I got fired, canned, dismissed, pink-slipped and put out to pasture at age 50.
There, I just said it publicly, calling it what it really was.
My employer called it a “reorganization.” I was “laid off.”
Truth: The guy with greying hair was the only one reorganized. Let me repeat so Google’s crawlers can index my shame for anyone who searches for my name: I was fired at age 50.
I thought it was the end of my career. Instead, it was a new beginning.
If you are over 50 and out of work, I urge you to fight despair. It’s hard to believe it now, but this may be the best thing that ever happened to you.
This is a great time to choose the career and life you actually love But you can’t recover alone. To take control of your career, you need faith and others to help you on your journey to a more satisfying and prosperous place.
The odds are high
Once you start getting bombarded with direct mail to join AARP, you have reached a milestone. My young son made a birthday card for me with a drawing of a stick-man person just over the peak of a hill under a “you are here” headline.
Hah! Good one! He didn’t intend to shoot an arrow of fear into my fragile confidence. Funny thing is, data backs him up.
A government study shows more than half of Americans are pushed out of a job, one way or another, after age 50. Of those given the heave-ho, only 1 out of 10 regain the annual income they had.
That can really mess up those 401(k) calculations, can it not?
I don’t recall my financial planner warning me about this in my 40s and suggesting steps to mitigate my risks.
There is good news. I’m living proof you CAN beat the odds.
How and why I chose journalism
In college, I tried broadcast journalism until I learned I had a good voice for newspapers. It was love at first write.
I found my “calling,” to shine the light of truth using words. I turned down admission to law school to work for United Press International (UPI). The slogan was “a deadline every minute.”
I thrived on the fast pace covering the news.
For two decades, I made deadlines, working my way up the newspaper and news service ladder like a minor league baseball player dragging his family from city to city, waiting for a call from the Big League. I won a bunch of awards and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.
Eventually, I found myself with a corner office a few blocks from the White House as the editor-in-chief of a niche news service.
Big problem: something called “the World Wide Web” threatened to destroy the business model of the industry I had built my career on.
I recall my managing editor actually saying this in the mid-90s: “I don’t see the World Wide Web being a big deal. I do think email will last.”
My colleagues sipped wine as the orchestra played on deck. Let’s take the Titanic metaphor further. I faced a choice:
Option 1: Ride it out on the comfortable ship I loved continued a collision course with an iceberg.
Option 2: Jump into choppy, cold, ocean waters, hoping I somehow grab one of those yellow lifeboats to save my life and provide for my family.
My Achilles Heel
With no digital experience beyond email and doing Google searches, I pivoted to a job overseeing digital communications for a Washington think tank.
Many things went well but my lack of IT project management experience did not. I allowed the building of a state-of-the-art website to go over budget as technology vendors took advantage of my inexperience.
When I was fired it wasn’t just a mid-life crisis.
It was a vocational, financial, emotional, relational and existential crisis.
Lots of questions, few answers
So many questions:
- Did I miss my turn in my career?
- When I saw that iceberg of technological change ahead, did I jump ship too soon?
- Who am I, anyway, if I’m not working? Do I even exist? I saw myself then as a human doing, not a human being.
- How will I pay the mortgage, my kids’ college educations, that anniversary trip to Europe I promised my wife?
- With a nod to Burt Bacharach that only Baby Boomers will understand, I can sum it up with one big question: “What’s it all about, Alfie?”
The choice is yours
I met with an older, wiser friend at Starbucks, hoping he could put some salve on my wounds.
Instead, he jolted me out of my defeatist mindset with a real-life question from the film “Apollo 13:
“This could be your worst hour or your greatest hour. What’s it going to be. You have to decide.”
“Uhhh, I guess I’ll take Door Number Two, my greatest hour.”
Make yourself the hero
Changing your narrative changes your life. You can change roles. Rewrite that script playing in the back of your head, even after 50, becoming the courageous hero instead of the hapless victim.
I won’t go into details here, but I am healthier, wealthier and happier than I was in my 40s. I learned I could not and still cannot remake myself alone.
I got fired at 50. Then I got Fired UP After 50.
That’s my story and the name of the “side gig” I have launched as part of my post-50 “portfolio life.”
I now have a great full-time job and a small but growing part-time business with lots of upside before and after I eventually retire, make that “refire.”
I offer how-to content and one-on-one coaching for mid-life professionals looking to move from the back seat of their careers to the front seat, foot on the gas.
My website is FiredUP50.com. I have a LinkedIn page and an immediately practical eBook for those joining my mailing list. It shows proven strategies and tactics to get hired after 50 using LinkedIn, which is what happened to me after a recruiter found and liked my LinkedIn profile.
Have you been fired in your 50s? Are you seeing signs that you might be?
You don’t have to play the role of victim in your movie. You can take control of your career. Become the hero. The choice is yours.
MORE ABOUT ME: I provide content and coaching for mid-life professionals wanting to take control of their careers. Check out my site at FiredUP50.com. Better yet, get my free eBook and you will be put on my mailing list.