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Information on creating your best life, finding your deep passions, defining your dimensions of balance and meaning, etc. after you’ve done all the things you fantasized about as “retirement.”

Writing a Killer 50+ Resume

Writing a Killer 50+ Resume

Crafting an effective resume when you’re over 50 has extra challenges. If you get it right, the whole world knows you’re good at what you do.  If you don’t, nothing happens.

One of the benefits of experience is that you can make difficult things look easy.  That’s a problem if you end up needing to convince someone new that you’re the right person for the job.   People who’ve been effective over the long haul often lose track of what it’s like to not be that effective.   That leads you to talk in terms of the job instead of how you did it.  Working from that perspective presents you as a plain vanilla anybody.  So before you write one word of that resume you really needed to have done yesterday, think through these questions.

What makes you a uniquely valuable hire?  The vast majority of us have an extremely difficult time putting this into words.  That may be because you’ve been taught not to brag or it may be a case of assuming everyone can do what you’re good at.  Either way, your next employer isn’t going to know that you have exactly what she needs until you get the information out there where she can see it.  Your first shot in that effort is with your resume.

The current jargon for what you need here is “personal brand.”  Knowing what makes you a valuable employee and being able to put that in five to ten words is important in a job search.  Ideally, you will have practiced these words enough that you come up with them as if on autopilot when needed, even in an unexpected place like at your kid’s basketball game or in line at the grocery store.   Having the first few words come out automatically makes it easier to deal with the rest of the conversation effectively.

What’s a resume for?  A resume is a marketing tool.  This is not the place to tell your life story or to go on at length about the minutia of what you did in each job you ever held.  Those of us with a lot of experience can easily shoot ourselves in the foot on this. The stereoype of aging that our culture holds associates longwindedness with mental decline.  Use only what’s important and be concise.

What does my next employer need to know most about me?  You will be way ahead of the competition if you write your resume so that it addresses how you can solve the hiring manager’s problem.  The best way to do that is to highlight how you’ve helped your previous employers get what they needed done.  Just mentioning that you served as the liaison with the Building Department is nowhere near as compelling as saying that you developed solid relationships with them and got permitting accomplished quickly.

What are the differences between the job description and how YOU performed the job?  Quite often, these two things get confused by resume writers.   Talking about the job instead of your performance obscures the value of your experience.  The duties of the job are what’s written on a formal job description.  It might be something like “handles walk in customer traffic.”  How you did the job probably goes beyond that in some unique way.   Were you effective at helping people figure out what they needed?  At dealing with volatile complaints?  At keeping track of clients’s preferences so they felt like they were “family” and became loyal to your place of business?

There’s a place for the job description language–in the experience section right under the company and job title listed.   Use no more than two lines for that description.  The rest of the space you allot for that job experience needs to focus on what you did particularly well.

How can I avoid being ignored because of my age?  The first step in this is to be sure you’re not setting yourself up with your own thinking. Are you making excuses for not learning new things (including technology!) because you are “too old?”  Are you telling yourself you don’t have the stamina you need for what you want to do next?  Neither of these things is a given consequence of getting older.  Change you lifestyle and stop telling yourself that you’re old.

In your resume, pay close attention to your choice of words. Use action verbs and short phrases to project energy. Consider an initial section that speaks in current terms–what you can do NOW–rather than putting everything in the past tense a chronological resume requires.  Avoid as many adjectives and adverbs as you can–they bog the writing down.  And avoid obsolete slang and phrases.

Having experience is a plus that has somehow become devalued in today’s job market.   You can’t expect to be valued for the seniority you had at another company.  But you can present yourself as a viable candidate because of how well you did the work.  You can create momentum to propell yourself into your next job by projecting energy and making a clear case for how you can help the next company better than those who’ve had less of a chance to learn how to get things done.

