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.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Turning Your Passion into a Career

A dear friend of mine turned 65 Wednesday with 9,999 others who reach that milestone daily in America. He didn’t celebrate with a gold watch and there is no retirement party in his immediate future. He worked really hard all day at a job he loves and said there was no where else he would rather spend a birthday. His career has transformed since we met 22 years ago when we worked as medical sales representatives. Now he’s the owner of a successful boutique winery in the Temecula Valley east of San Diego that bears his family name.

Twenty years ago, it was a dream. During a break at a sales meeting, he was reading about vintners in Napa Valley that gave up their day jobs to follow their hearts into the wine business. “One day I would love to do something like that,” and sighed one of those sighs after you buy a lottery ticket when the jackpot is $200 million. One of these days. Ever the cheery, encouraging friend, I suggested he just go for it. “No, it’s just a dream of mine,” he replied and we were off to the next sales training workshop.

Years pass and things begin to fall into place without him seeing the big picture of what was happening. (It happens like that sometimes). My friend acquires some land to grow palm trees for sale on weekends as a side business to generate extra income. He and his family built a farmhouse on the property by hand. The commercial palm tree business was sizzling and sales of capital medical equipment was still booming in the 1990s.

Over time, as you know, work situations change and what we want out of our lives continually evolves too. Retiring about eight years ago, my friend stood at a professional crossroad. He just dedicated twenty-five years of his work life to one company. At 57 years old, finding a mid-career position in Corporate America providing fulfillment seemed unlikely, so he threw himself into volunteer work and earning a real estate license. Through those two endeavors, a lot of interesting (and helpful) people crossed his path. If you are in good health and have a passion, 57 years old seems too early to call it quits and live out our days watching reality television.

It helped that this friend also had an undergraduate degree in microbiology (read: mad scientist) and an MBA in Finance from a top notch business school (read: brilliant business mind). Of course, this true corporate fairy tale has a happy ending—or I never would have posted it.

Over time, the palm tree business’ season came & went. In the meantime, the Temecula Valley became known as a great place to grow wine grapes and wineries were moving in all around. “Amazingly” the right mentors, advisors and helpers showed up in his life and he listened, learned and most importantly acted. Now, Chapin Family Vineyards is not a dream; it is a reality. It is a blend of passion, science and the art of wine-making. Several years from the 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon release in 2006 followed by a fruity Syrah, later a Zinfandel and Summit Meritage—the “dream” is being written about in Southern California media, served in upscale restaurants and wine club members are buying by the case. One reviewer gave the vineyard perhaps the ultimate compliment calling it, “an undiscovered gem, on the edge of something big.”

No matter our age or circumstances, if we’ll nurture our passion and stay open to the possibilities; a world of opportunity can still open for you. So Happy Belated 65th Birthday, Steve! Lift a glass for me.

Winning the Interview—Part Two

In Part One, the different types of interviews were highlighted along with interview trends. In this post, I will tackle behavioral interview questions recruiters seem intent on asking along with the illegal questions recruiters are not supposed to ask. The final post of the Winning the Interview series--Part Three, I will address how to handle gaps in employment and other tough questions.
Illegal Questions:
I’ve been asked some of these questions  early in my career and I have answered them and got the job. I’m not saying you should answer illegal interview questions. When you see them, you will notice many of them are focused on younger females (because they are around family planning). One caution in answering illigal questions is they could be a signal of worse situations to come in that work environment. Certainly, corporate-trained hiring managers and recruiters know these questions are off limits and would not put their company at risk:
1.      How old are you? (often disguised as a compliment, it is still inappropriate and illegal)
2.      Were you born in the United States?
3.      Travel is a big part of this job. Will your (boyfriend) or girlfriend be alright with the travel? Do you have a boyfriend (or girlfriend)? Are you married?
4.      I see your ankle is wrapped. How did you hurt yourself?
5.      Do you have children?
6.      Are you planning to have children?
7.      What political party do you belong to?
8.      Do you go to church? What religion are you? Would your religion beliefs allow you to work Sundays?
9.      What’s your race? What country are your parents from? You have a Hispanic-sounding last name, but you look Caucasian-which are you?
10.  What is your sexual orientation? (even if it is couched in a “that’s-okay-here,” we have a GLBT affinity group), like question #1 it is inappropriate and illegal).

