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.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Job Interview Tips for Experienced Workers

Interviewing for a job in your 40s, 50s, and 60+ is not the same as the interviews of our youth. Part One of this guide is for the elements that are the same, like not bashing your former employer or boss. Part Two focuses on the high tech changes because video interviews are here to stay!  Please read Part One even though it is a refresher, Part Two is video interviewing and will be posted soon. Part two is especially important if you haven’t interviewed in the past five years.
First, congratulate yourself because your resume won you a chance to move to the short list of candidates.
The Basics Are Still Worth Repeating:
1)     Even if someone on the interview team talks badly of your current or former company because they have worked there and know how bad it is, DO NOT speak badly of your boss, the company or senior management. Focus on the job you are interviewing for and how excited you are about this opportunity.
2)    Be on time. Leave early, allow for traffic and plan ahead.  However, if you are at the interview “stalker-like early” just sit in the car nearby until 15 minutes before your appointment. Arriving two hours early and wanting to sit in the lobby or being in the parking lot before the company opens smacks of desperation (and it scares people).
3)    Dress appropriately. Even interviews at health clubs deserve attire you wouldn’t work out in while you are trying to win the job. A man can never go wrong in a suit that fits great. A visit to the tailor for alterations can update an older suit. I always err on the side of conservative dress for women, but NOT the interview suit of the 1980s—remember the navy or black skirted suit with the white shirt with a bow tie? A visit to the free personal shopper at a high-end department can help you put together an ensemble worthy of an interview with C-suite executives.
4)    Avoid being patronizing to younger people on the interview team or women. Recently, I heard from a female business owner that a 40ish man she was interviewing referred to her as “dear” and “my dear” several times during the interview. He didn’t get the job. I have also seen 40+ interviewees act dismissive toward 20-somethings that are either human resource professionals or members of the interview team. Balance being professional and respectful to administrative staff with being obnoxious. (Note: To the guy who was doing magic tricks for the secretaries; they thought you were a weirdo. If you want to work again, stop the magic tricks.)
5)    Practice Practice Practice! Find someone to role-play with and practice how you will answer the basic behavioral interview questions—the ones that begin with “tell me about a time when you…”  The interviewer is expecting a succinct response to how you solved a work problem in the past. These types of interview questions are asked under the premise that what you’ve done in the past predicts how you handle situations in the future.
6)    Above all else, don’t talk too much—it seems the older we get, the more we enjoy talking. Stay focused. Answer the questions add appropriate SHORT examples, insure you’ve addressed the issue by asking and be quiet. At the end of the interview, “CLOSE” for the job! 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Avoiding a Mid-Life Career Skyfall

Monday Morning Pep Talk

Over the weekend I saw Skyfall, the new James Bond movie (which I highly recommend) and from a mid-life career management standpoint, this is a case of art imitating life.

New (younger) management comes into the company and tells the older person in charge to retire voluntarily “with dignity” or get dragged through the mud and be forced out. Stop me if you’ve heard this one. But in the movie (and I am not giving the plot away) the older person says, “To hell with dignity! I’ll retire when the job is done!” and storms off. That’s the part when you remember it is a movie.   It never quite plays out like that in real life.

In Skyfall, our hero James is older and somewhat worse for the wear. Obviously, the very negligent HR professionals at his employer have never suggested the Employee Assistance Plan for his hard-drinking or counseled him about habitual sexual harassment and gratuitous violence he’s shown in getting the job done.

Here are a couple of Skyfall moments to pack your mid-life career parachute with:

1. When a mistake is made, organizations make someone pay. The bigger the error, the more heads roll. Skyfall had an embarrassing security breach and people died. Hopefully your job it is not quite that intense.
007 TIP: Don’t sign up for any high-visibility projects tipping toward the probability of failure, lead a project that is not fully-resourced or align yourself with someone in career freefall. I know it is not always your choice. If someone signs you up for a project with the Codename: TITANIC, update your resume.

2. If you are not constantly adding to your skill set, reinventing yourself and expanding your network; you might as well get measured for a blue vest at the nearest big box store. In Skyfall, the war was fought technologically. The weapons were laptops, computer hacking and viruses. The days of exploding pens are long gone.
007 TIP: Is your latest education over ten years old? It is time to supplement your experience. Bond’s nemesis asked, what was the super-spy’s hobby—his answer “resurrection”. Get comfy with technology. There’s always going to be a new boss to prove yourself to if you want to stick around.

3. What comes around goes around. In business as in life, time heals wounds and time wounds heels. It is better to err on the side of being kind (even in the hard cold world of business) than being a heartless robotic jerk, because over the span of a career lifetime, it comes back at you in spades.
007 TIP: Skyfall was the most dramatic Bond movie with the least amount of special effects. There were plenty of explosions and the Aston Martin DB-5 was back, but the drama was in the emotion. M was stoic as her past actions were called into question. Over the years, we become more introspective. A philosophical Bond had to go home literally and metaphorically to face his past.

From my vantage point, it was great to see 007 hold on to his job and be given a chance to work with the new management team.  Although the HR part of me still thinks his employee relations rep should have that heart-to-heart talk with Bond and begin documenting (just in case)- lol. You’ve got 168 hours to make it a great week!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Keep Your Dream Alive

Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly....proverb

Monday Morning Pep Talk

Midlife can be overwhelming, there’s no other way to describe it. On Friday a good friend of mine started her day off being robbed at home---and all the hassles that entails along with the feeling of being violated. She arrived at work to find unexpected turmoil there and additional situations flared throughout the day. Some things you can try to plan for like Hurricane Sandy barreling its way to the East Coast this week. Other life events blindside us and knock us off balance for a minute. Sometimes in mid-life you begin to think, when will I finally get a break?

