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, December 30, 2013

2013 in Review for Experienced Workers

2013: A Year in Review for Experienced Workers
A record-setting stock market has added to 401(k) and 401(b) accounts held by 40+ employees and a public conversation about a livable wage made 2013 a better year for experienced workers. I loved 2013 because many experienced workers that I know were able to make career changes or find work after being among the long-term (>1 year) unemployed. It was not a great year because:
(1)    too few human resource departments  are developing employee strategies focused on retaining, engaging and leveraging an older workforce
(2)    age discrimination runs more rampant in companies primarily because severance packages prevent employees from filing lawsuits- so the behavior goes unchecked and the burden of proof continues to clearly supports business, not the employee
(3)    four generations in the workforce-for the first time in history-requires training and development strategies to boost employee engagement; a different type of leadership strategy including reviewing the total reward structure—benefits, recognition, compensation, paid time off and development opportunities across the workforce—not for targeted age groups; it Is not happening in most companies
(4)    recent rulings have not supported the reform of the Supreme Court’s decision in Jack Gross v. FBL Insurance that made it harder to sue with age discrimination as the reason

Yes, companies are hiring more workers in their 40s, 50s and 60+s. I can’t say how other employees or managers act toward their mid-life co-workers or whether corporate infrastructure supports their  attempt to thrive in the workforce. Trends for experienced workers in 2014 are the subject for a future blog post.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Baby Boomers @ Work

By the end of 2014, every Baby Boomer will be age 50 or over.  The generation born between 1946 and 1964 that has reshaped every phase of life is challenging how, when or if their working years end. There is a glaring disconnect, because Corporate America is youth obsessed. While I am not giving business a green light on its behavior, it is easy to understand how this happened.  
Thirty-six years ago, my professional career began at a medical publishing company in downtown Chicago. The executives smoked in their offices, drank heavily at lunch and retired promptly at 65. A couple of years after the hard-driving, uber-traveling, carb-fed publishing executives retired; they died. American life expectancy has increased nearly twelve years since Boomers were born which also extends midlife careers. It is not just how long we are living as much as how well Boomers are living. Our generation is not focused on merely surviving into our 60s, 70s and 80s—we totally expect to thrive. At work, the Gen-X and Millennials are not quite sure how they feel about our sustained ambition. As the younger generations move into hiring and management roles, some want Boomers to take a permanent seat on a chaise by the pool and stay out of the office.
What are the implications for our careers?
1)      Focus on your immediate supervisor. If you have a good relationship with your boss and they value you and your work; they can shield you from corporate dysfunction.  However, while the good boss is there, you need to build other allies. I remember my all-time favorite direct supervisor taking a new position in California. His replacement wiped out all but one director in our department. Fortunately, my internal mentor was in a position to insure I made a soft-landing in another part of the organization where I stayed another six years. Your company can be on the list of best companies for older workers, but if your boss doesn’t support you—none of that matters.
2)      After age 40-Every Job is a Temp Job. It used to be 50, but the age of business irrelevance ratcheted down as tech innovation skyrocketed. Unless you are a software application developer, network and computer systems administrator, engineer or CPA---once you get in your forties, career moves must be strategic. Why do you want to work for this company? Is this a job or a career move? Evaluate the total reward package-salary, long & short-term employee benefits, perks and work/life environment. Are the employee benefits low and the 401(k) match high? Is there an attainable pension? In a small company-can you buy an equity position? The Employee Benefit Research Institute saw job tenure increase to 5.4 years in 2012 (for males it is less).
3)      The Safety Net has a Hole In It: Once upon a time jobs in the public sector were considered “safe” and jobs in health care never had lay-offs. Welcome to the 21st century, the game changed. Hospitals are doing more with less (people, that is) and even patient-facing jobs need less people as care moves home ASAP. The home health aide is not making nearly the salary of workers in an acute care setting. Government workers can remind you of the shut down in October. And local governments are filing bankruptcy and ditching pension responsibilities as fast as Kardashians are getting divorced. Choose your industry wisely, but stay open to change.
4)      Develop Yourself: Companies pay for training that benefits the organization—legal training so you are aware of what is considered harassment or regulatory training- so if you do something wrong-you’re fired.  If you are in the succession plan, you may score management training specifically for the next level. Staying relevant at 40+? Learn how to use social media strategically to network and for job search. Learn a foreign language if it fits into your future career plans. Get a Bachelors degree online if you don’t have one already.
5)      Manage Your Emotional Intelligence: Crying at work? Very 1980s-no longer tolerated. Managers that scream at employees? Once one employee gets worker’s comp for stress b/c of your “leadership” unless you own the company—you are out! Screaming, bellowing and belittling employees-very 1990s. Arrogance? Check your ego at the door and save it for your friends outside of work. CEOs and GMs can still get away with being prima donnas at large organizations, but for everyone else, your EQ, like your reputation will follow in 5.4 years when you make your next job move. Social media sites like Glassdoor, Twitter and industry specific are searched by recruiters and hiring officials—so it is more like a glass house. Too much online chatter is a red flag to the elite executive recruiters.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

