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, July 10, 2017

Blog on a Break

While I take a break from blogging, please visit the bi-monthly Boomer@Work column in Indy Boomer Magazine. The magazine is available at Kroger Supermarkets in Central Indiana on the magazine rack in the store's foyer. Outside of the Indianapolis area, please visit:
www.indyboomer.com and see the Boomer@Work column.

Monday, May 23, 2016

3 Tips to Manage Your Midlife Career

Have you been on your job more than 4.6 years? If the answer is yes, you are bucking a trend.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4.6 years is the avearge job tenure in America in 2014—the most recent data available. The combination of midlife + career in search engines results in page after page of “changing you midlife career” and “midlife career crisis.” 

One career expert, Alison Doyle, estimates the average person changes jobs ten to fifteen times (with an average of 12 job changes) during his or her career.  Many workers spend five years or less in every job, so they devote more time and energy transitioning from one job to another. 

Whether voluntarily changing jobs or being forced to find a new career because of circumstance, stress is inevitable according to experts. Rather than making a move as often, try these three tips maintain your job as an experienced worker:

1)   Maintain your perspective
We all have tough days, bad years and challenging co-workers or bosses. When you have 20+ years of experience, you can look back on how you handled the less than perfect times previously. One medical device employee told me, “I had a boss who was a nightmare and he was rapidly advancing through the company. I knew he wouldn’t be my boss for more than 2 years at most. He spent most of his time managing to higher ups-we rarely saw him. Me and my co-workers decided we would focus on doing our jobs excellently. Fortunately, in 15 months he was gone.” The next department manager was markedly better according to the worker who now has been with her company for 11 years. As long as your manager is not abusive or harassing, remember your survival instincts. Do your job exceedlngly well and and seek internal opportunities first. It also helps to develop a strong network of positive people inside and outside work, Remember: This too will pass.

2) Keep learning
Never utter the words, “this is the way we have always done it.” Just because you run a report one way doesn’t mean the information could not be processed differently. Even if you have to learn on your own—go online, take a workshop, find your own mentor or coach, watch YouTube videos to update your skills or knowledge. If your company sponsors courses or training—remain open. One manager discussed his employee’s change in attitude, he’s coachable and it is great working with him. It was a pleasant surprise.” Remember all the information, processes and technical information you’ve learned over your long career. You’ve got this!

3) Attitude is Everything
U.S. life expectancy is 80 years and moving up annually. So those of us born in 1957, the largest year of the baby boom, have at least 21 years ahead of us if we remain healthy. Experienced workers may work longer due to economic necessity, a desire to remain productive or  for the social interaction. According to an American Psychological Association study, 80% of the people 55+ say they’re remaining on the job with their current employer because they enjoy the work they do. Many mature workers want to extend their careers and cannot because of health reasons or changes at the company. Optimism is a learned trait. Remember, if you work in your later years by choice, foster an attitiude of gratitude. You choose to work, found work and have an opportunity to expand your horizons.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Letters from the Mail Bag

You have questions and I have opinions. These are the top 5 questions from the last few months. If you have ideas, you are welcomed to share.

Why are  Boomers expected to conform to Millennials at work and not the other way around?

Dear Boomer:

While more Baby Boomers (born ages 1946-1964) tend to be in leadership roles and management; the Millinnials are responsible for doing the work. In 2015, the Millennials (born 1982-2000) became the largest generation in the workforce. 28% of millennial responded to a recent survey saying they are already in supervisory/management positions. A full two-thirds say they expect to be in management by 2024 according to a recent study. And yes, there are often generational stle clashes. I hear of more issues when Boomers report to Millennials than the other way around. The oldest GenX members turned 50 in 2015. As long as everyone stays focused on the organization’s goals, you both win! It is important not to label people—this answer was filled with descriptions to define the generations.

How can I update my LinkedIn profile without all my connections, including my co-workers seeing that I am improving my profile? 

When you are on your LinkedIn profile, go to your photo in the upper right corner and tap. In the drop down menu, choose “ manage privacy and settings.” Under Privacy Controls, Choose whether or not to share your profile edits. Voila you are ready to fully update your LinkedIn profile to draw the attention of recruiters. Make sure to add a professional photo. If you need more LinkedIn assistance, I can confidently recommend Wayne Breitbarth’s book, The Power Formula for LinkedIn Success. He’s a good guy, the book easily will become a reference book and he offers a lot of free online information.

