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. She gained functional experience in a variety of sales roles in the health care industry achieving success for over 20 years. 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 more thought than 20 years ago. Unexpected changes in life force us to consider the future. 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.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

It is “Lay-off Season” in Corporate America: Brace Yourself

Saturday night while at dinner with several friends from the Human Resources part of my life, the conversation was light and fun. The food was delicious and our experienced server had perfect timing balancing leaving us alone to talk & laugh and making sure our needs were met. We reminisced on the old days of doing employee benefit enrollment by hand with paper before it was automated. Everything was going great and as the entrée arrived the workforce planning consultant among us cast a pall over the mood as he reminded us his practice was busier than ever because it was “layoff season” with a glint in his eye that seemed a little evil to me. My appetite weakened and all eyes darted toward me because it was my idea to invite him—it was like the “Grim Reaper” joining us for dinner.  At the risk of knowing this would turn into a blog post, the consultant continued to talk throughout the entrée course—as consultants often do.
So, brace yourself, lay-offs are coming.

An HR spouse commented that it seemed a shame that corporate lay-offs occurred so close to the holidays and ruined Thanksgiving and Christmas with job loss notices. Our consultant friend reminded us that many activities happen BEFORE a person receives their lay-off notice and severance agreement. (I guess that is what pays for the gleaming new luxury car he drove into the parking lot.) The terms downsizing, right-sizing, lay-off, reduction in force (RIFs) are all yesterday. Today’s clients call it “headcount reductions” and the workforce planner’s task seems very mathematical and legal in nature. Sometimes senior management (usually the finance department) will engage him without much interaction with human resources because the HR department is also going to lose people too. Despite what we think, the target is not always long-tenured highly-compensated mature employees. Because of the litigious nature of people, he’s clear to first document the business need for laying people off. His team, which includes an attorney and statistician conducts an adverse impact analysis shared with his client’s in-house counsel, finance person and VP of Human Resources. That’s the step that insures or allegedly insures the mature workers are not singled out for lay-off. If you or a friend find yourself laid off, here are steps you should consider:

#1- Even if you are short on cash, invest the money in having an employment attorney review the severance agreement and general release you are being asked to sign. Not every company hires a knowledgeable consultant or has the skills in-house to properly prepare an adverse-impact analysis. In the United States, workers >40 years old are protected by the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act. In a group termination, there are special considerations for older workers and courts are trending toward invalidating template-styled releases companies obtain through the Internet or professional associations. I cannot suggest this strongly enough. Would you rather spend $200 for an hour of an attorney’s time or be cheated out of thousands of dollars or maybe even your job? It’s money well-spent.

#2- Have the employment attorney explain every section of what you give up by signing the release (generally it is the right to sue-which is usually pointless anyway). Use that document to bargain or negotiate if you need more $$ than the severance plan allows or extended benefits before you go onto COBRA or to propose continuing as a consultant. No matter what, make sure you react in a timely way to the release, so you don’t lose what the company is offering you.

#3- Immediately contact your state’s unemployment office to find out how soon after receiving your severance you qualify for unemployment, the process and how much you will receive.

#4-There’s a lot of emotional upheaval for a person who is laid-off. Surround yourself with supportive people and begin networking as soon as you can work through any anger or bitterness that comes through you. It sounds cliché, but it is so true, one door closes and another opens.

The good news is—the workforce planning consultant says the lay-offs are not as deep as 2008 and 2009. The business reasons are generally corporate acquisitions and mergers. Uniquely qualified people are still in demand, so while the company is reducing headcount in some areas—there are other areas of the same company still hiring—primarily I/T, systems and technology. Dessert finally arrived and the discussion was light again. (Note to self)--don’t invite the workforce planning consultant to what is supposed to be a relaxing dinner with friends. Make it a great work week!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Career Wisdom from the Legacy of Steve Jobs

iPads, iPhones, and iMacs spread the news of the death of Steve Jobs at age 56 on Wednesday. I was at a meeting in Naperville, IL (a Chicago suburb) when an Associated Press alert on my iPhone gave me the news. I shared the information with the people I was with and e-mailed it to two others. Later, we saw candles lit and flowers laid out in front of the Jefferson Street Apple Store in Naperville. Steve Jobs redefined media and the tools we use to access it; that is the legacy he leaves us.

At some point all of us will leave a legacy for our families, friends and work colleagues. I was talking about it with a good friend who said most people don’t care what their legacy will be which began a very spirited debate about why people do the things they do at work. We got into the concept about whether people work to live or live to work. Certainly we know the place “work” had in the life of Steve Jobs. He discussed his career when he gave the 2005 Stanford commencement address and a couple of key concepts came out of that talk that are even more applicable to midlife professionals than newly-minted college graduates.