Here’s a tip someone gave me that I really consider a gift; so I’ll share it with you. Never stop dreaming. Keep at least three dreams: #1 The impossible dream, the one that is really out there. You can’t even share it out loud because people might think you are crazy. #2 The dream that with the right breaks, the right people coming into your life, the hard work on your part, you could see it really happening. #3 The dream future you see for yourself in whatever timeframe you are working on. It could be next week when you are on vacation. Maybe it is next month visiting friends and family for Thanksgiving. It could be next year; in five years when you retire—whatever.

In our hectic lives, it is easy to lose sight of our dreams. In the middle of the e-mails that must be read; the phone calls that must be returned; and reports that are due, find a minute and remember your dreams. If you don’t have a dream, create one. I asked the person who shared the 3-dream idea with me, “where am I supposed to find the time?” He told me about going to sit in his car in the parking lot at work just to take a few minutes to remember the big picture and his dream of a home on the coast overlooking an ocean. It energized him. For years, my friend and his family had experienced the worst of times—job losses, serious illness and unexpected family deaths. Years passed and later, I visited my friend and his family in their incredible home overlooking the ocean. They were changed, tested by what the years had put them through yet, stronger, wiser and more confident having survived it.

I reminded my friend of what he shared with me about holding on to my dreams and the impact that conversation has had on my life. I asked, “what’s the encore?” looking at their expansive home and incredible ocean view while almost feeling the positive vibe in the air.  He smiled and said, “You ain’t seen nothing, yet!” So, this week dig around and find your dream if you’ve lost it. Create a dream if you don’t have one. Remember your dream, if life has gotten in the way. You have 168 hours to take the first steps toward making your dreams reality. Have a great week!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bring Your Wounds to Work Week

Monday Morning Pep Talk

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I know this because when I had a prescription filled last week, the bottle had a pink cap. It is a good cause with fantastic marketing, so I put a dollar in the pink bucket at the card table volunteers had set up by the pharmacy window. At home, there was an e-mail. It was an appeal from the daughter of a dear friend to sponsor a child for National Bully Prevention Month. Of course, it is difficult to ignore the plight of kids, so I pledged my support and sent a donation.  Secretly I was hoping some kid wouldn’t get teased like I did about my light blue plastic-framed “cat” glasses in third grade. (I’m still somewhat sensitive about that).

There are a lot of birthdays for me to remember in October, so I was busy sending Facebook “shout outs” and making birthday calls when National Boss Day arrived October 16. That’s kind of a sticky one. If I sent a card would it look like pandering and sucking up? Probably. If I ignored it would it look even worse? Probably. I opted for a text message to the boss and donated a can of food in the barrel outside the grocery store for World Food Day also October 16.

As the weekend rolled around there was one more birthday to acknowledge which required a log into Facebook where I learned Saturday was World Statistics Day. I wasn’t quite sure how to respond, “Happy World Statistics Day!” “Congratulations on not being a Statistic?” My statistician FB friend posted this announcement in hopes of some reaction, so I “Liked” it.

Between now and Halloween there is: International Stuttering Awareness Day today and United Nations Day Wednesday. The entire week is Red Ribbon Week.

 I have added my own commemoration: Bring Your Wounds to Work Week. I figured people do it anyway. Every workplace is filled with "your tired, your poor, and your huddled masses yearning to breathe free...sorry that’s the inscription on the Statute of Liberty. Seriously, every workplace is filled with people that have a back story and drama that makes them who they are---micromanagers, insecure, a bit of a jerk, chronically late, the ethically challenged, not very trusting, lacking confidence, or overwhelmed. Just when you think...I’ve had enough; remember--we only have to work with them. Since most of us missed, "Do Something Nice Day" on October 5—Old Navy sent tweets about it, so obviously DSND is the real deal. This week, let's belatedly have a little compassion for our co-workers. Who knows what they are coping with when they are not on the job.
We all have 168 hours, make it a great week!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Winning Resumes for Experienced Workers

Resumes can be segmented into the good, the bad and the ugly, just like the movie. Recently I read a resume that upped the ante far past ugly. This frightful five-page, single-spaced summary inspired me to address the resume issue again for anyone born when the original movie was released in 1966 or earlier. As gently and respectfully as I can say this to readers everywhere; there is nothing you have done or will do in a corporate setting that requires a five page resume. Okay, there I’ve said it, let’s move on.

The resume exists for one reason, to gain you an interview. That interview may initially be on the telephone and even if it is; the resume has succeeded.

Keep the statement above in mind, and let it guide your resume writing. I disagree with the school of thought and resume practitioners who believe resumes need an objective. Your objective is to gain an interview. The company doesn’t care if you want to leverage your significant strengths in a way to......(zzzzz, I fell asleep). This is not about you, the resume writer—job seeker. This is about the company who is going to pay you, provide you benefits and open a world of opportunities.

Resumes are not read by people anymore mostly for compliance and efficiency reasons. When you apply for a job online on the company’s career page, your resume is entered into an applicant tracking system and retrieved out of that system by someone in the recruiting department (as a rule, the bigger the company, the more junior the person doing the retrieving). Here's an example of what can happen:

500 resumes are received for requisition #56812- Director, Communication and Community Relations for a large regional bank in the recruiting system. These tracking systems use filters. The first filter might be location. The company shouldn’t have to pay to relocate someone with that many applicants. Filtering by location still left the recruiting assistant with over 100 resumes, so he tries a different filter. The bank has had success hiring from competitors; so the junior recruiting assistant keys in the names of competitive banks and voila, twenty-six resumes appear with recent banking industry experience—twelve candidates are local. Two applicants worked for the bank before and are on the “do not rehire list” (yes, that list exists). The ten remaining  resumes are forwarded to the overwhelmed recruiter in charge of the requisition and 490 people will never hear from the company unless their applicant tracking system had an automated, “don’t call us, we’ll call you” screen when they applied. There are as many filters as a company can customize. The bank may have wanted someone with strong media experience, with a certain professional certification or an advanced degree. The applicant tracking system can scan for all of these variables and more.