3 Career-Boosting Steps for Thanksgiving

Monday Morning Pep Talk
Thanksgiving will be celebrated in the United States on Thursday and by now everyone knows what their plans are—where they are eating dinner, what time the meal is being served, who is preparing their favorite holiday recipes and all the details. Have you spent as much time thinking about your career as you have your holiday plans? It doesn’t have to be an onerous task. It just takes a few hours to figure out if what you are doing today will get you where you want to be in the future. During this time of Thanksgiving is the perfect time to spend a few hours thinking about your career plan. These three steps are  thought-starters. Feel free to share your ideas as comments on the blog; you may comment anonymously if you are more comfortable.
At 40+ your career is no longer entry-level, however due to a change of industry or career break you could easily find yourself in your 50s or 60s in a “starter job” and that is okay. The important element is to identify a realistic career goal from where you are today to what you plan to do at the end of your working life.  Remember Stephen Covey and the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People? One of the tenets of his approach was beginning with the end in mind. If you are working to earn a living in your 40s, 50s and 60s---contingency plans are vital. You survived the economic downturn post-9/11, the recession of 2008 and the craziness of 2013 as the 16-day government shutdown brought clarity that no job is immune to disappearing. Entire industries are changing as business reacts to implementing the Affordable Care Act (like business reacted to the implementation of Medicare and Social Security decades before). Here are three questions to ask in this phase:
1.      What is the cost/benefit analysis* to my family, health, financial security and personal happiness to invest in moving to the next rung or two up the corporate ladder? (*You may call it pro/con or risk/reward). Are your positioned to do it with your current organization?
2.      How much longer do you plan to work in your current work environment and what does your next stage look like? Retirement planning is more than reaching a dollar goal-that’s  one element of a very complex stage of life. You need a holistic exit plan.
3.      What is your game plan if your current work ends suddenly or you can’t perform the type of work you are currently doing? Life happens-do you have a back-up plan?
These are two different groups of people with a few crossovers. Your network consists of people in your industry or in your profession that can open doors to a new opportunity. One thing has not changed; it remains difficult for an experienced person to find new employment.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics  (BLS) data has shown since 2008 it takes mature workers over one year to find a job. BLS data doesn’t factor the employees who are underemployed, start a business or job-hunters that drop out of the job market. Your support team members are the shoulders you cry on and the people you vent to—I think these people should not be your professional network! These are people who think you are great, your champions and personal cheer squad. They don’t need to know a lot about your work or your industry—they just know you and think you are the best thing since French toast.
Two questions for the network and support team:
1.       When was the last time you met face-to-face or on a live phone call with your two top  network partners? Let’s make that a priority before the year ends.
2.       If you don’t have a wide support team, start recruiting today—because if you depend on one or two people you will run those “besties” away during a prolonged career reinvention or job search. My 85-year-old great-aunt is part of my extensive support team. A conversation with her leaves me ready to take on the world!
Whether you are employed and you are planning for the future or unemployed and seeking a new opportunity, 40+ workers that network, have a great attitude and keep their skills sharp ARE finding opportunities.  2013 is the biggest year of success stories in several years for experienced workers. Independent business owners have flourished this year; two of my favorite corporate refugees that are now franchisees reported double digit growth and people are working their networks and finding great opportunities. The stock market is up and hopefully so is your 403(b) or 401(k)! And even if none of this is true for you----you’re sitting upright and reading. Have a great week and a festive holiday!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Career Notes from Alice in Wonderland

Monday Morning Pep Talk

Lewis Carroll never imagined how the cleverly written tales of Alice would apply to 40+ workers managing their careers. Sometimes the wisdom we need is there all along as we read this tale with our children and grandchildren. Here are three quotes from Lewis Carroll’s, Alice in Wonderland to help you think through career management strategies:

“I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.”

We are constantly changing and so are our career goals. What was acceptable in our twenties or early thirties—constant travel, working weekends, missing holidays and school events—becomes less acceptable to men and women after a decade or more.  Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO and author of Lean In, advises young women to not rely on their companies or mentors for career advancement. Her advice is to join Lean In Circles for support from other women, marry a spouse that will be an equal partner at home and behave more confident and ambitious at work. She’s a 44-year-old, billionaire, daughter of a Ph.D. Mom and physician Dad, married to the CEO of SurveyMonkey, former U.S. Treasury Department Chief of Staff, former VP of Google and twice graduated from Harvard with honors. Her experience in Corporate America is nearly fictional on so many levels; it’s a separate blog post. For the rest of us, age tends to bring workers (male and female/ executive and non-“C” suite) to a point where we recognize “the working to live or living to work” paradigm shift.

“If you don’t know where you are going any road can take you there”

A few years ago I read about the most common career missteps in a book called Chasing Stars by Boris Groysberg. Even though it focused on Wall Street investment bank analysts, there were two things that stood out about changing jobs. One is don’t chase the money and leave for a salary boost. The second is getting so angry you move “from” a bad work situation “to” a situation that is not well researched.  I’ve watched people leave jobs for a $5,000 annual salary increase. The net increase is laughable. I remember being recruited to talk an employee into remaining with the company as an HR person. We discussed the total cost of the move and I focused on total rewards beyond pay because the employee was certainly giving up a lot except salary. Even after our conversation, he couldn’t save face so he left anyway (and stayed on the new job two years). The same employee committed both mistakes. He was looking for a new job because he was passed over for a promotion. Emotions lead employees into many bad decisions at work. Create your career goals when you are not at an emotional high or low. Try to map out what you plan to do in the next 6 months, year and five years. What will it take to get there? Who can help you? What’s your game plan if your career hits a speed bump?

