I’m not a woman over 50. I don’t know what that’s like. I only know what peri-menopause and menopause are like from the bleacher seats. However, I am a man who has crossed the 50 threshold. While the differences between the genders are real, I take the position that when it comes to remaining relevant and vital, any advice for one gender is probably good for both.
While the idea of a “midlife makeover” may have more appeal to women than men, the ideas presented in career strategist Mary Eileen Williams’ website feistysideoffifty.com are of value to both genders. “Midlife momentum” might have more appeal for men than “makeover,” but let’s look at Ms. Williams’ insights and advice.
“Women over fifty are being forced to make changes they never anticipated and these externally imposed demands can be tough to deal with. They’re being laid-off, downsized, right-sized, and even labeled “redundant.” If they haven’t lost their jobs, they’re being forced to recognize that their careers, once flourishing, are in jeopardy. Previously promising fields and industries are contracting or moving offshore leaving workers vulnerable and dispensable. And this can be especially true for the older worker.”
Solidarity, sister. All the downsizing, offshoring and age-biasing Williams bemoans is happening with equal effect on men of the same age. The result of the career disruptions many millions of Americans over the age of 50 are facing necessitates career reinvention and growth. It’s about surviving first, thriving second for too many middle-aged adults. That cuts both ways across the gender lines.
For fortunate others, career changes are happening voluntarily. Statistics show many 50-plus adults opt for more meaningful career choices … when they can. Many are forced to find new ways of supporting their families. For others still, they feel the effects of the “Sandwich Generation” and burn the candle at both ends.
Who’s got time for adapting now?
You and me, that’s who. Men and women over 50 have no shortage of motivation to really hone in on what makes them sing in their post-50 lives.
Williams also states:
“… there are ways to make others aware of your worth in the workplace and boost your own sense of self-confidence. One of the best is to know and be able to articulate your skills. Skills are your salable qualities and, if you’re laid off, you need to be very clear on what you bring to the position, the problems you can solve, and how you differ from the competition. This self-knowledge also comes in very handy at review time, when asking for a raise, and to avoid being passed over for promotions.”
Clearly, this advice is not just for women, or even just middle-aged adults. I’ll add another piece of advice: If you’re laid off, don’t wait around for the next opportunity — make your own. AARP will tell you that more Baby Boomers are becoming their own bosses these days. Sounds great, right? What their article doesn’t acknowledge is the dark underbelly of why: Many have been through the right-sizing ringer (doesn’t that term just make you want to go on a killing spree?) and have had their new-found post-50 career adapting foisted upon them.
Being laid off is hard to take. I’ve have it happen to me more than once in my 50 years. If you’re toiling in the bowels of monolithic global corporations, like I have, you are vulnerable to the bloodless reorganization that is part and parcel of business growth and contraction. You can, however, take your own fate into your own hands. The employment landscape has shifted greatly toward remote workers and freelancers. You can make that shift work for you.
As most career advisors and job seekers know, the best way to get a job is to already have a job. The dirty secret that employers do not look favorably upon the long-term unemployed is no longer a secret. It’s just dirty. When you need to adapt, to reinvent, look at yourself first and make your own work. It will keep you sharp, relevant and let you hold your head high in your next interview, should you still choose to / need to go back to working for someone else.
Ms. Williams knows how to get women over 50 re-started in the right career direction. Here is how she suggests you start taking inventory of your skill sets:
Skills can be divided into several categories and you’ll want to be clear on each of them. … Here are several points to consider:
What formal education do you have in your field?
Which classes and ongoing training have you taken?
Do you hold any certifications or degrees?
What technical skills are required to do the work you perform?
What people-related skills do you use on the job?
What are the skills listed in your job description?
The answers to these questions are your past. Your ability to leverage them are your future. Men and women alike must recognize the race to adapt has already started, particularly if you’re over 50.
An earlier version of this article originally appeared on WiseTribe.
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