What can you do?

Have a person who writes and spells well proofread the resume and do not rely on spellcheck.

Read the job posting and use the same keywords in the posting within your resume. (It increases the likelihood your resume will make the scan).

If you know someone at the company have them enter your resume through the employee referral program. Companies often review referrals first.You score an advantage and the employee receive a finders fee after you are hired.

Keep the resume to one page, two at the most. Highlight achievements, not job duties.

There are a lot of long-term unemployed people out there, be honest. Anything you have done to improve your skills while unemployed shows initiative-online classes, free webinars, earning job-related certifications will help if it applies to the job posting.

Keep formatting simple and jobs chronological. The applicant tracking system is a computer program and many of the systems do not process exotic fonts, text boxes and bolding well. Unless it allows a pdf file, you may lose your formatting. Also, a lot of the systems cannot process functional resumes properly.

Consider investing in a professional resume writer if your resume is not yielding interviews. Your local workforce development office or job club may offer these resources at no charge.

Before resumes turn into interviews, it is not uncommon for recruiters to search quickly for you online. Search yourself to insure your online persona and your resume are in alignment, any discrepancies may cost you an interview. Skip the cutesy personal email addresses. Create an email just for your job search if needed.



Monday, October 8, 2012

Exterminate ANTs this Week

Monday Morning Pep Talk

This post is about a different type of ant, far worse than the insect—it is the Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs) that invade workers minds throughout the day. How many times have you heard someone say?
(1)   “I will never find a job; no one will ever hire me. I can’t even get an interview.”
(2)  “This situation is hopeless; I might as well give up. Why bother?”
(3)  “I’m being set up to fail. My department doesn’t have the resources to do what I’m expected to do.”
(4)  “My boss gave me a terrible review. I’m probably going to get put on a performance improve plan or get fired.”
Maybe you heard them say it once.  Can you imagine someone running that phrase through their mind multiple times a day like a continuous loop? I get exhausted just knowing there are people living like this day after day.
Unfortunately, there is a free-floating anxiety, permeating Corporate America. Employees don’t feel empowered, morale plummets and the workplace becomes toxic.  For individuals, ANTs result in missed career opportunities, lower confidence, low productivity and research by Mark George, MD, National Institutes of Health reports negative thoughts inflamed brain areas often involved with depression and anxiety.
None of this exactly sounds quite like a Pep Talk, so let’s figure out how to exterminate the ANTs. Here are four tips to help your friends, relatives or co-workers when you notice ANTs creeping into the conversation. If you know of any other anti-ANT strategies, please leave them as a comment to this post. 
(1)   Remember ANTs are automatic, so when someone has an infestation the first step is the let them know, these pests can be eradicated. ANTs have to be acknowledged. They can be written down in a notebook or if that’s not convenient, suggest they repeat ANTs into a voice recorder on their cell phone. Make note of what situation or who around them brought the ANTs. In the future, they can limit interactions with the person or people who inspire ANTs and avoid situations that result in ANTs.
(2)  When ANTs emerge, suggest your co-worker ask a series of questions beginning with—is that negative thought true? How can they be sure? Have they ever faced and overcome a situation like this before? Are they likely to be able to succeed again?
(3)   Toxic workplaces foster environments that minimize what their employees do right and anything workers do wrong is turned into a disaster. With this in mind, remind your relative that while the workplace may be filled with ANTs; they do not have to bring them home. Flood their work areas with positive affirmations (their screen saver, their mouse pad, the pictures on the wall, etc.).
(4)  ANTs instill fear. Working in fear is an enormous waste of time, lowers productivity and keeps employees from their personal best. Someone came up with a great acronym for fear: False Evidence Appearing Real. (Feel free to borrow and share).

The ANTs didn’t show up over night and workers can’t expect to rid themselves of this problem in a day or two. If ANTs are persistent they could be part of social anxiety disorder or other issue that requires professional help. A company’s Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) is a good (free) place to start and there are many health care professionals and career coaches equipped to help employees exterminate their ANTs once and for all.

 Help everyone you know exterminate their ANTs and have a great week!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Reach Out And Touch Someone

Monday Morning Pep Talk!

Reach out and touch someone was a tagline for AT&T back in 1979 to increase long distance calls.
Staying in touch with friends in midlife is tough. The Mayo Clinic published, Friendships: Enrich Your Life and Improve Your Health, in April 2011 touting the benefits of friendships. Recently a person shared with me that despite hundreds of connections on LinkedIn, a healthy Twitter following and thousands of Facebook friends, she has never felt more lonely. Her candor took me by surprise, but before I could respond her phone beeped twice and she excused herself to respond to a couple of text messages. She continued our conversation barraged by ringers, buzzes and bells indicating text messages, new voice mail messages and e-mails. Finally, I asked her to power down, so we could finish our coffee in peace. My friend did not want to continue her conversation about the loneliness she was feeling, but her phone told the tale.

There is something about connecting with your friends outside of work either by picking up the telephone, actually sending a birthday card (imagine their surprise) or seeing each other face-to-face that cements a relationship that e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, your Google+ circles and LinkedIn connections cannot replace. I have all of the aforementioned technology and it is great—in moderation.

I have learned if I don’t manage the technology---the technology will begin to control me. So, there are boundaries---Facebook is for 80 friends at any one time. It allows me to share photos, keep up with friends and family members I don’t live near or our schedules don’t allow us to see each other frequently. Professional connections are part of my LinkedIn network. I try to know most of my 260+ connections personally. A few are friends of friends. Other LinkedIn connections are friends of the blog or professional acquaintances including some I have only met once at a conference or workshop. Then, there is Twitter—they are my blog connections. Many of the people I follow on Twitter or that are following me, I’ve never met. We may admire each other’s work or have a mutual professional or writing interest. For me, Twitter is not personal. It is an extension of Work, Careers and Jobs @ 40+. There are no Tweets of vacation destinations, great concerts or family news. Organizations may follow you on Twitter. I doubt the American Management Association or Diversity Journal wants know the finest gem of a gourmet restaurant I discovered in Roanoke, IN last month. I might suggest Joseph Decuis to my Facebook friends or to you (http://www.josephdecuis.com).