Behavioral Interview Questions:
As established career professionals, we’ve lived through the interviews that were straightforward—“What are you strengths and weaknesses?” “Do you like working independently?” And now, behavioral-based interview questions are becoming more prevalent as the economy has tightened. Human resources professionals believe that how you actually reacted in the past will give them a glimpse into how you will handle situations in the future at their company. These are typical behavioral-based questions to prepare for your interview:
1.       Tell me about a time when you were faced with a problem and you initially did not know what to do? What course of action did you take and what was the outcome?
2.      Describe a situation where you had to deal with an angry customer. How did you handle the situation and what was the outcome?
3.      Tell me about a time when you had to make a quick decision and what was your thought process.
When handling behavioral interview questions, be prepared with a quick example or story that addresses the specific situation. Keep it as current as possible—two years ago or less if you can. The interviewer wants to know if you have what it takes to be successful in the job. Behavioral interview questions are less about questions than they are statements asking you to cite a specific example. Remember to give the interviewer the outcome in your story or example. The time the company invests in hiring, training and orienting you into the position is just that—an investment. And, like any investment, the company is looking for a return on investment. That is the intent of the behavioral interview--helping the company make a good investment. Hiring managers want someone who will be productive; someone who will stay with the company for a while-to recoup their initial training investment and someone promotable into the next level or two.
When you read the job description or during your phone interview, try to identify the competencies and attributes considered most important for this job. It can even be one of the questions you ask during the telephone interview. Then, think about your current position and examples or stories you can give from your current work experience that highlight your use of the competencies and attributes. Examples of attributes include:
A strong work ethic (important in sales and positions where you work independently)
A sense of urgency
Emotional intelligence
Good judgment and decision-making skills
Strategic-orientation (the ability to see the big picture)
Interpersonal Skills
Preparation is critical to interviewing success. Remember you've made it this far, so you definitely are in the inner circle to get the job. Congratulations!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Winning the Job Interview--Part One

Job interviews are often a stressful time. It is not something we do very often (if we are fortunate) and many people have a tough time talking themselves “up” to others because they are concerned about bragging. The job interview is the one place where you must temper your modesty and present yourself and your achievements with confidence and passion.

With 9% unemployment and four generations in the workforce, experienced workers may have to update their interviewing skills to win today’s jobs.  Here are a few insider secrets to help you on your next interview.


With hundreds or maybe even thousands of applicants for a single opening, HR recruiters have to narrow the field to the most qualified candidates based on the skills they “must” have and the skills it would be “nice to have”. Many larger companies and staffing agencies use an applicant tracking systems to help them find the most qualified candidates to move forward in the interview process. They enter search criteria based on the essential job “musts” for the best candidates to surface. (See the August 6 post, “Successful Online Job Search Techniques”).  
  • Larger corporations may have several questions online that you must answer before submitting your resume as their prescreening tool

  • Other companies may have a staff member call and ask 7-10 questions related to the position.

  • The trend is toward group interviews for more entry level positions. Hiring managers can observe your interpersonal skills, how you get along with others and your social skills in this format. After the group interviews, individual interviews are scheduled.

The Phone Interview:

After surviving the first round of elimination during the pre-screening, now you are ready for the phone interview. Your phone interview is Numero Uno in moving pass the gatekeepers to meet the hiring manager face-to-face. These interviews usually take place with a Human Resources recruiter.  Some of their biggest complaints include candidates giving a phone number that doesn’t work or low batteries on a cell phone that disconnects mid-interview or the candidate who forgot about the interview and the recruiter heard dogs barking a blaring TV & babies crying in the background. Take the telephone interview seriously; many job-seekers take this step too lightly. Remember it is critical to securing that all important face-to-face interview.

  • Project an enthusiastic tone over the telephone

  • Don’t ramble on & on—keep your answers succinct and relevant

  • Keep your examples current, in the last 1-4 years

  • Do not mention anything age-related or make a joke about being older

  • Have a three well-thought out questions ready for the interviewer

Face-to-Face Interview:

If you’ve made it this far, the job could easily be yours. As you prepare for this stage of the interview process unless you are interviewing for a position with a small business, you should expect a series of interviewers. Make sure you are well-rested and prepared for a long day (which also shows the interviewers your stamina).

  • First impressions are key—err on the side of conservatism: being dressed appropriately, firm-but not overbearing handshake, maintain eye contact without have a ‘stare down’ & BE ON TIME!!

  • Answer questions directly without getting distracted or going off onto a tangent

  • Assure each interviewer that you meet or exceed the required criteria for the role and ask them if they would support you for the role—if not, handle any objection they mention in a non-defensive, non-hostile way

  • Send a thank you e-mail to each interviewer and confirm your interest in the position and mention a line about how you will add value to the role