“Why sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast”

Believe in Yourself!  As you move into your 40s, 50s, 60+ at work, it requires effort to keep your confidence high. Later in your career, the chest-bumping Lean In-type of horn-tooting may not be appropriate. Despite career bumps you have experienced personally and watched happen to others in Corporate America, recent research shows Baby Boomers are working longer than ever. So, how do you keep one foot in front of the other moving forward? You have to believe in yourself, your goals and at times in the impossible.  The Queen’s advice to Alice is my advice to you. You know what you know. Own it. Even if you are not quite sure where you are going, you know what you’ve already conquered. Go into this week being you’re A-B-C “best” Accomplished, Brilliant, Champion of your own career.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Laid Off at Age 60: What Comes Next?

My friend was concerned about impending layoffs at his company and wondered if, at age sixty, his corporate career would be over. His concerns were that he never moved passed middle management and he felt very “out of the loop” on the current changes that were coming.  He strived to be a Corporate Vice President for many years relocating his family to Indiana from their roots in the South. Even though he and his wife were treating me to dinner and the scene on the reservoir where we dined was pleasant, upscale and calm; I think my assessment ruined his meal.  
Climbing the career ladder and shattering glass ceilings is a province of 20-to early 40-year olds from what I have observed. There are often outliers in companies where a 45-year-old comes out of nowhere and quickly moves up the ranks, those people are exceptions, like Powerball jackpot winners. What I observe most commonly is a career trajectory that begins in the 28-35 year-old age range when talent is first noticed within a company. If you are recruited to a company from outside there is latitude, the age of being "discovered" may expand to age 42. Management becomes aware of this potential phenom and as my HR friends say, this person is “on the radar.” More time is spent on them in talent management meetings, they are evaluated against their peers in succession planning conversations and they are offered the opportunity to be on high-profile projects or attend national trade shows to mingle with senior management. They may attend Executive Education to learn about the areas they do not specialize in--R&D types may attend Strategic Marketing or a Sales professional is in enrolled in Finance for Nonfinancial Managers. The most fortunate earn Executive MBAs in top programs at Harvard, Notre Dame, INSEAD or Wharton on the company dime as part of their development.

By the mid-to-late thirties to early-40s rising stars have generally found their place in their first line management position.  At this point there may be an element of personal sacrifice. I liken it to initiation to a country club, fraternity, sorority or street gang (depending on the organizational culture). The corporation did something for you; now, show your commitment. It may be an expatriate assignment to learn the global business, a relocation or unlimited business travel. If this works out well and the incumbent does not burnout, blow-up or bomb—the next step is often leading a cross-functional team, higher stakes more visible project or account management responsibility even if they have not been in sales. No matter what the functionality, this is the job where everyone in the organization knows their name. After four to six years of grooming, in most corporate models it is back to people management—this time as a leader of other managers. This is a critical career juncture and the role my 60-year-old dinner companion was in as layoffs loomed at his company. For eight years he toiled away as mid-level Director through three different CEOs and their management teams. I sipped my Cotes Du Rhone and nibbled at my meal aware they were picking up the tab and weighed my words. “In my opinion and again it’s just my personal opinion,” trying to be delicate and honest, “you may have Peter Principled out.” I felt like such a weasel. I was trying to minimize my impact knowing that both husband and wife leaned on my career advice in the past and it had served them well. How do I tell him what in his heart and mind, he must already sense and does not want to accept. YES! At 60, it sounds like he's off track and if he is laid off, the dream of going to the VP level at a Fortune 100 company is shattered. (My humble personal opinion).

If you desire a very senior position: CEO, Division President,  Business Unit President, VP of R&D, IT, Human Resources, Finance or CFO, CIO, COO, and you are not there by ages 49-55--it's not likely to happen at your current employer. You will have to join a new organization. I have seen people jump to a smaller organization, a large family-owned businesses or regional company and all of those employees have been sitting one rung below their desired job title when they made the move. All of them were recruited. None of them answered an ad on a job board or were "connected" on LinkedIN.
I went on to talk about career reinvention, entrepreneurship....maybe buying a franchise or contacting recruiters now, before the layoff. I could tell everything that came out of my mouth after “I-think-your-career-with-these-people-is-toast” was blah-blah-blah, just background noise. He didn’t hear the ideas that came afterwards or the success stories I shared about those I’ve met in my travels that have gone to smaller organizations and thrived. We finished the meal without our usual sharing of a decadent dessert. Just hugs and promises to not let it be so long until next time.

EPILOGUE: Yes, it happened. My friend was laid off this month and felt shocked and betrayed. Now he is in outplacement beginning to network, create a new resume and practice interviewing for the first time in many years. His goal is to work in a corporate role until he is 66 and will have access to his full social security benefit. He’s not sure what comes next. What do you think?
Full retirement age is:

65 for those born before 1937
66 for those born between 1943 and1954

67 for those born 1960 and later
If you want to find out at what age you can receive your full social security benefit, visit: www.ssa.gov

Monday, September 2, 2013

Unhappy Labor Day

 Unhappy Labor Day

The 21st Century workplace is a modern day coliseum with employees as gladiators (okay, I'm being a little melodramatic). Work isn’t what it used to be and if you were lucky enough to be employed in the rah-rah 1980s or the go-go 1990s, savor the memories. Those days, like our youth, are gone forever. This Labor Day let’s take a look at the new implied work contract between employers and their workers.

Work is a DIY Project:

Every job really is an independent contractor position. Workers are increasingly responsible for more out-of-pocket expenses and companies are relinquishing their role in everything from training to health care.