That is part of my personal technology strategy. Everyone has to develop a system that works for them. According to the Mayo Clinic article investing time in strengthening friendships has a pay off in better health and a more positive outlook toward life. So, this week, call a friend and at least leave a voice mail. Give your friendships CPR and good feelings will flow both ways. You have 168 hours, make it a great week!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Owning Your Work/Life Balance

Monday Morning Pep Talk

You are one of the lucky ones, you have a job. If you feel like you’re working harder, you are probably right. According to the mandarins at the U.S. Department of Labor workers over fifty years old work harder than their younger counterparts because they value work more. In 2010, Professor Jean Twenge, from San Diego State University, published results of a generational differences study in the Journal of Management. The study found, “young workers place little value on teamwork, company loyalty and see their jobs as merely a means to make a living; they like their leisure time, want more vacations, and don’t want to be under a lot of pressure at work.”
It is up to you to carve-out some “me time” away from the pressures of work to create some work/life balance. Your company isn’t going to do it for you and working 60 hours-a-week is no guarantee you won’t get laid off in the next round of  job cuts.
"The impact that taking a vacation has on one's mental health is profound," said Francine Lederer, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles who specializes in stress and relationship management. "Most people have better life perspective and are more motivated to achieve their goals after a vacation, even if it is a 24-hour time-out." Various other studies support the impact of vacations and time away from work on increased productivity, stress relief and a boost to overall health. So, why don’t more people take time off?
 Corporate America has a “24/7, never stop culture” and when senior corporate managers work seven days a week it permeates throughout the organization. Europeans embrace the idea of time away from work to recharge almost religiously. Vacations are enshrined in law. In countries like Germany, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, employers are required to provide up to 20 days of paid leave. Americans, on the other hand, get an average of 12 days every year. A study conducted by the Families and Work Institute found that less than half of U.S. employees take their full vacation benefit.
Probably the best evidence of the “vacation effect” can be found in the Framingham Heart Study, which scientists have examined for years to understand what contributes to our well-being. More than 12,000 men who were at risk of heart disease were followed over nine years to see if there were ways to improve their longevity. Among the questions they were asked annually was about vacations. "The more frequent the vacations, the longer the men lived," says Karen Matthews, of Pittsburgh’s Mind-Body Center, who analyzed the data to assess the benefits of vacations.
Even if you can’t afford a trip away or you are unemployed and feel guilty about taking any time off your job search, a “stay-cation” in your own town or house-swapping with friends or relatives from another city are ways to recharge your batteries. According to Matthews,"It is important to engage in multiple leisure activities, both as a way to enjoy life more, but also to potentially have a benefit on health and be a stress reliever.” This Monday Morning Pep Talk was written a little late as I am taking my own advice and enjoying some time off.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Increase Your Job Satisfaction

Recently I addressed an alumni group about navigating the multigenerational workforce and creating a satisfying career. The overall age of the audience is somewhat younger than the groups I generally present to—most of them were at or close to a decade in the workforce. This provided a great opportunity to learn how the work experience differed than what they expected in college. I also asked what the audience thought they might be doing if talked again in ten years.

Their responses were surprising. Over half the audience had aspirations to own a business. Now maybe it was because the audience was young, intelligent and ambitious (they were spending a Saturday morning at an alumni networking breakfast) or maybe this audience viewed their roles at work much differently than the 40+ worker.

I’m guessing it is the latter. Of the twelve participants that planned to evolve into entrepreneurs, all of them are currently employed by large business and many are already promoted into supervisory roles with direct reports. Three of the young 30-somethings had impressive budget responsibility and large organizations reporting to them. Rather than look at their current companies as a place to make the proverbial climb into the corner office with plush carpet, a gatekeeper in front of their door and other discreet executive perks; they appeared to view their jobs as an extension of their education. Their income was being used to pay off student loan debt, but what company’s name was on the business card could not have matter less. Emergency in the employee engagement aisle!

Employees joining the workforce in the 1970s and 1980s, came of age in more of a “carrot and stick” management style. The carrot was the first promotion. If Bob performed well as a technician II; then Bob become a technician III or (gasp)—a Senior Technician. That changed for many Fortune 500 companies in the mid-1990s as they dabbled in “Broadbanding”. If you worked for a company that missed the Broadbanding bus (lucky you)—it is when a company flattens the hierarchy, eliminates levels of management, makes it really difficult to get a promotional title change and replaces a large number of salary levels with a small number of salary grades with broad pay ranges. That is as simple as I can make it sound. It would take a highly paid consulting practice leader to make Broadbanding sound logical today. In the era of mergers/acquisitions that was the 1990s, a suave HR consultant could spin it to make sense. My audience impatiently expects titles and pay increases now--or they are leaving even with 8% unemployment.

The 40+ worker believed their company was the beginning and the end while this cohort of twenty-five to thirty-two year olds view their work as a means to an end.   They were much more interested in my four years of entrepreneurship and how I build blog traffic than an audience of their peers a decade or two older.  They appeared to be simultaneously engaged in their jobs today and could fire off a text with their resignation tomorrow. Corporate loyalty? They snickered as if my AARP card had fallen out of my wallet.

Over dinner, I was discussing this event with friends for their assessment. One astute observation was that my audience included children of Baby Boomers. They lived through their parent’s being laid off in corporate downsizings; they were relocated as children when their parents moved to start new jobs and they understand that for as much as a company provides their payroll direct deposit today—these young people think like freelancers or 1099-workers. More experienced workers have additional considerations including aging parents, health issues, young adult children or in some cases second families with young children---adopting the mindset of a younger generation where it makes sense, could be your ticket to increased career satisfaction.