Where can I find Social Security projections?     

Dear Pre-Retiree:

I like to go to the source: https://www.ssa.gov/retire/estimator.html is an encrypted site from the Social Security Administation.

There is also a social security calculator on the AARP.org site:

Talk to a certified financial planner about what is best for your personal situation in claiming your Social Security benefits.

Now, I hate long-time job and I am scared to leave because I am not sure I can earn the same salary if I start somewhere new.

Dear Unhappy Employee:

I always go back to the old Tony Robbins quote, “Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.” You have to ask yourself what about your job do you now hate? Maybe that will change and you can stay as long as you like the work. Is it a new boss, new company owners, something change in your personal life or your job duties? If you are actively job-hunting, there are ways you can research the salary if the time is not right to discuss it with the recruiter or hiring manager. There is salary.com (I hear groans from the HR readers), glassdoor.com is another site to explore and your professional organizations may have offer salary ranges based on location. You might also consider finding a local career coach to help you manage your next step.

How can I have enough money to live through retirement?  

Dear Future 90-year-old:

Can you imagine being a vibrant 90-something? If I knew the answer to your question, I’d be very rich or in a minimum security government facilty somewhere warm. Outliving our retirement savings is a concern even for those of us with defined benefit pension plans to supplement social security. If you read the blog posts, you’ll see that I am a proponent of “encore careers” and doing something you love after your primary career ends. I have a friend who started a successful winery, Chapin Family Vineyards in Temecula, CA after a 25-year career in medical sales. Another friend brings in extra cash during retirement as a photograher focused on weddings and babies. Some work part-time a couple of days a week.

Share your responses!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Reach Your Career Goals in 2016!

Monday Morning Pep Talk

It is the most wonderful time of the year. Champagne, resolutions, good intentions and promises that 2016 is going to be different. What’s on your career menu? A new job, developing a retirement strategy, securing your current job or researching starting a business?

How will you make 2016 different from other years when you thought—this is the year, something has to change! Try these three steps to make 2016 the year of your professional breakthrough.

Commit to Action: The difference between the person who dreams big and the person who makes that dream come true is action. Years ago, I worked for a guy who managed by spreadsheet. He had a tracker for everything—an expense tracker, an attendance tracker, a pending sales tracker, a daily sales call tracker—his team was so busy filling out Excel spreadsheets very little else was done. Since the trackers only mattered to him because the organization was focused on results; he was my manager for a very short time. A classic case of analysis paralysis. This is not to say that you haven’t planned to change jobs or dreamed of your exit plan from work; you may have been doing that for years. If taking the action step is hard for you—create or join an accountability group, enlist a career coach or work with a trusted mentor. At the very minimum, every day take step toward your dream no matter how small.

Inspire Yourself: Did Nelson Mandela dream he could be President of South Africa while he spent 27 years in prison? When J.K. Rowling was an unemployed single mother on public assistance and her manuscript was consistently rejected for over a year; did she think Harry Potter would make her the first billionaire writer? Ursula Burns is not a household name but she’s the little girl who grew up in a New York housing project with a single mother working two jobs that became the first Black woman in America to become CEO of a Fortune 500 company. She has led Xerox for the past five years. Do whatever it takes for you to become inspired- visit with inspiring people, listen to motivational speakers or music that pumps you up. I have podcasts of interesting TED Talks I listen to in my car, audio books and of course, great collections of music. Who or what inspires you and how can you tap into that energy?

Have Fun: Life is short, I am constantly reminded of that and 2015 was no different. Celebrate small achievements: you didn’t miss any meetings of your Master Mind group; you took PTO to “shadow” someone in the career you’re interested in pursuing or you watched a YouTube video or webinar to move you closer to your goal. Maybe you discovered your goal needs a tweak- make adjustments. Smile- research studies show smiling activates neural messaging that benefits your health and happiness. It also activates the release of neuropeptides that work toward fighting off stress plus smiles are contagious. It’s kind of fun to watch other people smile back at you. Gratitude is terribly underrated, so everyday, I find something to be grateful about; it keeps my life in perspective.

