. It is called, “fit” and no HR professional will admit it to you; but it’s there. How are you going to mesh with the other people in the department? Do you fit into the culture of the organization? And you know what? You want to “fit” too. If you are a square peg and the organization is a round hole- no matter whether you are 25, 55, or 73—this is going to be a stressful bad experience for both you and the organization. Seek opportunities where you see other mature workers. Ask your friends what it is like where they work. Some industries, companies and departments are more accepting of experienced workers than others. It is tough searching for a job, but you want to find a place where you are celebrated—not tolerated.  On Tuesday—in part 2—we’ll focus on the interviewing, image and general information.

Thanks for stopping by. Your comments are appreciated and please forward the post on to someone managing their career@40+.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Career Tune-Up? 3 Adjustments for Continued Success at Work

August 1977 was a warm, beautiful sunny month filled with news. While the world mourned Elvis Presley’s death at age 42, my career was beginning. The first in my immediate family to earn a college degree and merely 20 years old; the job possibilities seemed limitless. I was idealistic, excited and enthusiastic about the future. Often in August, it is an opportunity for a reflective career evaluation.  Since 1977 I’ve met so many great people living in California, Arizona and Indiana on corporate transfers and traveling the world for work--- these three consistent traits are shared by people I've met along the journey who enjoy resilient careers throughout their lives.

#1---Adjusting their Expectations: I’m not saying that as you get older your career has to be a downward spiral. I can tell you, that if you want to be a manager, Director, Vice-President or CEO and it continues to allude you where you are---resilient people have the confidence to look outside their current company. Some have found they won’t get to the next level anywhere and that’s a tough adjustment—others move on to achieve the dream somewhere else. While others find they have “maxed out” and as long as they work for someone else they will always be a level below what they think they deserve. “Brenda Tip” if you haven’t made it to that next level by age 42—the odds are against you. Sometimes, people adjust their work/job/career expectations because they learn to separate who they are from what they do. Getting older does NOT mean we lose the “fire” or competitiveness or passion for work---our experience just provides a new lens, a different perspective and a different way to view what happens in an organization.

#2---Adjusting their Skills: While the July unemployment rate hovered at 9.1% there is a hiring boom in the tech sector. CDNet reported the July 2011 unemployment rate for tech professionals is 3.3%. Cloud computing, social media and data security continues to drive the market for software engineers, tech sales people and others with tech backgrounds. We’re not all cut out be a tech guru. That’s certainly not my calling, but I have strengthened my skills tool-box this year in the technology area (at my own expense) by attending local workshops and webinars. Even if it is not tech, we have to continually update our skills to stay relevant if you want to stay in the job market. If your field has a certification—earn it. That designation could be the keyword in an applicant tracking system that brings your resume to the recruiter's attention. Make it a point to learn something new every three months.

#3---Adjusting their Attitudes: Every career has trade-offs.  You didn’t take the expat assignment in Asia and it may cost you an opportunity. You decide not to the transfer to Kansas City for a promotion so your kids can finish school in Dallas. Sometimes as we get older, we think about what could have been and “what if” scenarios. There are no guarantees and we can only live with the decisions we make based on the information we have at the time. So it is better not to look at what you missed and focus on what you experienced, who you met and what you learned. One of my favorite quotes about endings comes from Dr. Seuss. “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”  The resilient people, the ones who are enjoying jobs in their 70s, having fun in their 80s and performing volunteer work in their 90s---they smile through it.

It is a warm, beautiful, sunny August day in Indianapolis, thirty-four years after graduation.  I remain idealistic, excited and enthusiastic about the future and I hope you will too.

Getting Along With Co-workers May Lengthen Life

Getting Along With Co-workers May Lengthen Life

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Good News for Working Baby Boomers

I am tired of bad news. The anchors on my favorite business channel seem delighted to report our retirement accounts are plummeting. Violence rings out around the globe from riots in London to shocking hate crimes in Mississippi. And, the weather? It’s just weird—the snowiest of winters, the wettest of springs and now the hottest of summers.

Aging in the workforce? I know millions of experienced people struggling to find work and even more mature workers are exhausted trying to stay relevant in their careers. Others, isolated, depressed and discouraged, have simply dropped out of the job market. What is going to happen to them long-term? It is frightening.