Happy Labor Day in the USA

For those of us who labor and those looking for employment, a good rememberance for Labor Day.


God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Monday Morning Pep Talk

The Coming Jobs War is the most important business book you have not read. It is by Jim Clifton, the Chairman and CEO of Gallup, the annoying pollsters who call you during dinner to ask a few questions. Generally, I am suspect of books published by companies where the author is the CEO or any other executive, but this 2011 tome had me hooked by page ten.

This is the point where I should mention to you that I was not sent a complimentary copy of this book since that happens now nor did I buy this book. I checked it out of the Fishers (Indiana) Public Library. For the audiobook-obsessed, I didn’t find it on audible.com, my favorite book download or as an audiobook. This book is a quick read at less than 200 pages and for my time-starved friends in the Human Resources profession—just read Chapter Eight, High Energy Workplaces, then I’ll bet you will read the rest.

Why this book is so important?

The subtitle is “What every leader must know about the future of job creation.”  For the age 40+ employee to redefine retirement and continue to work past what was normally considered standard—65 or maybe 62---there has to be jobs. We all know there are fewer jobs today and the decline began before the recession of 2008. Job creation has been an issue since the meltdown in 2001. That is when the perfect storm of the dot.com bubble, the September 11 attack and the implosion of Enron (which a year later would infect and destroy its accounting firm that had existed for ninety years) forever changed how senior management viewed headcount and FTEs. What this book does brilliantly is explain how to create jobs.

Why is this book vital to workers in their 40s and 50s?

You have read it here before; it has never cost more to retire. According to AARP, the “average” retiree is paying $300-$400 a month in Medicare supplements and co-pays. Even the best retiree health plans do not cover vision or dental. Then you have companies that cannot fund their pension obligations (read up on the city of Stockton, CA filing bankruptcy to learn more about this issue). Clifton explains why you can’t count on Medicare or Social Security (pages 33-35 for the skimmers). I’m not the chicken little-type or a survivalist building a bunker in the backyard—but as a realist, you have to surmise that both of these safety nets have big holes in them.

One of my dearest childhood friends resides in the suburbs of Detroit and Clifton uses the Motor City as a cautionary tale for where America is headed. While the book may have a United States orientation—there are global indications too. (Yeah! if you’re reading in China and not so smiley-faced everywhere else). For my dear friends in the health information management profession, chapter eleven was written to motivate you to keep fighting the good fight with EHR, EMR, e-Rx, and the other e-initiatives you are advocating to modernize health care.

I read the book and ran out to support small and medium-sized businesses (the future of job growth) this weekend; had the local bookstore order copies to send to my 2 good friends- the 55+ mayor of his town and the encore-career entrepreneur. Let me know what you think of the book--you can leave your comment anonymously.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Innovation, Disruption and YOU

Monday Morning Pep Talk

Innovation is a good thing, right? Companies win awards for their innovations and it is the buzzword of the moment in business. It drives profits, market share growth and top line revenue. Innovation solves problems we didn’t realize we had with products and services we didn’t know we wanted that now we can’t live without. It is the reason my home is filled with gadgets that start with lowercase, “i”.

Everyone at their company wants to be known as an innovator. It is an honor. The lucky sap that is viewed as an innovator can show up anywhere in an organization, but generally innovators reside in R&D, marketing or I/T. The innovator’s reward is a big salary, a title on his/her business card as Senior Director of Something No One Understands and Teflon status during corporate reorganizations. Innovators appear relaxed and smiling in a sea of nervous chaotic types when senior management enters a room.

Innovation leads to disruption. Disruption leads to....job loss. The innovation of ATMs made bank tellers nearly irrelevant and the ones that remain work as slowly as possible to remind us of their fate. Other innovations led to the demise of the switchboard operator, the ice man, newspaper print setters and manual street sweepers. Because of innovation, there are fewer jobs for radio announcers, executive administrators, general manufacturing, parking lot attendants and a broad spectrum of other positions. It is all automated.

Since innovation is not slowing down and it leads to disruption and ultimately job loss; what is a 40+ worker to do? First, we have to acknowledge that with innovation and the disruption is produces there is going to be change. Jobs will be lost and other jobs will be created. For every milliner, bookbinder or pinsetter that isn’t needed today; there is a job for a Director of Digital, a Patient Advocate, Social Media Strategist or Interior Design Stager. A couple of years ago, there was an uproar about the Karl Fisch video clip reminder, “The jobs in highest demand in 2010 did not exist in 2004.”  Today we accept that premise. As experienced workers have to think ahead about problems that don’t exist yet—we have to anticipate, stay flexible and embrace continuous learning. There is no guarantee the job you do today is going to be done the same way with as many people--there is no guarantee your company will exist the same way it does today. Technology will somehow impact every job we are doing in 2012.

Innovation is a good thing, and we have to start by innovating ourselves. Create your own disruption—learn a new language and become bilingual. Take a vocation vacation. (Check out: http://vocationvacations.com) to learn more. Brush up on your technology skills or take a class to learn about social media. You have 168 hours—make it a great week!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Where Did My Confidence Go? I Know it's Around Here Somewhere

Monday Morning Pep Talk--July 30, 2012

Sometimes in a long career, you begin to lose your confidence. It starts around the time you can't remember where you put your keys. A misstep or two may make you believe it is time to get out of the game. Your co-workers and managers are decades younger, and you begin to minimize your accomplishments and focus on your flaws.

Loss of your confidence as an employee, entrepreneur or job-seeker in your 40s, 50s, and 60+ is the beginning of a downward spiral you have to address and reverse. Losing your confidence at work feels like rejection, paranoia, and excessive worry. You may have seen this in others on the job. As a human resources consultant, I have worked with clients that have lost their confidence and lost their way (and almost lost their businesses). While coaching was never a primary line of business in my HR consultancy; loss of the leader’s confidence had a disastrous affect on the workplace (and that was my focus). Well-meaning business professionals turned into tyrants. It showed up as micromanaging, bitterness of the business owner/leader toward their staff; lack of trust in their team; poor business results and increased turnover (of the wrong employees).