 

The “Foolishness” of Not Preparing for Retirement

The “Foolishness” of Not Preparing for Retirement

All those boomers who can’t afford to retire may not be the losers the “experts” make them out to be.  Another big study just came out reporting that millions of people on the brink of retirement don’t have the money saved to pull it off.   That may not be a bad thing.

Perhaps it’s the people making the predictions who need to stand back and take a better look at what’s going on. If it was all that important to those people to be able to retire, they would have prepared for it. But even before the financial meltdown of the last few years, baby boomers were not seeing the retirement years as the extended vacation it’s being painted as by financial planners and real estate developers.

In a study of over 3000 boomers in 2005, the Met Life Foundation found only 17% wanted to never work for pay again once they retired. Six percent wanted to go to work full time at something else. Seventeen percent want to work part time, 16% want to own their own businesses, and 6% want to do “other” things like join the Peace Corps.

For those of you who’ve been keeping track of the arithmetic on this, that leaves 42% still unexplained. What do they want to do? Cycle in and out of work. What better way to be sure you do that than to not have the money to “stay” retired? Many who do have the money do that same thing when they retire simply because it’s more enjoyable.

As a nation, we would be wise to look at how to use this immense temporary talent pool effectively instead of lamenting the “unretireability” of the masses. If we actually put some effort into using the potential of this segment of the population instead of shaming them for not trying to be what they never wanted to be in the first place, we would all win.

Economic boon
People who are actively earning are more willing to spend money than those living on passive income–even if there’s plenty of passive income involved. Even wealthy retirees adopt frugal behaviors, partly because it’s a way to demonstrate competence. If we gave these people the chance to work even a quarter of the time, the  loosened purse strings would have a startling positive effect on the economy.

Government cost containment
People who are engaged get sick less. They don’t dwell on their health problems because they have more interesting things to do. That means fewer trips to the doctor, the hospital, and to the medical lab for Medicare to cover. Let these people work some of the time, and they will take better care of themselves simply so they can keep on doing that.  “First you retire and then you get sick” is true way too often.

Social hat trick
Work is one of the best sources of self-worth on the planet. When people get paid, they know they are good at something and that translates into a more positive attitude overall. A postivie attitude has been linked to better health, plus they are more effective contributors to the common good because they believe they can still make a difference.

In addition, getting retired workers involved on a part time basis can cut down on the workload of those in their prime work years who are stressed into illness and poor performance because of there is simply too much that they are expected to do in how we are going about it now.

Third, putting retired talent in the same place as the newest generation of workers will help develop work habits that are currently lacking in younger hires. The “old hands” can also pass down the knowledge needed to solve problems without creating new ones–knowledge there is no “app” for.

Boomers have not saved for retirement because it’s retirement itself that needs to retire. The old cultural set-up simply won’t work with such a disproportionate number in the “retiring” generation and so few in the one that follows. (There are 77 million boomers and only 40 million in Generation X.) Instead of lamenting what individuals aren’t doing, we need to be building bridges to a whole new version of this time of life.

Once you are “old enough to retire,” the desire is for flexibility, not pure leisure. If we can harness the talent available in that pool and use it to make our for profit and not-for-profit efforts more effective, we all win–again and again and again.

This notion that boomers are stupid for not “getting ready to retire” is itself stupid. What the experts are urging them to get ready for is not, and was never, what they want to do. Let’s run with reality and shape some of the work that needs to be done so it replaces retirement.

 

The Power of “Letting People Know”

The Power of “Letting People Know”

When you let people know–what you need, what you have, what you would like to do–you increase your chances of getting what you are trying to accomplish done exponentially.

I’m writing this just after doing some volunteer work at the local library–where I didn’t work much because no one knew about what I was there to do.  Not promoting my availability to do one-on-one job search counseling was a conscious decision.  They were worried too many people would want help and that many wouldn’t get it because I was only there for two hours.  But not telling anyone before the period when I was actually there meant I had a lot of time to read magazines I don’t ordinarily get to see.

