Think outside the ballpark re: Encore Careers

Watching and reading about the NLCS, I am beginning to see that encore careers are not really about age.  My evolving revelation: Anyone can create an opportunity to embark on an encore career by creating great value for an organization when it is most needed and least expected.

Think Cody Ross, the San Francisco Giants player who has become the nemesis of Philly fans during the NLCS.  As part of a team  described as a collection of “scrap parts,” Cody Ross has become a baseball folk hero.”  Against the most powerful trio of 2010 pitchers, he has hit 4 homers in 3 days, a performance that has put his SF Giants ahead of the defending league champions, the Philadelphia Phillies.

A radio announcer in SF dubbed him “Babe Ross,” a reference to Babe Ruth, once a pitcher who was traded by the Red Sox to the Yankees –  a big oops!  Ross will celebrate his 30th birthday in December 2010 – I think this may be the equivalent of age 45 -50 for a small business owner or wage earner, like most of us.  If you look at Ross’ baseball biography, some interesting career-related facts emerge:

  • He did not play college baseball. Many  of the highly-compensated in business have no college degrees or have unremarkable academic credentials.
  • His goal had been to be a circus clown, a legitimate career in the arts which requires vigorous training.  Clearly he is a successful career changer!
  • His first 4 years were quite mediocre – his best year was 2007 with the Florida Marlins, a team that placed him on waivers in August 2010.  Is this comparable to a layoff with limited outplacement?
  • San Francisco picked up Ross’ option primarily to prevent their rivals, the San Diego Padres, from acquiring  him.  Applying baseball strategy, as competitive intelligence would be applied in the business world.
  • Cole Hamels, the 2008 MVP of the Phillies and (losing) pitcher of Game 3, said of Cody: “He’s hitting pitches that most normal people can’t hit at this time.”  Is it possible for we regular folks to find opportunities that most others can’t respond to at this time?

“It’s been a dream come true,” said Ross, who went 4-for-14 with a homer and three RBI in the Division Series. “It’s been an unbelievable experience for me.”

Is it naive to believe that those of us between 45 – 65 years of age can identify opportunities (perhaps through S-W-O-T analysis) and  make their encore career dreams come true?

Gray Matters in the Office

Here’s what we already know: The demographics of the workforce are a train coming down the track.  While we are currently experiencing a 9.5% national unemployment rate, the burden is disproportionately born by younger workers (more than 50% of non-students are unemployed – referred to as the Dead End Kids).

Here’s what many don’t know: The AARP (Pdf)  predicts that by 2015, there will be more jobs than trained employees – indeed, the group expects a gap of 35 million jobs.  It is becoming more and more likely that those who entered the workforce in the 1970′s will not become “snow birds” anytime soon.  Are they making it more difficult for younger workers to enter the workforce?   More results from the AARP’s  2005 report, “American’s Aging Workforce:”

  • By 2015, 20% of the workforce will be age 55 and older
  • The highest growth rate in the workforce will be among those 55-64  (an increase of 51%)
  • Concurrently, there will be a decrease in the population of workers age 35-44   (a loss of 7%)
  • Today, most  middle and senior managers are Baby Boomers, age 42-60.   40% of this cohort  hold college degrees; unlike their  Traditionalist predecessors,  who were more likely to perform physically demanding work,   most of these collegiate Boomers should be able to continue in professional, technical, and managerial roles well beyond retirement age.
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Marketing guru, Seth Godin: a new platform for “I am” and “I know” skills

Godin, blogger and thought leader among personal and permission marketers, has re-framed the thinking of Richard Bolles, author and esteemed guru of career and life coaches. 

I'm always looking for a topic that might add real value to the career space, so I was grateful to a friend who sent me Seth Godin's recent post, What are you good at?    Taking a marketing perspective, Seth appropriately suggests that those looking for their next big gig" should consider the distinction between skills that can be categorized as "content" and "process."

Godin uses 21st Century terminology to make his point:  "Content is domain knowledge. People you know or skills you've
developed… Domain knowledge is important, but it's (often) easily learnable."
  While Bolles' terms may not resonate with Millennials, his discussion of this topic is as relevant today as it was in 1980, when the Quick Job Hunting Map was first published.  Bolles describes skills residing in the content domain as "I know skills" ,e.g."I know how to use SAP, "I know financial accounting," "I know movers and shakers in the logistics field."

