Over coffee recently, a 55 year-old former client who has achieved quite a lot in her career said she is beginning to work on her next career move – and thinking about the one(s) beyond that. She believes that everyone – especially people over 50 – needs to be “mindful of their career relevance”: they need to stay relevant (skills and knowledge up-to-date) so that working can be a choice as long as they want to and are able to work.
That got us thinking that the following things are critical to staying relevant and employable after 50:
Resume of Results – Before you do anything else, you need to make sure that you are doing good work and that you can articulate your accomplishments on your resume and in interviews. We are amazed at the number of people – really talented people doing outstanding work, don’t recognize their accomplishments, and have difficulty talking about the challenges they faced, skills they developed, and results they accomplished for their employers.
Relationships – It’s your Reputation! – It’s not enough to do good work – people need to know who you are and the good stuff you do. You’ve heard the statement,” It’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know.” And that’s exactly how most people get jobs, promotions, recognition. It’s still true that 75-80% of jobs are gotten through networking. Thus, a critical career skill in today’s changing world is to build and maintain strategic relationships – a Triple-A network of Acquaintances, Allies, and Advocates.
Resilience – By the time you’re at mid-career and beyond, you will have had setbacks and disappointments – we don’t know anyone who hasn’t had at least one ‘bad boss’ or difficult co-worker, or lost out on a promotion, or been demoted or been laid off (or all of the above!). The question is – what did you learn from it to improve your career trajectory? How did you bounce back? Not bouncing back is not an option!
Role Relevance—Make sure yourrole keeps up with where your organization is going. We know too many people who are recruited into organizations to help lead major change, and to deal with employees who have been there 10- 20- or 30 years who don’t have the skills to do what the organization needs now. How sad. It would be nice if the organization would have been active in helping people develop what they will need, but, sadly, most career development is YOYO – You’re On Your Own! Do you know what skills and competencies are going to be important in the next 5-10 years in your job/department/company? It’s up to you to find out what you should be working on to ensure that you are part of the organization going forward.
Reinventing Yourself – There are times when you need to do a career overhaul – this is easier if you start early in your career, but not impossible when you’re over 50. You need good feedback (by asking people you’ve worked for and with), and the willingness to act on it. Do you need some additional training or certifications? Could your appearance use a make-over? Do you need to take a step “back” to get experience in another field? As C.S. Lewis said, “You are never too old to set another goal, or to dream another dream.”
That same client finished with saying, “always assume you’ll be laid off,” then you’ll always be ready if you are.