  • As 401(k) and 403(b) plans for nonprofits replaced defined benefit pension plans, employees became more responsible for their financial security when their work years ended. The downsides include the employer choosing the mutual funds  in their plan which limits your investment options and the expenses related to them. Workers are at the mercy of stock market volatility. 
  • If that’s not perilous enough, now companies are doing the same thing with health care savings accounts. Employees set aside THEIR money in a tax-deductible fund to pay for current and future health care costs. My advice? Don’t get sick with one of these plans. Combined with a high deductible health plan companies are offering, you’ll be ill and financially insolvent. 
  • Now, employees have to train themselves. That’s right, few to no company-sponsored professional conferences and external training classes are available unless it is a regulatory requirement. Many of my former training and development colleagues are among the unemployed or under-employed. The mantra goes like this: (Shouted by management) “Who is responsible for my professional development and training?” The employees in unison are expected to chant in reply, “I am responsible for my development and training.” This is serious stuff, I heard about a company doing this. Companies often tout tuition reimbursement as a perk, however, once inside the company employees get to read the “fine print.” The courses must relate to the current position you hold (no working on your Masters in Fine Arts in the accounting department) and in some cases you must have a certain performance appraisal rating to qualify for tuition reimbursement. And as the cherry on the T&D sundae, your request must be approved by your manager and their boss (who are going to wonder where you'll find time to complete an outside course of study and do your job).
Organizations hire employees to do the task at hand and provide minimal cost-effective training to maximize task without injury (workers compensation expense) and required sexual harassment and diversity training (lawsuit prevention).

 Mean People Rule:

In 2011 a study appeared in the journals and the media titled, “Do Nice Guys and Gals Really Finish Last?” Spoiler Alert: Yes.  The University of Notre Dame, Cornell University and University of Western Ontario professors found that men who disagreed with co-workers more the most made 18% more or close to $10,000 above their more collaborative colleagues. The study examined data over 20 years and included more than 10,000 employees from three previous studies and appeared in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The proper term for a workplace jerk in academia is “disagreeableness” and that is what their study focused on, however, it is the same traits that make more agreeable employees cringe.  More recently, The Workplace Bullying Institute—yes, this place exists—reported 35% of the U.S. workforce (over 50 million employees) admitted to being bullied at work. So, if you feel the workplace has lost a bit of civility and your co-workers are rude, your boss cuts people down in front of others or senior management has instituted a threatening culture, there’s research that says that’s the direction companies are headed. And, yes, disagreeable women make more money than nice ladies, so wipe that smile off your face.

There’s more in Part Two of Unhappy Labor Day.


Unhappy Labor Day (Part Two)

Unhappy Labor Day Part Two
Where did my Salary Go?

Some of you remember when we actually got double digit merit increases. One year, it is foggy now, but maybe in the 1980s I remember getting a 12% merit increase.  It was so exciting! Do you feel like you are making less money? There are a variety of reasons including the facts from Part 1 of this post— more of your work security is coming from you and not your employer. By the time you put money in your 401(k) or 403(b) plan, add money to your health care savings account, put some money in the Healthcare Flexible Spending Account to cover out-of-pocket expenses and take a trip to a professional conference to keep up your CEUs because you “own” your professional development----there’s not much left.

National Public Radio (NPR) sponsored a series several years ago called “Living in the Middle” about America’s middle class. Experienced workers know what it is like to slip from middle class to poverty level. Job searches that take years, raising grand-children in their 50s and 60s, helping adult children and sudden lay-offs require Baby Boomers to extend their work years while they can still earn an income. The U.S. economic climate has probably changed enough that it cannot support the middle class as I knew it growing up outside Chicago. Heavy manufacturing jobs were supported by labor unions employing  high school-educated (mostly) men earning a livable wage at the time. This year Mercer Consulting estimated midsize and large employers would increase their average raise in base pay to 2.9%.
 Wal-Mart employed 1% of the 140 million working Americans in 2010. 1.4 million Americans work for Wal-Mart. Their associates earned an average of $20,744 annually three years ago. Ponder that for a minute.

Employees: Work at Your Own Risk!
Despite protections from the NLRB, FLSA, ADEA, EEOC and any number of  acronyms describing federal, state and local agencies; talk with Baby Boomer employees and they will tell you how vulnerable they feel. Employment attorneys are not inexpensive and no individual has the financial wherewithal to fight even a small business. While companies are not legally required to offer severance packages, many do and in return for signing, laid off employees give up the right to pursue legal action or initiate a claims with regulatory agencies.  Employees are also losing out time after time with the highest court in the land. The Supreme Court most recently made filing for class action status more difficult when it struck down the appeal of Wal-Mart v. Dukes, the case of a female  50+ year-old  employee making a wage and promotion discrimination claim.

Employees protected by unions fell to a 70-year low in 2011. Government employees account for more half of all unionized workers. Yet, the federal workforce is shrinking even before sequestration. According to a New York Times story published in June 2013, about 45,000 government positions were eliminated this year. At the Pentagon, a large number of civilian workers will be required to be furloughed--off work and unpaid unless they have paid time off (PTO) for 11 days in 2013 to save money. Most of my business-owner colleagues dislike any type of government regulation and work hard to keep their businesses union-free. While I trust them and applaud practices they employ to keep their workforces equitably paid, treated well and safe---not all business owners take the same steps for their employees.