If your confidence needs a boost, try these three things this week:

(1)  Watch what you say when you talk to yourself. Admit it—you do have those private internal conversations. We all do. As self-confidence wanes, our imagination runs wild. We begin to speculate instead of waiting for the facts. Every time disruptive negative thoughts enter your mind or internal conversation this week—counter it with a positive thought or affirmation. “I have done it before; I can do it again.” One of my favorites, “When you are young, you learn; when you are old, you understand.” (I am not calling you “old” think of it as wise).
(2)  Give Yourself Credit for What You have Accomplished. The 40+ crowd is a lot different from the group I call the “T-ball generation.” In the “T-ball” world everyone was a winner, they played sports where no one kept score (except parents/grandparents on the sidelines) and it developed a sense of entitled narcissism—they have now moved into management jobs-hiring 40+ workers. We, on the other hand, easily forget our successes and dwell on our failures. When faced with this dichotomy, remember the accomplishments of your past are the foundation of your future. So lighten up, already!
(3)  Get Support if Needed. Confidence at work is essential and if you need help looking for yours, don’t be shy in reaching out. Whether is it calling that positive, affirming friend, joining a job club or hiring a licensed, certified professional (psychologist, life coaches and career coaches do this type of work)—do it this week.

Reclaiming your confidence is like re-igniting a fire inside you. Confidence fuels your energy. The boost you feel will increase your effectiveness as a leader, entrepreneur or in your job search.

You’ve got 168 hours! Make it a great week.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Monday Morning Pep Talk: July 23, 2012

(The Monday Morning Pep Talk is another new occasional feature for the blog. If you are interested in providing a "Pep Talk" of less than 500 words, I'm open to guest writers. Contact me!)


It is Monday morning somewhere and what lies ahead is a week of possibilities, 168 hours that can shape the rest of your life. The intent of our first pep talk together is to motivate you to keep the week in perspective (especially the challenges, obstacles and delays). Initially, this inaugural installment was about setting goals. Then, Friday there was the mass murder during the Batman movie premiere in Aurora, Colorado. It was a startling reminder about the importance of perspective. Who wouldn't approach the week differently if we knew it were our last?

When a tragedy happens like the incident in Colorado—it reminds us that while we are in the hustle and bustle or working, looking for work or trying to move up at work—our occupations (though incredibly important) are just one facet of our total lives.  The most recent data says the average life expectancy of a woman in the United States is 80.8 years and for men it is 75.6 years. The fatalities in Colorado are not of people who reached those ages. Whatever happens this week, keep it in perspective—how important is it in a lifespan of 75-80 years?

Whether you are working at the job of your dreams this Monday morning or just trading your time for money to pay the bills; remember it is a job—not your life. Take some time to enjoy your kids before they go back to school.  Call your friend you’ve been meaning to talk to instead of communicating by Facebook or text. Let them know you are thinking about them even if you just leave a message on voicemail. Compliment someone at the store or gas station and make their day. Smile for no reason.

Maybe your Monday will be dominated by looking for a job— it could have been a while since you’ve worked or since you have earned the kind of money you’re accustomed to and this week you are searching for a career upgrade. Just because no one called you back last week-doesn’t mean the same thing will happen this week. And if no one calls you back, maybe it is time to change your tactics and your job-search strategy—join a job club, start a job club, update your LinkedIn profile and network with someone new or volunteer for something short-term to shake up your routine and meet some new people.

Ultimately, we are the authors of the story on how we spent our 168 hours. Make it a great week!

Life expectancies by countries around the world (as of 2010) :

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Best Free Retirement Advice You Will Ever Receive

 "In the business world, the rearview mirror is always clearer than the windshield. " Warren Buffett

After reviewing the financial literature on retirement, interviewing 60 to 80-year-olds retired from two to eighteen years and observing the national and global economic and political landscape closely; I can distill my retirement advice to you in one word: DON’T. And while, I am sharing advice you did not ask for and may not want to hear, there’s more. Remember the financial advisor who told you that once you stopped working, you would need 60-70% of your working income to live in retirement? My 70-year-olds said, “Fire that guy!” Between out-of-pocket health care cost, fluctuating gas prices and having lots of time on their hands to go places and do things; the 70+ crowd tells me their expenses are the same if not more than when they worked.

If you have a job you enjoy, stay there. If you have a job that is tolerable and you have health benefits and a safe work environment, hang in there. If you like your work, but not the people running the company---stay there too, unless it is family-owned; your senior leadership team will probably get promoted or recruited away by some other unsuspecting firm. If you hate your job, have pangs of anxiety on Sunday night thinking about the week ahead or are planning to fake your own death because you are running out of PTO; then by all means start networking, post your resume on LinkedIn and look for a new job.

The Case for Staying Put

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) numbers for June 2012 were released last week and fewer workers 55+ were unemployed (6.2%). The summary from BLS says, “Recent history has shown greater employment stability as age increases.” Don’t believe that for a minute! The truth is—those workers 55+ gave up looking for a job because no one would hire them. Remember the unemployment numbers count people actively in job-search mode and receiving unemployment compensation from their state. I know people 55+ that piece together a living working 2-3 part-time jobs unable to afford benefits at any of them. They are not technically unemployed and not reflected in the BLS data. What happened to the 55+ workers not in the labor force?  Some participate in the “underground economy” working for cash, others start their own business, and some are supported by their families until they reach age 62 and begin collecting a reduced social security benefit while others tap into their 401(k) accounts incurring early-withdrawal penalties if they are not 59.5 years old. In February 2010 nearly half (49.1%) of the 55+ workers were unemployed over 27 weeks. Now, it takes over a year for workers age 55+ to find a new job (approximately 56 weeks).