Where is the coming labor shortage that is supposed to make Corporate America lure Baby Boomers back to work with high salaries and workplace flexibility to save the economy? While we wait, there is a silver lining and it is the late bloomers, comeback stories and reinventions by ordinary and extraordinary people. I’ll focus on names you know well. However, for each of the celebrities, there are 10 ordinary people in communities everywhere being resilient. We can all make the choice to either sit on the sidelines or just run with what life has given us and see where we end up.

The most famous late-bloomer and comeback story is Harlan Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken. After many careers, some more successful than others; he franchised his first KFC at age 65 years old. Nine years later (in 1964) he sold it for $2 million dollars. Sanders pioneered branding. At age 70 he began only going out in public with the white suit & string tie. He did public appearances for a fee well into his 80s. He died at 90 years old.

Clara Peller was “discovered” at age 80 by an ad agency. The next year, she delivered the iconic line, “Where’s the Beef” in the famous 1984 Wendy’s commercial. Before her death she appeared in movies, made more commercials, managed to get sued by Wendy’s and appeared on Wrestlemania.

Betty White at age 89 years old is everywhere! Many people remember her in the Golden Girls. Maybe you are like me and remember her from the Mary Tyler Moore show. Her May 2010 appearance on Saturday Night Live (with musical guest, Jay-Z) garnered the show’s highest ratings since November 2008.

Diane Rehm is a 75-year-old NPR host with an internationally syndicated radio show reaching 2.2 million listeners a week including Armed Forces Radio and Sirius satellite. Despite an illness that sidelined her career in 1998 when she was diagnosed with a voice disorder, she persevered to win a 2009 Peabody Award.

A few other notables include the U.S. Senator from Indiana, where I live, Richard Lugar. He’s 79 years old and is the state’s longest serving senator. Actress, Writer and activist, Ruby Dee won a Grammy for Best Spoken Word album when she was 83-years old in 2007 and she still books speaking engagements.  Actor Morgan Freeman, 72, was honored with the AFI, Lifetime Achievement Award this summer. This year, Suzanne Somers turns 65, along with Dolly Parton, Donald Trump, former President Clinton and Cher—they are all keeping busy in their own right. So What’s Your Next Chapter?

Remember, there is plenty of time to find your passion and bloom, to reinvent yourself or even to make a comeback. This week—Smile and Stay Encouraged.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Successful Online Job Search Tips for Experienced Workers

The strategy of an online job search is very different from searching for employment in the 1980s or even in the low unemployment era of the 1990s. Recently, I talked with my former colleague &  good friend Connie Savage, SPHR, LinkedIn LION-- an independent recruiter and job search coach about what makes a successful online search today and how can experienced workers position themselves competitively. If you haven’t looked for a job in three years, everything’s changed.

Brenda: Are there any jobs out there for workers over 40?

Connie: There are plenty of specific jobs out there for qualified people, but the employers are trying to find everything on their “wish list” in one person. With so many people looking for work, employers are very picky about experience and still may not pay what people made in the 1990s when unemployment was 5%. Now unemployment is nearly double that and it is very competitive. Job seekers have to be realistic.

Brenda: Why do some people apply for hundreds of jobs online and never receive more than an automated response?

Connie: Generally, people don’t understand how online job search works. First, there are hundreds, maybe even thousands of responses for a single job listing. Many of them are not remotely qualified, which is why online is so efficient for the staffing department. The applicant tracking system and recruiters will search for keywords, so you want to have those in your resume or online application. You can usually find keywords in the job posting. The tracking system then ranks the resumes based on “relevance” or how closely they match the job description. The staffing specialist may only consider the top 25; maybe the best candidate is #438. Their resume may never be seen.  Staffing departments have a lot fewer people than they have in the past.

Brenda:  Would online applications make it a more equal playing field for mature workers that meet the specific qualifications?

Connie: I wouldn’t assume that age doesn’t matter. An employer can determine how long you’ve worked because many of the online systems require dates. Some employers are looking for someone with 5-7 years experience or 10 years experience, so they may not plan on bringing in someone with thirty years of experience.

Brenda: What can a 40+ worker do to stand out and have their online application reach the top?