Have the best year ever!

“If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.”       ---Toni Morrison

Saturday, October 24, 2015

OWN Your Career (Part 2)

This week I’ve been inspired by two dear friends that have taken action to manage their careers. If you have not had a chance to read part one, please do.


I received an e-mail this week from someone who has had it! She is done, she is through, she’s worked hard to make a difference  at her organization and you know what?….it is time to move on! That is career management and owning your career. It is knowing when it is time to stop trying to save an organization that doesn’t want to make changes and when you have to take Mahatma Gandhi’s advice personally, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

There comes a point in a career when making a move is a better answer than beating your head against a wall. I have been there. I have done it. It is scary and SO worth it. Even if the move is temporary and you have to make an additional career move; you gain confidence by taking action to stand up for yourself at work. If you have children, you show them the example maintaining self-worth in their careers like they would in a personal relationship.

This individual added me to her ‘circle of trust’ as she makes her escape to a better job situation. She is working on her resume, updating her LinkedIn profile, doing selective networking. It is all about taking  constructive ACTION—she is working, updating, doing. She’s not expecting the organization to change; she’s not waiting for someone to save her career and she’s not just going to sit there and let something happen to her. Hint: None of those things work. Even if you wait to get laid off and get a severance, the emotional will impact your confidence to interview for a better job. The severance is never enough money.

People ask me how do you know when it is time to move on. Tony Robbins puts it like this, “Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.” Here are some other signs when you need to do the hard work to make a job change:

1—You are moving toward something, not running from a bad current job situation. You are looking for an opportunity to learn something new, to move into a leadership position and expand your experience or to learn a new skill.

2— Going to work makes you sick, literally. I know a person who had migraines that usually started Sunday evening or Monday morning. Some Sunday nights the back of his neck was so stiff he could barely move his head from side to side. His body was trying to tell him something.

3— From a personal business perspective there’s no compelling reason to stay. You have reviewed options for health benefits, you don’t have to repay tuition reimbursement or relocation benefits if you leave now. You are not weeks away from being vested in a company pension,  401(k) plan or receiving an annual bonus. If you can, do not leave any money on the table when you leave your present company.

4— You are being put in a compromising position. I received a telephone call from an executive assistant I met at a career talk several years ago. Her boss repeatedly asked her to lie to his wife when she called while he managed several affairs with other women. My advice to her was to get away from him as a boss ASAP. She found another role in the company. Anytime you are being asked to do something illegal or you experience illegal behavior toward you—tell HR. They are obligated to investigate. If the offensive or illegal behavior is part of the company or department culture—it is time to find a new role—out of the company or department.

5—Nothing you do is right. You may have done the job for years, but now it is not good enough. Your performance appraisals or other documentation (warning notice, performance improvement plan, suspension or occurrences) put you at risk for being terminated with cause. Your manager tells you verbally your work is poor; your work is returned to you for a re-do or worse yet, it is given to co-workers for a do-over. Unless that manager leaves, it is seriously time to consider a change.

You Have to OWN Your Career!

You brush your own teeth, try to make healthy food choices and take vitamins. Take responsibility for your career in the way you manage your health. I can’t take enough spoons full of liquid fish oil to help you realize the benefits of Omega 3s. Expecting someone else to manage your career for you is like asking your spouse to get a knee replacement to alleviate your knee pain.

Two interesting things happened this week. I took a couple of days of PTO to reconnect with friends and was totally inspired by two career stories.

The first is about a friend who put together a business case to ask for a raise. That in itself is career management and owning your career. How many people think they deserve to be paid more? Most. How many people can put together a business case that shows that above and beyond performing their job in an excellent way—they presented a plan to save their organization a lot of money and have helped another department meet their goals?  Very few. My friend called her meeting with her boss an “Epic Fail.” She wanted a merit increase or a substantial bonus. Instead she received a one-time (4-figure) bonus after meeting with her manager.