So, another Labor Day has come and gone. Surely, change is the only constant in workplaces today. For experienced employees, it is important to stay employed. Generating the highest income possible should also be a goal even it means taking a part-time job. Your money has to last a long time and as you get older your ability to earn unfortunately produces an inverse turn on the graph like the one illustrated.
HR and company leaders: Research supports the premise highly satisfied employees create increased  customer satisfaction. Company leaders also should also get out their offices and have face time with employees. Try catching workers doing something right. One corporate leader or business owner cannot change the statistics or troubling trends in employment. Employee bullying, lower productivity, devaluing others and workplace violence are on the increase. Each person charged with the management of subordinates has an obligation to engage with their workforce and leave the organization better than it was when they joined the department, division or company.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Resilience: A Skill to Increase Your Employability

Monday Morning Pep Talk

Do you bounce back from career disappointments, setbacks and frustrations relatively unscathed? Or, are you still angry about the “Meets Expectations” rating on your performance appraisal three managers ago?  Resiliency is one of the most critical success factors to develop as you spend time in the workforce. Being resilient is important for workers starting out as they face their initial disappointments of not getting the job they preferred or experiencing their first layoff.  As your career progresses, the stakes get higher, acceptable job options become more limited and the idea of bouncing back and landing on your feet is crucial. Resilience is a learned trait. Some of us may be born with a more positive outlook on life, a more bubbly personality or openness to taking risk—resilience can be developed.
No one writes or discusses the fact that work is a brutal experience for many employees. Like the school years that preceded it---work has a hierarchy, in-crowds and cliques, bullies and sometimes a bully-boss; workplaces have class clowns, prom queens and teacher’s pets. The special needs employees are mainstreamed into your workplace—and you could be working for or next to someone with very real emotional or mental issues. All of these personalities are made more complicated by having four generations in the work place for the first time in history! Does it make you feel better about your situation, knowing that no one taught your manager how to lead a multi-generational workforce? The key to surviving this potential madness is RESILIENCY.
Think of it this way, a well-inflated ball will bounce when it encounters resistance or a hard surface. So, your first order of business is to find an appropriate level of self-confidence, belief in your abilities, knowledge of your intrinsic goodness/worth and remembering that you matter. Pump up your self-worth by thinking about the obstacles and challenges that appeared insurmountable and you have already overcome. This isn’t your first job or the first setback you’ve encountered. You’ve managed tough times before probably personally and professionally. I was recently at a mall in Dallas and a billboard showed a well-dressed shopper wearing lots of bling (aka jewelry) and the caption read, “Of course it’s Flashy, this IS Dallas!” That is called swagger. While rebuilding your confidence, remember what happens when the ball over-inflates!
I have known people enduring terrible situations at work while they looked for a new opportunity. When I ask how they survived their passive/aggressive boss or harsh treatment by co-workers all of them have mentioned strong relationships and interests away from work. Whether it is being involved in your children or grandchildren’s activities, volunteering for an organization you are passionate about or doing activities with your family that bring you joy; don’t make your life about work.  If you do, you are setting yourself up for inevitable disappointment. Reaching out to others outside your workplace so you are not constantly focused on the situation is a critical step in building resilience. Seeking professional help through a therapist to build problem-solving skills and gain perspective is also an option. Therapists also provide an objective sounding board to the situation. Counseling services are confidential and often free through an Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) or the cost of a co-pay through medical insurance.
It is also important to exercise adaptability and flexibility in building your resilience skills. Personal change management skills work together creating resilience as a core of our emotional intelligence. Researchers report empathy, compassion and self-awareness are attributes of resilient people. These are also components of emotional intelligence.  In today’s challenging work environment change is the only constant. Resilience is the only answer.  One of the greatest benefits of developing resilience is that it is a skill you can model for the children in your life because as we all know, these are even stressful times for kids.
You’ve got 168 hours, make it a great week!

Monday, July 15, 2013

How to Survive a Layoff

You will survive being laid off from your employer.
Monday Morning Pep Talk

 How well you survive and whether you thrive afterwards depends entirely up to you no matter what your profession, your age or where you live. This isn’t one of those kick-in-the-pants sermons, touchy feely “breathe and visualize the possibilities” moments or even the dismissive “one-door-closes-another-one opens, “you’ll be just fine” message. The fact is most people don’t know what to say to a worker who has lost their job. I’ve been suddenly laid off and it stinks. The company I worked for was sold 4 months after I relocated from Chicago to Los Angeles, which I had never visited before moving there for the corporate transfer.  I was a sales representative for a college textbook publisher and a buyer purchased the titles and did not keep the infrastructure—everyone from President to the lowest-paid employee lost their job when the Board of Directors made the announcement. The entire company literally shut down, the building was emptied yet the imprint still exists.
There are three areas to tend to when faced with sudden job loss for any reason. If you are not going to use the job loss as a bridge to retirement (which I do NOT recommend), you have to consider your emotional resources, your financial resources and your career resources.

You have probably heard of Kubler-Ross’ work on The Five Stages of Grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Some workers grieve for their jobs like losing a loved one. Others have different emotions connected to the disruption to their careers.  It is a very personal experience. How a person processes job loss often depends on how long they have been with the company, how wrapped up their identity is connected to the job and how much of your social life and work/life were meshed. No matter what, it is difficult. Just like losing a loved one, you have to take care of yourself, but don’t forget job loss also may affect people around you---your spouse, children, parents and other close friends. Once children are old enough to understand what is going on, it is important to communicate with them on their level and share with them what they can understand. If you need help figuring out what to say, call your employer’s Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) for help in developing that conversation.  Use your remaining employee benefits if your company is required to give 60-days notice under the WARN Act, and use your company benefits to take care of yourself and preserve your emotional, physical and mental health. A job search takes energy, good health and preserverance, so take care of yourself.

