Dear Coach Joan: Career Advice
Lately I’ve had clients in their 50s and 60s who are facing a dilemma. They’ve
been laid off, their company has been bought or merged, or they just see signs that their current
job is ending. They are not sure what to do next. Some are
fortunate in that they have adequately saved and saved sufficiently to stop working.
Some have already downsized and are able to begin social security. A choice is a good thing to have
but that still leaves some in a quandary. Should they look for another job to continue their career as it
had been? Do they make an intentional move away from their lifelong career? Here are three scenarios:
- Dean just can’t let go. Dean, at 59 years feels as healthy and vital as he did in his 30s. He has been a competitive and successful sales professional in high tech since college graduation. His last two companies were bought and both times he was laid off, despite having an excellent track record. Both times the companies chose to keep the sales team of the company that was doing the purchase. The first time he was laid off he felt fortunate to get hired rather quickly, working for a competitor. The second time he was not so lucky and he came to see me after an eight month period of a long, unsatisfying job search. He was losing confidence and patience and didn’t know what steps he wanted to take. We reviewed his life situation. He was long time married with no kids and no extra financial obligations. His wife was an executive and planned to work at last another five years. He still had energy and motivation, and realized he enjoyed the ‘win’ of making sales. He was still motivated to make money and he felt he keeps score with his income. (Yes, people have different kinds of motivations and values.) He was well connected in his industry but kept losing out to younger candidates. Finally we found a niche that could work for him where his decades of experience would be valued. He moved into sales training. He found a company that provided advanced sales and leadership training. He liked their curriculum, they liked him, and he embarked on a new and last stage of his sales career. This time as a mentor and trainer and still well compensated.
- Barbara was ready for change. Barbara was a music teacher with the public schools. She enjoyed her work but was concerned with the ongoing cuts in arts education. And finally, after 25 years, she was laid off. Barbara was relieved that she qualified for her pension. And fortunately, her husband had invested their savings well, and she did not have to think about making a At first Barbara was at lose ends as her whole career had been full time music teaching, and she thought it was going to continue another decade. We had some deep discussions about her values and interests. She realized that over the years she had changed, she was very concerned now for older adults. She had been the caretaker of her parents and saw them lonely in their assisted living situation. She decided to devote her time to volunteer work with the aged. In fact, she went through some excellent training and realized that her work was rewarding and perfect for this stage of her life.
- Sam moved to the other side of the table. Sam had been a powerful litigator and would have continued his work for several more years. But his law firm had a strict retirement age of 60 so it was time to go. Sam did a lot of soul searching and he realized that he saw the legal system in our country in new ways now, different than he had seen it at the start of his career. Even though he enjoyed making money, he started to see that other rewards might be more meaningful for him now. He started to volunteer with the local legal aid group and ended up finding the advocacy work extremely rewarding. He wasn’t aware of how much he had changed until he started to explore different ways to apply his legal skills. He has been doing advocacy work now for over a year and he is feeling on-purpose and surprisingly happy at his choices. The key takeaways for people who are in their later years and have changes imposed on them career-wise, is to start with an inventory. First, do you still need to create an income. If so, how much do you require? Second, what do you really enjoy about your work? Have those things changed over time? Are there other things you might prefer to do? Have your values and interests changed over time? Somehow we think that we’ll always be the same. But we really do change. I see that all the time in my career coaching practice. People deepen and often they become more interested in being of service as time goes by. Naturally, you need to provide for your own well being first. Some people choose in their later years to downsize so they have lower expenses that free them from a paycheck, and they can put more time and energy into helping others. Know thyself. It’s key way to look at career decisions. “What will you do with your one wild and precious life?” That quote is from Mary Oliver, a celebrated poet who just died last week. I think this line of hers is perfect for today’s career article. Onward to bringing your best to life, Coach Joan