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, January 24, 2012

Creating A Career Legacy

When you leave your job, what legacy will you leave behind? What will people remember about you? What will you recall as your lasting contributions? I think all of us, no matter what our title is, should strive to leave our position better than we found it in whatever way we can. It goes along with one Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits—“Begin with the End in Mind.” What began my thought process about career legacies and planning for your life after work beyond the financial sense was the death of the legendary Penn State football coach on Sunday morning.
Joe Paterno earned five American Football Coaches Association awards, held the most records spent as a head coach at one school (46 seasons) and had the most victories for a major college coach by winning 409 games! Certainly during his tenure he certainly was a positive influence on the many lives he impacted. His legacy however has the cloud of the recent child sexual abuse scandal. Not because of anything he did physically to children—but more so for what he failed to do when he reported the abuse to “someone he thought would do something about it” instead of reporting it to law enforcement. Most of us do not have careers under media scrutiny—most of us will not have careers spanning 46 years with one employer; but we will all leave a legacy when we leave our jobs. And, every day at work we write a sentence of what we will be remembered for by our colleagues and in our own mind.
I worked with a retiring administrative assistant who was remembered by her co-workers as the “Czar of Office Supplies” she counted and monitored the paper clips, pencils and file folders that everyone requested and she kept them in a locked file cabinet behind her desk. I’m sure, in her many years of service; she had many other contributions to the company. At her cake and punch reception on her final day at the office person after person commented on the woman’s diligence in monitoring office supply expenses. Maybe in her role she felt it was the only thing in her span of control. I urge you to think more broadly. Even if you don’t get the public accolades for it when you leave, you will know inside that you left your workplace just a little better because you worked there.
 I remember my grandfather who worked his way up from a sharecropper as a young child, through a meat-packing plant as a young adult to a crane operator in a steel mill in Gary, Indiana. He told me about the dangerous conditions with glowing hot steel bars radiating heat when men walked into the plant. Above everyone, was the crane operator deftly moving tons of hot steel sitting coolly above the work floor in a position considered too skilled for the Black workers who toiled more closely to the extreme heat. From the moment he saw the crane, he said he was mesmerized and knew he wanted to show management a Black man could do that job. His legacy after 32 years of service was working his way off the floor of Youngstown Sheet & Tube, a company now long gone, to become the lead crane operator and to mentor others that would follow him after his retirement.
Have you thought about the impact you will leave on your workplace as a boss or mentor, as a co-worker, as a subject matter expert in your field or as a corporate volunteer? Share it with here and join the conversation.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Fortune Magazine's Workforce of 2022

The other day my January 16 issue of Fortune Magazine arrived in the mail. I was intrigued because instead of the usual business leader on the cover; it boasted a kind silvery version of Ryan Seacrest and called itself, “The Future Issue”. I devour Fortune like other people read People or US Weekly—which already gives you too much insight into my geeky obsession with business and the workforce. Who doesn’t want to know about the future?  So I dive right into their article on work.

Guess who is in the office of tomorrow in 2022? Their writer says there are going to be old, bald people with “salt-and-pepper eyebrows” and women in “orthopedic shoes” making their way into office buildings.  She goes on to predict, “...new drugs...will enable many people in their sixties and seventies to make the daily trek to an office or factory." When I read this in Fortune (one my favorite business magazines) I wasn’t sure if I should laugh, scream or cry. (Or maybe write a snarky letter to the editor like the one they published from me October 16, 1995—I’ve been reading for a long time). But, it is 2012—so I can put it in a blog post and send it 2,000 of my close friends.

Would it be old and mean of me to think the young lady who authored the article is a student? Because surely if she were in the workforce of TODAY—not the future, she would realize workers in their 50s, 60s and 70s peering at their smartphones through bifocals and bumping up the font on the screen for easier reading (hey, she said it, not me) is here. Maybe they don’t work at Fortune’s editorial offices, so she’s never seen us in action.  Or, and I hear this often—maybe we (older workers) are invisible to her.

