I've recently worked with several career counseling clients who are past 49 and each has had a BIG career success. Hope - and self confidence, plus some savvy know-how - seems to be the key.
Wendell is a programmer in his mid 50s - a tough job title to maintain on a permanent basis, since most employers thirst for the under-30 crowd for these jobs. He's been at Microsoft for several years and is one of the oldest guys in his business unit. His boss sat him down for his annual review and instead of talking to him about leaving the company, his boss gave him the kudos his work deserved: a $25,000 bonus, 20% raise and $40K in stock. And the boss is also encouraging him to seek out a promotion.
Cathy had been a stay-at-home mom for years, but when her husband lost his job the family needed both parents to job hunt. At first she was scared, as she'd been out of the workforce so long. We worked on identifying a good field for her to enter and also looked for part-time opportunities. She used the new job search techniques and networking skills to land an interview and from there she got a new job. No one was more amazed than her husband - he didn't think she had a chance.
Executives have struggled with finding positions. Fewer opportunities have made the search tough. Yet many have landed new jobs and prospered. Mike left behind a prominent career as his industry fell apart. He recently landed a VP Sales position in a totally new field.
Karen became unemployed when her company faced hard times. Discouraged, after months of no success, she updated her skills, took some classes online and used tutorial programs to beef up her computer skills. A new resume and polishing her interview skills led her to land a great job, making more money than she had ever earned before.
Bottom line - your best years are likely still AHEAD of you if you are a baby boomer. But to succeed in today's economy I recommend three strategies:
- Enhance your creative talents. Keep learning new things. Creativity is more than art. It's developing, producing, designing, building, inventing, innovating, improving -making something new or simply better. Employers love employees who focus on making things better. Whether it's mastering some coaching skills to help you coach your team to shine or figuring out a new process that saves time and money. Enhancements and creative innovations come from your quest to continue to learn and apply yourself on the job. This is something you have total control over and if you care about your own career management you'll work on this area continuously.
- Show you are results-driven. You need to give recent examples of how you brought value to an employer and WILL make a positive difference to the company's mission or profit margin if they hire you. This means being clear about your strengths, articulating your past accomplishments, and showing you have innovative ideas and can deliver results. You must also look the part. You need to appear enthusiastic, energetic and vibrant when you meet and talk to any employer.
- Demonstrate you still have it. Your resume needs to be targeted for the job you are seeking. That means you have extracted from your experience the key accomplishment and skills necessary to excel on the job. Your resume is no more than two pages, focused on the last ten years. You don't look overqualified or underqualified - you look qualified. Your cover letter is the key element. It must be concise and quickly hit on the necessary qualifications to illustrate that you have these traits. Employers are paying MORE attention today to cover letters, so be sure your letter contains specific and enticing evidence that you can do the job.