Job disruption can derail retirement plans and other goals employees set for themselves. Since everyone is in a different place financially, here are some general best practices. If your company offers a severance package and you need something more, consult an attorney in your state. Some companies use a verbal negotiation as a reason to terminate the severance offer. When I was laid off, I drove a company car and since Los Angeles is a city of drivers it was important that I had transportation while I figured out my next move. I called human resources and was able to keep the car an extra month before their fleet company picked it up. Did you know companies are under no obligation to offer severance benefits? Many companies do provide the severance safety net for employees in return for a signed release of lawsuits, EEOC and age discrimination complaints and more progressive companies are also adding bans on social media and digital to avoid disparaging remarks. Contact your unemployment office as soon as you have your paperwork to understand how your severance impacts unemployment. If your company offers a salary continuation severance, you may not be able to collect unemployment until it ends. If you are drowning in debt, you may want to contact your creditors to see if they offer some type of hardship assistance. After the recent recessions most banks and mortgage companies have developed programs to assist borrowers. It may be a good time to contact a financial planner to determine your options to meet your long-term goals.
Getting Back to Work:
Hopefully you networked throughout your career and everyone locally in your industry knows your name. Most of the jobs I have were through personal referrals. In turn, I have probably helped hundreds of others with introductions, leads on openings and giving what my friends call “the hook-up” to a recruiter or HR friend. LinkedIn makes this process a lot easier. I’ll put some LinkedIn tips in another post. Use LinkedIn, post your photo—we live in a visual world--connect. Don’t count on job boards to find a job (see post from August 6, 2011). Always apply on the company website and it does help to be a referral of a current employee in good standing. Other potential sources of employment leads include your alumni association and local job clubs. In Indianapolis there is a dynamic ministry hosting by The Church at the Crossing on the city's Northside. The work of Passport to Employment (p2e@golove.org) has helped over 300 people upgrade their jobs or find employment. Also, take advantage of outplacement services if your exit package includes the benefit. Outplacement counselors will help you write a resume, plan your job search strategy and you can practice interviewing with them.  They work with displaced people every day, so a good outplacement office will also understand what you are experiencing. Make sure you understand any non-compete clauses in your severance agreement or that you signed when you were hired. (It’s another good reason to retain an attorney to review and explain your severance paperwork even if you plan to sign it anyway). Realize that going back to work after a layoff is often more difficult than you think. Rigid hours, commuting, deadlines, stress and learning a new corporate culture are all part of going back into the rat race. Prepare yourself for the transition.

I’ll end where I began because it is true:  You will survive being laid off from your employer.


Monday, June 24, 2013

How Recruiters Read Resumes In 10 Seconds or Less by Brad Remillard

This great post is a reprint from http://www.impacthiringsolutions.com, an Executive Recruiting firm that offers Executive Job Search Coaching and Networking Strategy Development.

The 10 or 20 seconds it takes to read a resume seems to always generate a lot of controversy. Candidates comment on how disrespectful it is, how one can’t possibly read a resume in that time and some get angry at recruiters when we talk about this. I hope this article will help everyone understand how we do this. I realize that some still may not like it and will still be angry, but at least you can understand how it works.
First, let me say I’ve been a recruiter for 30 years.  I’m sure I have reviewed over 500,000 resumes. I can’t prove this but I’m reasonably confident that this is the case, as this is only an average of about 46 a day. I know many days I have reviewed hundreds of resumes and most in less than 20 seconds. I would say the average is probably around 5 to 7 seconds.
So for the record when you hear or read about, “reading a resume in 20 seconds,” that isn’t completely true. It is more than likely, “reviewed the resume in 20 seconds.”
Here is my process for getting through 100′s of resumes in a short period of time. Others may have different ways and I welcome your comments.
I set up a hierarchy of certain “must haves” or you’re out, so at first I’m really just box checking. Generally, 80% of the time these are my knock out blows. There are exceptions to each of these, but I’m dealing with the 80/20 rule. These are not cumulative times.  This is box checking, if I see any one of these as I scan your resume you will be excluded.
1. Location. If the client is in Los Angeles, CA and you aren’t – goodbye. Few if any clients want to relocate anyone in this economy, and I believe most shouldn’t have to. Especially in a huge metropolitan area like Los Angeles. If they do have to consider relocation the position has to require some very unique experience that few jobs do. I can do this in about 1 second.
2. Industry. If my client is in banking and your background is primarily manufacturing – goodbye.  These two often are so different that the client isn’t open to considering such different industries. This works both ways, if you have a manufacturing background I’m not going to consider someone with banking. 2-3  seconds to determine this.
3. Function. If I’m doing a sales search and your background isn’t sales – goodbye. Generally companies are paying recruiters to find them a perfect fit. We never do find a perfect fit, but we have to be very close. They don’t need a recruiter to find them someone in a completely different function. 2 seconds to figure this one out.
4. Level. If I’m doing a VP level search and your title is “manager” and you have never been a VP – goodbye. There are exceptions to this, but again it is the 80/20 rule. Again, clients pay me to find them the perfect fit. It is generally way too big of a jump from manager level to VP level, all other things being equal. It works the other way too. If  I’m looking for a manager and you are a VP – goodbye. I know you are qualified to do a manager level role, but it is clear you have grown past. Most clients and recruiters aren’t willing to take the chance that when a VP level position comes along that you won’t be gone. Less than 5 seconds to figure out.
5. Recent Experience. There is some overlap on this one. If I’m searching for someone with international sales experience in the aerospace industry and the last time you held an international sales position in this industry was 20 years ago and since then you have been in retail – goodbye.  I can find people with more relevant experience and that is what my client expects me to do. 5 seconds to do this.
6. Education Like it or not, I will only work with people that have a college education and most of the time a master’s degree. This is mainly because, as I indicated before, I need to find the very best for my clients. I realize an education doesn’t mean by itself that the candidate is the best, but it is one qualifier of many. Also all of my clients require at least a BA.
7. Turnover. If you have had 6 jobs in the last 4 years, or have a track record of high turnover – goodbye. I realize there are good reasons for turnover and that falls into the 20% of the 80/20 rule. I can’t define high turnover, but I know it when I see it. 3 – 5 seconds.
8. Functional resume. I don’t read them. It is obvious when one has a functional resume they are trying to hide something and I’m rarely going to take the time to attempt to figure it out. 1 second.
9. Obvious things such as, spelling errors, poor format, errors in grammar, too long, verbose and rambling. If after reading it I still can’t figure out what you do, goodbye. 5 – 10 seconds
After all this, 80 – 100% have been eliminated. If there are any left, then I will take the time to actually read them in detail.
If this was helpful to you, please pass it along to help others in  your network. Consider adding it to your status on LinkedIn, posting on Twitter, or emailing the link to your network. Please help others if this helped you.