#1: Careers Make More Sense When You Look Back on Them—
Steve Jobs told the graduating class, “you cannot connect dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.”  How many times have you looked back on a career move and thought, “how did I end up here?” Later we realized we were right where we needed to be all along. We met people we needed to meet; had experiences we needed to have and learned essential things. It is hard sometimes to understand that when we’re in the thick of it. We've all experienced it; taking a backwards glance puts a lot of things (personal and professional) into perspective.

#2: You’ve Got To Find What You Love—
Jobs told the commencement audience, “I was lucky. I found what I loved to do quite early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parent’s garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion dollar company with over 4,000 employees.” Then he talked about getting very publicly fired. Talk about a backwards glance---he started NeXT and Pixar, met a woman he fell in love with and married. As he mentioned in #1 you cannot connect the dots looking forward. Apple purchased NeXT, the company he started and hired him back with a salary of $1 per year (he certainly didn’t need the money) and stock options. The rest, of course, is history.

#3: Living Your Own Life—
He advised the class to follow their hearts. “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” Even if we live much longer than Steve Jobs, life is still too short not to step out and do some of the things you always wanted to do. There’s never a “right time”; you’re never going to have enough saved and the economy will never make you feel comfortable. You have to take that leap of faith. I remember leaving a corporate job with good pay, great benefits and fantastic co-workers to start my own business in 2001. As a  one-income, single Mom with a 10-year-old, people thought I was crazy. I never worked harder or traveled more than I did those four years of entrepreneurial craziness. But the people I met, the experiences I had and the things I learned….Steve Jobs was right.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Turbocharge Your Career with Social Media

Can LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, Twitter and YouTube impact your business and career? You Bet!Social media is the darling of savvy corporate recruiters for many reasons. It wasn't  just celebrities sending 50 million tweets per day in 2010. Entrepreneurs and corporate types alike leverage social media to get their message out to customers (& potential customers), increase their visibility to further their careers and become known as experts in their profession. Follow these 5 steps to turn website visitors into customers or take your career to the next level using social media.

Step #1: Leverage LinkedIn. It’s where savvy corporate recruiters are mining their next $100,000+ hire. From medical sales, marketing professionals to IT hotshots, I personally know people recruited from their LinkedIn profile. There are others that have made business connections through this platform. What does that mean to you? Create a profile if you don’t have one personally or for your business. Have a professional photo taken (if you’re within driving distance to Indiana; I recommend Michael Florence Photography-he’s on LinkedIn). Write a career summary that POPS!! If you are in job seeking mode, focus your career section on results or achievement NOT job duties.

Step #2: BLOG. When results from the search engines repeatedly point to you, people will take notice. Blogging is the fastest way to go from local to global. Blogging takes commitment (from a woman who only had 2 posts in September). When you blog, remember Content Rules!! And Frequency is a very close second (and no, 2 blog posts a month are not good enough). Can’t decide what to blog about? Start with your area of expertise. What do you want to be known for? Head to Blogger, Wordpress or if you are an artist, check out Tumblr and start your blog.

Step #3: TIYF. Technology is Your Friend. Repeat it until you believe it. If you are in the corporate arena, a smart phone is de rigueur. Link your e-mail account to it even if you only check at certain points throughout the day. Take a class, many libraries offer free courses on software and many community organizations offer free or low-cost programs on social media.

Step #4: Consolidate Platforms. You have to manage all the information, and not let the information take over. If I’ve overwhelmed you with the idea a personal social media strategy is just one more thing for the to-do list—there’s a simpler way. From a free platform like, Tweetdeck (my preference) or HootSuite or Hellotxt among other being launched daily, you can manage your social media from one site and update them all at once.


Step #5:  Smile, You’re on Candid Camera! If you read this blog, you probably remember Candid Camera. Today’s version is YouTube. Spice up your blog with video (expect to see some here soon)! A friend of mine had an interview with a company in Dubai via Skype. He got the chance to travel to the United Arab Emirates for the in-person interview and landed a new job. More companies will adopt video recruiting technology like HireVue, LiveHire and OVIA. So get ready for your close-up, it is the next big thing. Entrepreneurs-video of your products/services or video customer testimonials will help you convert your web visitors into customers.

There’s a lot out there in the world of social media and it can seem overwhelming at times. Rest assured, the technology community is a friendly place with lots of people willing to share their expertise. So jump right in and give your business or career a boost!