It also made me stop and think about how many ways there are to benefit from “letting people know.”

The obvious one is if you are job hunting.  Letting every person who knows your name know what you are looking for is essential.  There really are only a few steps between you and what you need–just as the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon party game suggests.  (Microsoft actually tested the premise–that any two people  in the world are connected by way of no more than six intermediate people–and found it to be very close to that.)  So “let people know” if you are looking for work, projects, internship opportunities, whatever.

Last week, my brother called asking if I needed a new dishwasher.  He had just purchased one he could not return, and it didn’t work in his kitchen.  I did (need a new dishwasher).  Desperately.  One friend described mine as sounding like I was washing bowling balls.  But I had just purchased one as part of a major kitchen remodel and was within days of getting it installed.  I did, however, know of someone else who needed a new dishwasher.  So I called him…and now his family has a nice new dishwasher.

I have a wonderful hiking group that I go out with on Wednesday mornings.  I would still be yearning for the chance to get up in the mountains if I hadn’t “let someone know” that I was looking for a way to hike.

Three very different examples of the same principle:  Good things happen when you “let people know.”  This isn’t a case of “expecting” people to give you what you need.  It’s more like getting your name on the list for the Universe to work with.

Let people know…if you’d like to meet some new members of the opposite sex…if you need a handyman….if you want to wallpaper your dining room with tinfoil and are wondering just how to do that.

The power of community is one of the sweetest things about being human.  You tap into it by “letting people know.”

 

 

REAL Networking

REAL Networking

Bad assumptions about networking mean a lot of us get less than we could from it. Far less.

Real networking has nothing to do with business cards or methods of organizing them. It has nothing to do with “getting ahead.” It has nothing to do with “meet and greet” events billed as “power networking opportunities.”

Real networking—the kind that will make a difference your career and your life—is about getting to know people who are focused on what you want to be focused on and relating to them authentically.

No phony “Let’s do lunch” or “I’ll call you next week” stuff that never happens. More like “I thought you’d appreciate this article, given our conversation last week.”

Let’s get one thing straight right now. You do not network with people you don’t know. First you meet them, then you get to know them, and THEN they become part of your network. And they do so because you like them, they like you, and both of you have a common interest. It may be that your kids are on the same hockey team. It may be that you are both trying to create a better version of a fuel cell. Either way, the bond and the value to each other is built on interaction and mutual respect.

A lot of career development seminars and job search advice books tout “networking’ as THE solution to all your professional needs. And that is very close to the truth. But what they suggest is typically not anywhere close on how to create a network.

It is not done with cold calls to a bunch of people you need favors from. It‘s done via on-going engagement in what you believe in. When you are on target with your values in the way you reach out, people of the same persuasion tend to show up in your life. You meet people who are not only interested in what you are interested in; they are also folks you want to know personally. They won’t all be “BFF” material. But they will be meaningful players in your overall Game of Life.

Waiting to create a network until you need help is like waiting to put on your life jacket until after you’ve been thrown out of the speed boat. Your network should be a lifelong effort and should include people from all aspects of your life. Branch out. If you do different things with the same people all the time, you might be more comfortable with the crowd, but your network is going to be a lot more limited. The more far flung your contact base is, the more likely it will be contain what you need when it comes time for that network to serve you.

But that time should be a long way down the road. A good network is built on friendship and service. Giving any way you authentically can is the quickest and smartest way to foster its development. That might be forwarding a cogent news release, letting a friend know that another friend is looking for what they have to sell, or just calling to say “how ya doin’?” when things have been difficult. Real networking works because it’s a shared effort to live life well. It’s genuine and benefits both parties.

The “synthetic networking” that’s often recommended for job seekers is just another form of cold calling—a strategy that’s long on rejection and short on results. Cold calling to ask a very busy person for an informational interview might work, but asking a friend who knows that person to set up that call will make it work a whole lot better. (And that friend will want to help because of all the help you’ve given in the past.) The fake version is better than doing nothing at all, but it’s not anywhere close to the effectiveness of the real thing.