Brad Portrait thumb Meet the Partners
Brad Remillard, an executive recruiter with over 25 years of experience, has conducted over 50,000 interviews and been involved in more than 1,000 executive searches. A CPA and graduate of California State University, Fullerton, Brad previously served as President of CJA Executive Search, which was recognized as one of the top search firms in Southern California. Brad has conducted nationwide searches ranging from Fortune 500 executive vacancies to entrepreneurial companies. His search expertise includes General Management (CEO, COO, GM), Sales and Marketing, Manufacturing and Operations, Accounting, Finance, Human Resources, and Information Systems. Brad Remillard and Barry Deutsch are founding partners of IMPACT Hiring Solutions. 1-866-730-SOAR.
This was reposted with permission of IMPACT Hiring Solutions.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Size Does Matter: Dream Big!

Monday Morning Pep Talk!

How much longer do you want to perform the work you do today? Even if you are in job search mode are you searching for your dream job or are you looking for work?

There is no right answer because each reponse is as individual as our fingerprint. Financial obligations, family responsibilities and priorities change throughout our lives and impact how much we are willing to indulge in career dreams. In the process of doing what we do for a living don’t neglect to do what it takes to fulfill your life. According to the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, in 2013 the average life expectancy for a woman in the United States is 81 years and the average life expectancy for a man is shorter at 76 years, so plan accordingly because time is running out.

Here are five questions for your consideration:

(1)  What career/work would make you excited to wake up on Mondays?
(2)  Can you turn your passion into something you can make a living doing?
(3)  Who can you talk to and move your career dream closer to reality?
(4)  Can you learn more about or pursue your field of interest part-time or online?
(5)  What one step can you take this week to push your dream closer to reality?

I provide these five thought-starter questions because at the end of this week---the same 7 days, 168 hours and 10,080 minutes will pass for all of us. Your career dream will remain just that without you initiating some action.

Don’t kick yourself if you just can’t make a move yet and you feel stuck. There may be a host of complex reasons. Maybe you feel like you don’t deserve to pursue your passion. Some of us are more comfortable in a pain that is familiar than stepping out into an unknown that is more fulfilling. I can recommend a popular older book you might consider checking out of the library, downloading or listening to on audible.com.

Your Own Worst Enemy: Breaking the Habit of Adult Underachievement by Ken Christian.

Personally, I’ve found it is often better to explore career fulfillment in baby steps than throwing everything overboard and starting fresh. When I left corporate America in 2001 as a single mother to become an entrepreneur, I developed a few clients while I still had a full-time job and income. After four years, I found my way back to corporate life in a different profession. However, I’ve known others who suddenly quit their jobs or invested severance packages into a franchise or starting a businesses and become very successful long and short-term.

If you are ready to get off the sidelines of wondering or wishing—“can I make a living doing something I love” and you want to “get in the game” with your dream, then do one thing to push your career dream forward this week. Maybe you make an appointment to discuss your idea with someone if you are taking a few vacation days next week for the 4th of July holiday in the U.S. If you need an accountability partner, tell someone what you plan to do or post it on your Facebook page. Take that first step toward getting unstuck. I have one last question for you. If not now, when?

Make it a great week!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Career Lesson from the Media Industry

John H. White lost his job last week. A lot of experienced people lose their jobs every week. I don’t even know John H. White personally, yet, hearing his story made me think about why I began career blogging. White is a Pulitzer prize-winning photographer formerly with the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper for forty-four years. In about twenty seconds management announced the photography department and staff were being_____________ (fill in the blank from one of the words below) walked out and turned the stunned staff of twenty-eight over to human resources to answer questions.

laid-off            furloughed       fired   
reorganized     re-deployed     let go  
realigned     optimized        terminated 
right-sized   re-engineered canned                 

It is the end of an era, and something more of us should think about as we manage our careers. The newspaper's management plans to have their reporters shoot photographs with iPhones. The rapid deployment of technology, the rise of the Internet and the dominance of social media can make many professions obsolete. How many more bank tellers were employed before ATM machines popped up everywhere? When was the last time you visited a full-service travel agency in a brick-and-mortar building? The Bureau of Labor Statistics has bad news for other media workers including newspaper reporters, radio disc jockeys and photojournalists, your jobs are in decline. Consumers are accessing media on their smartphones, online and in other digital formats. After 80 years, Newsweek ended publication of the print magazine and moved to an online-only format.