Our writer blames the market crash of 2008 for the reason Baby Boomers are going to stay in the workforce and increase from 7.3 million today to 13.2 million workers over 65 in ten years. While there are plenty of people working for financial reasons, some of us choose to work longer. My Mom is 74 and works ten hours a week because she loves her profession. It is an opportunity to stimulate her brain, be around professional people, learn new things (yes, she has a smartphone, can text and use apps) and the money comes in handy too.

I don’t blame the writer for this prediction of “the workforce of future.” Anything that makes it to print in Fortune has been scrutinized by an editor or two and I think that is what worries me more. This type of characterization of older workers is not helpful. At a time when subtle bias against mature workers in some workplaces seeps into the corporate culture before the company has recognized their multigenerational workforce demands attention, Fortune missed an opportunity.

The writer could have easily talked to someone from the Sloan Center on Aging and Work at Boston College (http://www.bc.edu/research/agingandwork/about.html) or AARP (aarp.org) and I can guarantee her article would have taken a different tone.  So I am going to offer some predictions about “what happens to the workplace when seniors don’t leave” which is the question her piece supposedly answers. Visionary companies that integrate age issues into their strategic HR plan are going to have a sustainable competitive advantage. I agree with the Fortune writer that “companies will have to be creative about how they manage a workplace with staffs whose ages could span 60 years.” They do that by addressing the diversity issues a multigenerational workplace presents and it affects all areas of the company: talent management, learning and development, benefits, rewards/recognition and knowledge transfer. Some mature workers are at the “top of their game” considering skill, experience, emotional intelligence and confidence. Companies that minimize or ignore the impact a multigenerational workforce has on today and tomorrow’s corporate culture threatens morale, productivity and business results. Share your comments and let us know what you think.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Mid-Life Careers at the CrossRoads

At some point in your working life you hit a bump. Sometimes the bump is sudden—unexpectedly you lose your job,  you're demoted or somehow you lose your authority or your rank at work diminishes. At other times there’s a warning of a “speed bump” ahead. That’s when the stirring comes from inside of you. It is that feeling when you begin to lose your passion for work. It is when new management comes in and all of a sudden nothing you do is right (even though it was right for a very long time under the former management).

These bumps are what I call the Crossroads.

Sometimes they happen to you; sometimes you initiate it—but at all times ACTION occurs in your career. For one friend, her husband had a lucrative, but unfulfilling career in the financial services industry. For years the stirrings of discontent were in the back of his mind. But, the money was good and they had kids in college. Then, in the same week, he got fired and his best friend died suddenly of a heart attack. Talk about a BUMP. He was thrust into the Crossroads—rethinking everything. It was the catalyst of a career change at 43 years old to become a teacher. Now, seven years later, he’s a Ph.D. candidate in Educational Administration.

Our careers are like "mini-movies" of our lives in general. They take unexpected detours, have ups and downs, interesting people enter/exit and they require adjustments and like life; our careers rarely stay the same. Upon reflection, a career is like the Charles Dicken’s quote, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”  That quote goes on to say, “it was the spring of hope and the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us...”

So many external factors affect our careers now and moving into your 40s, 50s and 60s, careers get redefined—sometimes by us, sometimes for us. In some previous posts, I’ve mentioned the small amount of time we give to personal career planning. We spend more time planning our recent holiday activities and vacations than we do our career contingencies. Your company is not going to develop your career--that's on you now. It is why hitting a bump is so unsettling. It is why standing at the crossroads can be so confusing. Now that we are fresh into a new year, it is a perfect time to update your resume, freshen your LinkedIn profile or start that blog you’ve been thinking about. It may be a good time to reconnect with your former colleagues from a previous company to catch-up and do some networking. Do some thinking about how you want to spend the rest of your working years. What’s your dream? Mark Twain said, “Twenty years from now you’ll be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did.” So here’s to the New Year! Explore. Dream. Discover. Take some time to focus on your career. You deserve it!