Connie: #1:  The best way to be sure your resume is seen is to tweak your resume to reflect the job description EXACTLY.  You must create different resumes for different jobs.  Use keywords contained in the job description and you can even list keywords along the bottom of your resume. Also keep your resume “refreshed” on the website.  Each time you “refresh” your resume it moves up on the list the recruiter sees, since most are listed in either date order, or relevance order.  This will give your resume a better chance of reaching higher relevance in the candidate database when the recruiter is working on that opening.
#2:  keep graduation dates and any other non relevant dates off the resume and don’t list jobs over ten or fifteen years ago unless they are relevant.
#3: with some online applicant systems if you enter “99/99” it will over-ride the date for graduations
#4: always apply at the company website.  Applicants don’t realize that it is extremely expensive for companies to utilize the mega job boards, and, as the staffing department budgets are cut, they are relying more and more on other means to attract candidates like employee referral programs, their own company websites, and networking sites like LinkedIn, Jigsaw, Craigs List and many other “free” resources.
#5: If there is a place to add an objective or statement—don’t leave it blank! Put something clever related to the job and keywords to more perfectly match the listing.
#5 Consider having a professional assist you with your resume and coach you when you do get that precious interview.  It could well be worth the investment.

Other online job search tips to remember--- some of the more sophisticated online applicant systems have a second step that asks specific questions to rule out people without their “must have” qualifications. Once you make it through the first hurdle, you may get a follow-up e-mail. Use all of your online resources including alumni listings, professional associations, career specific sites. If you know people who work for the company see if there is an employee referral program. Before using this source, however, be certain that the individual referring you is in good standing and well respected in the company, otherwise this one could backfire on you. Generally, the employee receives a finders fee if you are hired. Employers are going to LinkedIn, Jigsaw, Juju, Indeed even Twitter & Facebook and getting away from just the mega job sites—so use social media wisely. Put your name, city and state in a search engine to see if the search results are what you want a future employer to see. Please don’t forget to network with your contacts at the company. The hiring manager may ask the staffing department to search for you by name. Never stop networking!

Connie is the President of CSS Recruiting and Consulting and can be reached via LinkedIn.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

MidLife Jobs in Unexpected Places

Never Say Never

There are certain things in life that I promised myself to never do, like the first time I saw someone bungee jump off a bridge. My first thought was not me—EVER.  In the 1980s when I lived in California, people were walking over hot coals to prove some mind over matter theory.  Again, I watched and knew I wanted no part of that. Once I got out of there, I knew I would never see that group of people again. EVER.

Then there were those things I was so sure of and over time my feelings changed—like promising to never eat sushi again after food poisoning from a bad batch. It took some time. Actually it took a decade, but one night I was tempted by the most delicious California Roll, and…well the rest is history. But, I digress.

Would you? Could you? Go back to an employer you worked for before. They call them Boomerang Jobs. Similar to Boomerang (Adult) Children that leave home and then come back to live with their parents. Boomerang Jobs are companies you worked for at one time and then years pass—even a decade--- and you go back. When you shut that door and left you said, “I’ll never work here again!” Never say Never and I’ll tell you why.

Industries are shrinking and as the companies consolidate, you could find yourself working for the company you thought you left.  It happened to a friend of mine. After a long career, a new President/CEO brought in his own management team. My friend saw the writing on the wall. The new people would keep him from making the career moves he had planned. As the CEO’s trusted VPs were hired in from their previous company; they brought in their own Director-level people. So my friend quit and went to work for a competitor. Less than two years later, the very same management team took over his new company where he was now a Director-level employee. He was laid off—and kept his same functional job, and changed industries.

Sometimes the situation changes at a company and you want to go back. There could be a shift in leadership, a new product line is introduced or an expansion. The company you worked for could change dramatically in a few years and they may welcome you back. Depending on your previous role with that employer, they may need you for your specialized skill. You may have deep organizational knowledge that could be used in a different area of the company than your worked previously. I have one friend who worked in a technical area of an organization and after a decade of global experience with an unrelated company returned to her former employer in the finance department. So, when you are in a job search, look no further than your resume for leads. You are sure to still find a contact person there or a former colleague who can give you some insight.

Remember one career management tip when you are re-hired. Avoid comparisons between “the good old days at the company” and now. “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift that’s why they call it, the present.”---Alice Morse Earle