So you are younger than 55 reading this and thinking, this does not apply to me. Think Again! Are you 45-54? 6.3% of your age group was unemployed in June 2012. The BIGGEST LOSER of my readers? The 35-44 year old suffered 7% unemployment. It may be partly due to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) defining workers  40+ as a protected class---so in job actions (i.e. downsizing, lay-offs, reorganizations, and reductions in force) an adverse impact analysis is performed by the company or their third party consultant to minimize legal action. The 35-39 year olds are not protected and it may skew the 7% number.

Take a look at these newly released numbers from the Federal Reserve: From 2007 to 2010, the wealth of the average American family plunged by 40 percent, taking it down to the levels of the early 1990s. That's not just for 40+ people-that impacts everyone!

Here’s my point: The employment situation is similar to a game of musical chairs right now. If the music stops, you want to have a chair (job) and if you are left standing and you are older---your time on the sidelines becomes a lot longer.  AND, when you do get back into the game; it may be in a part-time job; 1099-contractor employment situation or as a temporary worker. Most experienced workers at 40+  find their salary drastically reduced after a period of unemployment. BLS economists call it underemployment.

I have a friend that just started a fabulous new job at age 60-great salary, company car and all the perks. That is the exception, not the rule. She networked and found an organization that valued experienced workers. Even then, it was an ongoing process. My friend met the guy who recommended her for the job several years ago and when this position became available recently; he thought of her first.

What is an experienced worker to do? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below. You may comment anonymously, if you prefer. And remember to "follow" the blog and receive automatic notification when there's a new post. Follow me on Twitter: @workingover40. I'll follow you too.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Buying A Franchise: Is it Right For You?

This post is the first in an occasional series, “What Are U Doing After Work?” that explores options for reinventing yourself and beginning second and third careers when your “legacy career” ends.

I was just reading about all of the professional athletes moving into franchising. Former NBA player, Jamal Mashburn along with a group of investors that includes Rick Pitino, his former UK coach, operates 37 Papa John’s, 34 Outback Steakhouses, 3 Dunkin’ Donuts and the largest Toyota dealership in Kentucky. Venus Williams and her business partners are opening five Jamba Juice stores in the D.C. area. NFL star, Reggie Bush and a group of athletes have franchised Panera Bread stores throughout Coastal California.

If it is right for all of the sport stars, could franchising be the answer for the former stars of corporate America? I decided to interview an expert. Jim Gleason, General Manager, FranNet of Mid-America, a franchise business consulting company. Jim shares his perspective on franchising.

Even though the economy remains uncertain, Jim says over the last several years interest in franchising has increased. In his role, Jim’s company acts as a matchmaker between the potential franchisee and the over 100 franchises his company represents. “We have a one-to-two hour interview with the person and try to understand their goals,” says Gleason. FranNet offers an assessment that includes the person’s psychological aspects, how much money they have to invest and their skills sets to help find the franchise each person will have the best chance of success in operating. The process is free to the potential franchisee because FranNet is paid by the franchisor that is happy to have a high quality candidate with a higher potential of success.

Jim says a common misconception people have is that “franchising is either food or retail.”  There are many types of franchises including lodging, home services, Business-to-Business, Children’s Related, “Green” Energy Related, Senior/Home Care and Health and Fitness among others. According to Entrepreneur Magazine there are over 3,000 franchise opportunities in the U.S. and Canada. Gleason says, “People can make a good income in a franchise that is outside of food or retail.”

A second misconception Gleason cautions prospective franchisees about is the hard work that comes with operating a franchise. He says, “You still have to realize this is a start-up business and just because there is a system in place, it is not plug and play.” He advises potential franchise business owners that there are long hours and ‘sweat equity’ that have to be invested to be successful.

What are some of the knowledge, skills and attributes of successful franchise owner/operators?  Gleason says, “You have to be willing to follow someone else’s system and you have to be self-motivated.” Other than that, Gleason advises that leadership skills, customer service skills and having the legal, moral and ethical mindset of becoming a business owner are important.

After you leave your corporate job will you become the next Junior Bridgewater? After his twelve-year career with the Milwaukee Bucks he now has annual revenues of more the $500 million owning 162 Wendy’s units and 121 Chili’s restaurants. Even if your goals are more modest—remember these three tips, (1) always read (and understand) the company’s legal documents; (2) consult with an attorney and an accountant; (3) talk with current and former franchisees. I also recommend reading, Become a Franchise Owner by Joel Libava (aka The Franchise King) 2012.

Jim Gleason also recommends this link:

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Blog Has a Birthday!