Networking is a time-honored life skill. Our moms did it with the neighbor women about great casserole recipes. Our dads did it with other Scout Leaders or fishing buddies. Real networking is like populating your own virtual city with great people who have all the skills, insights, access and resources you need. They may live 2000 miles away, but you still know you can count on them.

Networking enriches your life. The fact that it helps in your job search or developing your client base or finding someone to date is secondary. Build it for the long haul and build it for real.

 

Life Skills — Juggling Versus Balancing

Life Skills — Juggling Versus Balancing

 

Are you delaying all the fun so you can get all the work done?  That’s one of the saddest characteristics of today’s busy lives.  We scramble to get everything that “needs to be done” accomplished and have no time left for the activities that bring us joy.

Our approach to retirement is even more that way.  We give excessive amounts of time to a job so that we can “get retirement” once we reach a certain age.  I am a strong proponent of work.  I think we need to do it for our entire lives.  But it’s got to be in balance.  All work now for all play later is just plain dumb.  You need to play now.  (And you need to work at something once you retire, even if it’s not for pay.)

I hear your groans.  I’ve been in your shoes.  It really is hard to find two seconds to catch your breath much less an entire hour to take a yoga class—or a hike in the hills–sometimes.  But there’s a life skill we aren’t learning with the way we are doing this, and maybe it’s time to circle back and pick that one up.  We need to learn to balance.

Notice I did not say “juggle.”  Most of us are doing too much of that, keeping more and more balls in the air.   No, I said balance. That’s about adding and taking away.  To achieve balance, you put a little more on one side of the scale or take a little off of the other.  For most of us, we need to take away some of the minutes we put on work and add some for play—or at least leisure.  But how?

An interesting thing happens when you only have a certain amount of time to get something done.  You work faster.  Things come together more easily.  You’re more focused.  The end result when you “don’t have enough time” is often better than what you do on a regular basis.  Why?

I suspect it’s because we don’t let ourselves get distracted as easily.  We don’t buy in on other people’s problems when they walk into your cube dressed as friends.  We don’t let ourselves waste one minute on non-essential stuff.  We are “on task.”

What would happen if we used that strategy at work all the time as a way to make room for play?  And then guarded our play time like a mama bear?

The obvious problem on the work side is the potential for being assigned more work.  This is not about working three hours and then taking a two hour lunch every day.  This is about not staying ridiculously late or bringing work home.  This is about adding time for yourself in the part of your day that’s supposed to be yours.

What if you’re retired?  In my experience, the advice is every bit as valid.  We do the laundry, clean the gutters, repair the back screen, and take a load to the recycling center before we get out the sketch book or grab the camera and head to the wildlife refuge.  We do the work first.  At least if we ever subscribed to the notion of being “good workers.”

This “do the work first” mantra screws up the scales of balance. When “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today” applies only to the work part of our days, that’s all we end up doing.   We need to spread that idea between work and play.

Find a balance scale and put away your juggling balls.  Repeat after me:  “Fun is an essential part of daily life.  Fun is good.  I will have fun today.”

 

On the Folly of Taking Too Many Meds…

On the Folly of Taking Too Many Meds…

This morning’s paper reported a study published yesterday in the Archives of Internal Medicine that found of 50 million death certificates in the US, more than 224,000 involved FATAL medication errors–overdoses or mixing prescription meds with illicit drugs or alcohol. It’s unlikely they looked at interactions between prescription meds since that issue is just now starting to get some attention. (The data they used was from 1983 to 2004.) What’s most alarming is that, adjusting for population growth, they found a 700% increase between 1983 and 2004.

They saw this dramatic rise reflected in DEATH CERTIFICATES–which are sometimes less than complete in establishing cause in complex situations.