Godin  uses the term "process" to describe "emotional intelligence" – what Bolles would call "I am skills."  When explaining process skills, a speaker is likely to start a sentence with "I am able to manage multiple projects," "I am persuasive," "I am adaptable," etc.  These are the skills, abilities, and personal qualities that can differentiate a candidate from the many others who share their credentials and knowledge skills.  As Godin says, the process "…stuff is insanely valuable and hard to learn." And I agree that these personal qualities are likely to be overlooked by screeners and scanners. All the more reason to dig-deep and seize control of your personal marketing campaign – to manage your career.

An infinite number of people share the same content domain, but precious few offer the same mix of process skills and personal qualities. Long-term career health, preceded by successful assessment, preparation of marketing documents, interview preparation, and offer negotiation, is dependent upon your understanding of these ideas.

Career Search ‘Basic Training” in honor of Veteran’s Day

Veterans perform tasks and achieve a variety of successes in environments that civilians have trouble understanding.  In honor of Veteran's Day, I'd like to offer some basic training to help Vets make a successful transition to the civilian workforce.

Veterans are like all candidates: it is imperative to demonstrate that their skills, abilities, and areas of knowledge are transferable to the needs of civilian employers.  Vet's can talk about what they have accomplished in the military and in previous positions.  Like other candidates, it is important to present a "mini-business plan" to relate to the
needs of a prospective employer.  Review the following list to be sure
you are prepared to interview successfully:

  • You have
    clearly and concisely described one – two "success stories" for each of
    your previous positions, using the Problem (Challenge) – Action -
    Result model.
  • You have analyzed your accomplishment
    stories to identify the personal qualities, skills, and areas of
    knowledge that made it possible for you to achieve your successes.

Step #1
- Study the job description and organization to identify the criteria
for the job (not "requirements"). The criteria are likely to be "soft
skills," e.g., flexibility, team orientation, interpersonal skills,
etc. Create a grid, with the criteria on the left and your previous
employers across the top.

Step #2 – Fill-in the cells
with a note about each employer/accomplishment that addresses the new
job criteria. (Without the ability to post a table on-line, I can't
provide a good-looking sample – contact this author for a complimentary
copy of this worksheet..)

Step #3 – Once you've
completed this "homework," use your notes to prepare for questions and
conversation with the interviewers. Be careful to limit your responses
to three – four crisp sentences, using the Problem (Challenge) – Action
- Result model.

SimplyHired, an on-line aggregator of job postings, has created a Vet-Friendly filter that may make it easier to complete local labor market research.  I found 124 potential leads with the keywords, "Operations Manager" in my 5-digit zip-code.  The idea is to use these leads to develop a list of target organizations and keywords/job titles – don't become obsessed with "cutting and pasting" in response to postings.  Use the Internet to conduct a proactive campaign: Vet-friendly organizations are a great place to start!


Salute to Studs Terkel – a community organizer extraordinaire

Studs Terkel died in Chicago yesterday at age 96.  He enjoyed a full life to be sure, with the possible loss of an opportunity to cast his ballot for a fellow community organizer, Barack Obama.  Click here to read an excerpt from an October 23rd interview with Studs about Election 2008.

As one whose first "professional" job was with a community-based employment development agency... …with two sons who work to repair the earth, one through higher education and another via social entrepreneurship/BOP…whose family has walked the talk, I join Studs Terkel and Barack Obama in celebrating the value proposition that "community organizers" can bring to the workplace.

Some may scoff or snarl at the idea that "do-gooders" offer value to the traditional world of employment (e.g. Rudolph Guiliani at the Republican National Convention), but with the perspective of an interviewer like Studs Terkel, let's look at what a hiring manager may find:

  • Excellent interpersonal skills – listen twice as much as they talk to people who are not often heard
  • Needs assessment ability – understand the needs that are underneath the expressed frustrations
  • Problem solving/Resourcefulness – able to identify needed resources and people
  • Project/Program management – ability to keep a lot of balls in the air, all headed for home-plate
  • Sales/Marketing ability -  accountable for outcomes; identify continued and new funding sources
  • Communication tools – written, verbal, print, visual, audio, Web 2.0, and in several languages

The service that community organizers perform is as valuable as that offered by our military, our teachers, our police officers and fire-fighters, and by journalists, broadcasters, and interviewers like Studs Terkel, who respectfully chronicled American workers since 1957.