The same advice guidance counselors give students bound for college is important for experienced workers who are thinking career reinvention. Focus on the STEM professions:

Science           Technology               Engineering                Math

Focusing on careers that have historically been “high touch” is not even a 100% safe bet. I remember when teachers taught children in person in a classroom, complete with desks and those uncomfortable little chairs attached.  Now, students may take classes online from elementary school through a doctoral program. Companies are looking for teachers with experience in Blackboard (and I’m not talking about the one with chalk and erasers). Maybe we will not go back to school to major in civil engineering, however, keeping up with basic technology is within everyone’s grasp. Mastering the components of social media is available in a Saturday non-credit university extension course. There are online tutorials, seminars, and certificate programs at community colleges, short courses through university extension programs or opportunities to expand their talents through volunteering. Every day experienced workers need to think about how keep their skills current and what would be helpful to learn.

Let’s face it with advances in technology, work is being commoditized. With digital tools, customers can utilize self-service from a mobile device or online and the person who answers the phone if there is a question or problem can be 10,000 miles away. Experienced workers, it is important to be open to reinvention and figuring out how you can take the skills you have and think about transferring them to other jobs or industries.

John H. White is probably going to be okay. I read the 68-year-old photojournalist has a philosophy of faith, focus and flight. His Wikipedia biography quotes him as saying, "I'm faithful to my purpose, my mission, my assignment, my work, my dreams. I stay focused on what I'm doing and what's important. And I keep in flight—I spread my wings and do it.” The Sun-Times Media Group should be so fortunate.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

3 Secrets to Finding Work Over 40

If you have not looked for a job since you entered your forties, get ready for a rude awakening! You may feel young, you may look young and you may consider yourself hip with your arsenal of cool tech gadgets. However, in the eyes of those that hire----the 40+ crowd is so yesterday. And if you are in your 50s and 60s, recruiters scrutinize you with the squinty-eyed analysis reserved for police detectives interviewing a homicide suspect. Who is being heavily recruited right now? Older Millennials and the GenX contingent born in the mid-1970s are highly sought after groups. The recruiters are calling them; they are not responding to online recruitment ads or editing their profiles on Linkedin. If you’re not keeping up with the generational definitions-here is a handy cheat sheet:

 Generation Name

Birth Years

Current Age Range

What You Need to Know

33-13 years old
Grew up on Tech—Entry Level Corporate Recruiters
Generation X
1961- 1980
52-33 years old
Currently in Middle Management waiting to have their moment
Baby Boomers
70-53 years old
Age of many CEOs, Sr. VPs & Policy-makers; Struggling to stay relevant

Unless you dislike your job, most people today do not imagine leaving work at age 60 or 65 to become full-time babysitters to their grandchildren, zip around in a golf cart or plan their next cruise. You know why? At 60 and 65, many workers today are still feeling good; enjoy socializing with others and having a sense of purpose. So how does that person over 40, 50 or 60 find work? I think there are three strategies you should employ to keep your career fresh while others wilt on the vine.
#1: Cultivate a Winning Attitude--No company is going to hire a victim. No company is going to knowingly hire a bitter whiner with a chip on their shoulder. Companies are looking for winners who can help their business grow in these uncertain economic times. If your confidence is in the tank, it is on you to figure out what you need to do to give yourself a boost. At age 40+ the time for negative self-talk has long past, because there are enough people who can find something unflattering to say on your behalf. I am not saying you need to become arrogant, haughty or hard to deal with—Divas Need Not Apply.  Understand and be able to communicate your strengths and explain how hiring you will benefit the organization.
#2: Be an Expert at Something--The world is filled with people with general skills.  Stand out from the crowd by being able to prove you have something—a skill, a talent, a degree, a track record, a certification, a designation, an award—that others don’t necessarily have. I recently met a woman at 50+ newly unemployed through a company lay-off. She has a great resume filled with good companies that have had mass lay-offs that everyone is aware of and a strong background in telecom. She’s a project manager and has her PMP (Project Management Professional) certification. I told her with confidence that while job-hunting in her 50s will not be a walk in the park, her PMP designation will serve her well. If you are a human resources professional take the time to earn your CCP, CBP, CEBS, PHR or SPHR. If you are in health information management earn your RHIT, RHIA, or CCP® (Certified Professional Coder®). If your field doesn’t have designations, then become viewed as an expert by publishing in journals or doing public speaking.
#3: Know and Be Known--It doesn’t matter if you have 500+ connections on LinkedIn if you raided them from someone else. Those people don’t know you. It is especially true as you become a more experienced worker—relationships matter. I have a 40+year-old friend who counts several influential CEOs as close friends. He is in the job market again and doesn’t have to go through HR or gatekeepers to speak to these business leaders. He can leverage these relationships for introductions, a job, and temporary consulting work while he strategizes his next career move. One of them might provide the investment for a business opportunity. Maybe you don’t know any CEOs—you need to know somebody who can help smooth the path for you if you suddenly lost your job. My advice is to create your list of the ten people you would call within 48 hours of a job loss. Tend to those relationships beforehand whether it is sending a birthday card, endorsing them on LinkedIn, forwarding an article you know they would be interested in or meeting for lunch twice a year. Don’t be the type of networker who only shows up when you need something.
It is a challenge, and yet not impossible to find a great job when you have more years of work in your past than you do in your future. It is not a strategy, but it also takes a little luck to connect with that company willing to look past your birth year toward what you can contribute or the hiring manager who sees your experience as strength. You may get a lot of “No” responses; remember it just takes one “Yes”.