So what? Well…..so think think about what you agree to put down your gullet as “medicine.”

Every day something new comes on the market to help with “what ails you.” But the more you take, the greater your chance of discovering the hard way that two drugs are incompatible. It might even be something as simple as drinking grapefruit juice for breakfast that can give you trouble. (It causes problems with heart rate for people taking certain blood pressure meds.)  Or something completely avoidable. (My son just discovered he really didn’t need blood pressure medicine at all if he switched to decaffeinated coffee.)

Just because they’ve found a medicine that helps with one problem doesn’t mean it won’t create another. Have you ever listened to all those side effects they mention at too-fast-to-really-hear speed in the pharmaceutical ads?

There’s no substitute for taking personal responsibility in this, a most individual set of decisions. Before you buy in on the idea of taking a pill to solve it, make sure it’s the best solution available:

  • Could a lifestyle change accomplish the same thing? Eating right as opposed to a cholesterol reducing prescription drug, for example.
  • Is the problem bad enough that you want to risk the side effects taking the drug might produce? Being totally pain free is unrealistic. Is what you are avoiding/alleviating by taking the drug major and worth it?
  • Is there a better way to do it? I love the story of the guy who went to his doctor asking for anti-depressants to help him deal with his awful job. He got all the way to the pharmacy counter before he read what was on the script: “Quit your job.”
  • Are there things you do for “fun” that you need to make sure your doctor knows about? If you want to be safe with the prescription stuff, whoever is ordering it for you needs to know what else you are putting in your system. Period. The study confirms that lying to yourself and your doctor about this can be fatal.

We don’t need to die this way. And we could live better if pills weren’t the answer in so many cases. Take the time to find out whether another route would work just as well (and most likely be less expensive). Be good to yourself. Make a conscious, well-informed choice every time you agree to solve a problem with a pill–even if “everybody’s taking it” and “it’s been around for years.”

How Old is Too Old for “Good Work”?

How Old is Too Old for “Good Work”?

Last week the MetLife Foundation and Civic Ventures released the results of their joint 2008 Encore Career Survey. The study had a laudable goal–to determine how many who might otherwise opt for traditional retirement are instead choosing “encore careers”–positions longer on meaning but shorter on prestige, perks, and pay.

The good news is that somewhere between six and ten percent of those 44 to 70 are doing that “good work” as Marc Freedman, Founder and CEO of Civic Ventures calls it. The even better news is that based on what those still in the traditional workforce indicated, these ranks may swell substantially soon. According to an essay by Freedman and Phyllis Segal, VP of Civic Ventures, at the beginning of the report, if the 5% of the baby boom who say they are interested went into encore careers that lasted ten years, the result would be 40 MILLION YEARS of human talent brought to bear on world problems.

Pretty impressive!

But who decided that all this was going to end at 70? Stories abound of people who are both doing “good work” and having great fun far after they hit that impressive 75. They need opportunities to contribute their talents as well. We’ve just pushed the age barrier farther out by setting an upper limit in the study. Not good.

The news from Encore Study is exciting to put it mildly. But there is even more to celebrate as we find ways to keep EVERYONE WHO WANTS TO engaged–in “good work,” in their communities, in SOME kind of meaningful endeavor. We are in the early stages of a massive change in lifestyle phases. The idea that anyone over 60–well, now 70–is tired, worn out, and needs to rest is giving way (slowly) to new opportunities to make a difference and to honor what’s individually important.

But as we move in that direction, we lose if we just push the age barrier a little farther out. We need to get rid of it. Period. Before mandatory retirement and company pensions, people remained useful as members of the community virtually until the end of their lives. If every person who wants to can work at what they believe in for as long as they live, the result will be far more profound than even the numbers Freedman and Segal suggest. Plus health care costs will go down. So let’s take this all the way–no upper limit to how long it works to work!

Encore, a part of Civic Ventures, offers a very impressive array of information about encore careers.