I don’t consider this an Epic Fail at all. My friend doesn’t realize her conversation was probably a genius move. First you have to understand how organizations work (sadly, this does not apply to family-owned businesses). No matter how much power, clout or bravado your manager has-their hands are generally tied in matters of compensation. The HR professionals that read this blog will confirm that “Comp” is 80% science and 20% art. Compensation is benchmarked with similar roles in the market, industry and region. There are minimums and maximums your salary must land in or you find yourself in the unenviable position of being paid more than your range. If you receive a flat one-time payment when everyone else receives a 1-5% merit increase—you’ve maxxed out of the range. The only way to stop that madness is to be promoted to a “Senior” title in your current role or increase a step like moving from a Scientist II to a Scientist III or make a lateral move that puts you in a different classification. If your organization does business with the federal government, paying employees random salaries can land them in BIG TROUBLE with an acronym that strikes fear in the hearts of HR professionals across America—the OFCCP.

Why is it Genius Move? Her boss now knows more about what his employee does which could help at merit time. If she can do her job, identify organizational saving strategies and help another department while performing her job highly—maybe it is time to leverage her skills in the next level job. No matter what happens internally, it is time to update her LinkedIn profile incorporating these new accomplishments. Her options are to stay put if she’s happy and look around if she’s not—she’s given herself options. That is career management at it’s finest in my opinion. (Read About the Second Story in Part 2).

Monday, September 7, 2015

The State of the Experienced Worker: Labor Day 2015

The short answer is despite your personal situation, overall the environment for workers 50+ is improving. I base my optimistic observation on 5 megatrends that have occurred since 2011, the first year when 10,000 Baby Boomers would turn 65 everyday for the next twenty years and the year this blog was launched:

There is a conversation about aging in the workforce that didn’t exist previously. Millennials, GenXers and others didn’t want to have a conversation about working Baby Boomers, basically they just wanted us to retire and go away quietly. In June 2015 there was a special Senate Hearing, “Work in Retirement: Career Reinvention and the New Retirement Workscape” chaired by a bi-partisan coalition studying issues of working past age 65. In April 2015 AARP commissioned a study conducted by AonHewitt , “A Business Case for Workers Age 50+: A Look at the Value of Experience 2015.” In March 2015, Money magazine published, “The Suddenly Hot Job Market for Workers Over 50.” CNBC, radio talk shows and other media have shined a light on the opportunities and challenges of our multi-generational workforce.

Baby Boomers are becoming career development do-it-yourselfers. Working at something we love past traditional retirement age and not tapping into social security benefits early at age 62, requires early planning. Well-meaning blog readers counseled me on moving the blog target demographic to 50+ attracting advertisers and readers in the senior market. Your 40s are the perfect decade to start planning the second stage of your career--so, I'm committed to Work, Jobs &Careers@ 40+. We have all realized the need to become DIY on training, networking and creating alternatives to what you do today if you don’t love your job. It is a personal accountability, like managing our health. No one else can do this for you and more Boomers get this now. I ask you the question today that I’ve asked groups, “what are the first five things you would do if you lost your job tomorrow?”

Corporate culture and how experienced workers are treated by management is more transparent than ever. Potential employees have to sort through the noise and scam messages online. However, sites like glassdoor.com, Indeed.com and others can shed light on management philosophy and practices. There are industry oriented sites, company specific sites and forums on job search sites.

Corporate America is (slowly) waking up to the potential of experienced workers staying in the workforce. In January 2015, the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) surveyed 1,913 HR professionals who rated experienced workers highly in knowledge, work ethic, professionalism and reliability. However, only 24% of the HR professionals saw the brain drain of knowledge leaving their organizations as a problem and 4% viewed it as a crisis. Some industries are more impacted than others. 39% of the American Airlines workforce is 50+ while 37% of the employees at Delta and United Airlines are 50+. The Federal government workforce is composed of 30% employees 50+. These organizations will have to face the challenges of losing their knowledge base before other companies.

More organizations are focused on next steps for emerging retirees. There are free resources for 50+ workers at encore.org, the Center on Aging & Work at Boston College have years of research for individuals and human resource professionals on their website and AARP has online resources on their website. Managing the Older Worker: How to Prepare for the New Organizational Order, Peter Cappelli’s 2010 book has ideas for leaders working with experienced workers. Excerpts of his classic have shown up in many 2015 magazines.

The experienced worker is top of mind this Labor Day!