Last week the blog celebrated its first birthday. Since then, thanks to you, the response has been phenomenal and I share that with humility and gratitude. There is a part of me that wishes our community did not have to exist and those workers in their 40s, 50s, and 60s and yes, 70s enjoyed the respect, pay, opportunities and flexibility to thrive in their careers as they aged in the workforce. Over 5,000 page views in less than a year from all around the world and your comments to me on the blog, privately on LinkedIn, Facebook and my email reminds me of why I began this endeavor last June. Since then, I have met success stories, true heroes-- people like “retiree” Earle Hart, in my home state—Indiana-- who through his volunteer efforts at his church has put over 300 people back to full-time work!! Their ministry, Passport to Employment, is an incredible story that has engaged people in the community and prepared them for a 21st century employment search, but more than that—their program gives job-seekers hope. At the grassroots level, Earle and his cadre of volunteers perform their tasks from the heart in a way no government agency or non-profit with a grant could replicate. Earle and the other volunteers that work with him illustrate moving from personal success in their long careers to a much broader significance in life. Eternal thanks to Bob Hutt, who made that connection through LinkedIn.
In year two there is more to share on not just finding a job at 40+, but managing your career as an experienced worker. According to 2010 US Census data, 39% of the population is older than 45 and people older than 45 represent over half of the voting-age population for the first time in America’s history. The implications for our careers, how we redefine retirement (Baby Boomers are really good at redefining things), working in harmony with multiple generations in the workforce and interviews with some fantastically interesting thought leaders are coming your way. I recently attended a workshop on how a few innovative U.S. companies are leading the way in leveraging older workers and will be sharing that with you soon as well as some strategies for not succumbing to the income decline experienced when you take a new job after your “legacy job” (the one you had for many years) ends. Thanks to a gift of a new digital video camera, you will see the blog’s first video posts later this year.
The grim report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reminds us that age 50+ job seekers are taking more than a year to find a new job. In that year, some mature workers sink their 401(k) savings into buying a franchise or starting a business with varying degrees of success. I’m looking for someone to share their learning on franchising. Some 50+ people drop out of the workforce all together while many feel forced to take their Social Security at age sixty-two with a reduced benefit which has lifetime consequences. The increased rates of depression, anxiety and relationship problems of job-seekers have not been linked to unemployment in an official study yet—but there is a lot of anecdotal information out there and a recent AARP article reports on the divorce epidemic at 50+. Expect more ideas on staying “Up” in a “down” job market posts. As usual, your ideas fuel the content.
Please continue to visit (and invite friends) join or start a conversation with a comment.  I am honored when you forward the blog link (see below) to your network. Thanks for a great first year!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Embracing Change

Is Your World Like A Spinning Top?

In mid-life, change is constant. How we react to change determines a lot about how much we enjoy our careers, relationships and life itself.

This column focuses on careers, work and the jobs we perform everyday (or hope to perform as soon as you find a new one). Sometimes the lines between our professional lives and personal lives blur. Change and our reaction to it---is often the culprit.

At age 40+ we move out of the kiddie pool and begin to swim in the deep water with sharks and other unimaginable creatures. The stakes are higher and we have more to lose materially because we have worked a while and become consumers of the American Dream. Major changes as the waves push us further into deep water may include:
  • The death of a parent, spouse, sibling or close friend
  • Health care decisions for an aging parent
  • Children maturing and making their own life choices
  • Career reassessments by choice or forced upon us
  • Health crisis or challenges of our own or someone close
  • Unexpected midlife job search
  • Financial reality that doesn’t align with your plans & expectations
  • Loneliness or disconnectedness (with or without a partner)

Psychologists and other professionals will tell you that change is not an inherently bad thing. In fact, we cannot evolve without it. I agree with you, change is a lot easier when we initiate it. (And even then, leaving a good company, a relationship, a wonderful neighborhood or a dear friend is still hard). I’ve experienced all four scenarios and as tough as those situations have been, what is waiting on the other side of those changes is the next phase of your life that in a few short years---you will not want to change. You will still have the benefit of all the great memories of your experiences that came before. Jim Collins reminds us in his book, Good to Great,  “good is the enemy of great," at least for companies-could it be true for individuals too?

My three personal tips for coping with change:

1. Realize change events seem to speed up as we get older. There’s always something happening, so be compassionate (especially with yourself).
2. Take care of your health-it makes dealing with other changes coming at you easier. I try to eat right, exercise, get enough sleep and stay positive.
3. Realize that if I keep doing what I’ve always done—the result will not change. So, I decide what I want my life to look like and take the first (scary) step in that direction.

I just finished a great book, Necessary Endings by Dr. Henry Cloud (also available as an audio book). It is the first book I’ve read that addresses career and personal transitions together. You may want to check it out.

Oh yeah, don’t forget your life preserver while swimming in the deep water and be prepared for wild waves.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Best Companies to Work for & Other Corporate Myths

What do Santa, the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy and the annual list of Best Companies to work for have in common?
It is all fantasy and marketing hype.
That’s right, all of these are commercially-driven advertising dependent cultural myths. My apologies to anyone disheartened by the news (this blog is intended for those 40+). Here are three important facts to keep in mind so you can make any work environment, the best company for you.
#1—There is no such thing as a “Best” company to work for. However, within any organization some areas are more toxic than others. This far in the game, you know that companies are complex structures and the culture varies from department to department, location to location and leader to leader. While the overall company may offer great employee benefits (did someone say, defined benefit pension plan?) and other cool perks, the idea of an entire company being BEST is amusing. Working @40+ Tip: Try to move yourself into a location, department or unit of your company that is known to have the most supportive, nurturing culture in your organization. You’ve worked too long to be stressed at work.
#2—Your primary relationship at any company is with your direct manager/supervisor or fellow owners if you are a partner. Your work experience is defined by that very important relationship no matter how many fitness centers or other exotic benefits the organization offers. How many people do you know working for an organization ranked “Best” on some publisher’s list and they are experiencing “job hell”? After a while in the workforce, you can attest that a great boss can provide a ray of sunshine in an otherwise desolate work environment. The corollary is also true, your company can have a basketball court, free gourmet lunch, free parking, a generous annual bonus, tickets to sporting events and more. If your boss is jerk, you will still have your paper on the street (or Internet) looking for a better situation. Working@40+Tip: If you have a great boss, stay put and figure out how to grow in the job even if it seems kind of dead-end. Even if your boss isn’t great, and is merely not awful, it may be worth staying with them, if they support your career development.
#3—“Best” lists are an advertising juggernaut and nothing more. At the risk of sounding cynical (too late), look at the advertising in any issue of a magazine with a list of the “Best”. We’re talking companies to work for and jobs, but the same holds true for the “Best Doctors” or the “Best Private Schools” etc. There will be a ton of ads purchased by the companies, hospitals where the “Best” doctors practice or the “Best” private schools. Advertising sales reps for the magazines are out selling to the featured target as soon as the editorial calendar is set and they know which month is going to have a list of “Best”. Working@40+ Tip: Don’t buy the hype. Don’t buy that issue of the magazine off the rack. If you subscribe, skip the reading that article and write a guest article for this blog about your experience working@40+.