BlogTalk Radio with Jason Alba re: Lessons from the National Interview

Great experience today – my first as a guest on BlogTalk Radio!  I was honored to join a few other JibberJobber Partners who have talked with Jason about issues of importance in the Web 2.0 world of career transition and job search.

We talked about McCain and why he appears to be losing the job to Obama, despite his "hard copy" credentials and experience.  The conclusion appears to be that McCain has not responded well to the behavioral question of the day – the economic crisis. 

  • Obama has been able to convince the interviewers, a.k.a. voters, that he "feels their pain" and has practiced the time-honored strategy of listening with 2 ears and talking with 1 mouth. He has learned from the interviewing process and has offered need-based plans that appeal to voters whose issues are health care, education, foreign policy and war, and of course, the economy.
  • McCain and Palin talk a lot about themselves – a commentator on NPR suggested that McCain is asking the voters to reward him for his military and government service – he is not offering success stories via examples or testimonials that speak directly to the concerns of voters.  Indeed, one commentator observed that he appears to be a veteran of WWII, rather than a Vietnam War-era veteran; perhaps his POW experience shielded him from the cultural shift that affected his chronological peers.  His problem is not his chronological age, but the perception that he
    lives in the past and is not equipped to lead in the future.

The lesson for job seekers and career changers is to identify the needs of prospective employers; identify and emphasize transferable skills and personal qualities that are prized by this organization; and offer your brand and mini-business plan in a WIIFTm (What's In It For Them) context. 

The Recruiting Animal joined the conversation and added value by sharing his perspective as a Recruiter and a Canadian.  We discussed the impact of age, race, personality, and blogging in the interviewing space.  Listen to the recording and offer comments to keep this topical discussion alive:  <>

Are women in the workforce more vulnerable during a recession?

The Wall Street Journal (Career Journal) recently posted an interview suggesting that women are more likely to experience difficulties with job retention, promotion, and transition during a recession than are their male counterparts.

The interview suggested that the high cost of childcare and commuting has a disproportionate affect on women, cutting their real wages below the differential that already exists. (On average, women with children earn $0.76 for every $1.00 earned by men; women without children are likely to earn close to $0.90 compared to their male counterparts). 

Certainly economic downturns exacerbate the factors affecting the most vulnerable in the workforce, e.g. working mothers,  fathers who are primary caregivers, as well as Boomers who are caring for disabled family members.  The prevalence of cases related to family responsibilities discrimination prompted the EEOC to issue guidelines for employers in May 2007:

“These EEOC
family responsibility guidelines condemn stereotypical perceptions of
employees, sex-based stereotypes of working women and pregnant women,
and discrimination against working fathers. The EEOC
also makes it clear that an employer’s “benevolent” stereotyping, such
as assuming a mother would not want a promotion if it meant moving to
another city, still has adverse effects and may be illegal under Title

Clearly, the recession affects all of us; to paraphrase George Orwell, it may affect some of us more than others.  What is your experience or opinion?


Outside the Generational Box – Strategies for Transition

In my head, I’ve been re-playing our Mind the Gap:Connecting the Generations presentation in Minneapolis; let’s continue the conversation about the 4 generations in the workforce. I’d like to propose a new approach to career transition, one that promotes strategies to understand and transcend generation, and accepts challenges toward achievement of career success in this multi-generational workplace. 

The first strategy:  A-b-CAccept but Challenge

  • Accept differences – We cannot adopt homogeneous personal qualities or value propositions. It is important to identify and fine-tune the presentation of our brand or unique selling point in conversation, via resume, online, etc.  Accepting differences was one of the contributions of Generation X, e.g. those who now fall roughly between the ages of 30-45. Remember the rock musical, Hair, the first Broadway show that celebrated different thinking about politics, sexuality, and race?
  • but – As interpersonally aware people, we prefer to use the connecting word, "and." I submit that the word "but" allows all those involved in career transition to engage in a process that may include discomfort and chaos, hopefully leading to equilibrium.  (More on this adaptation of Chaos Theory in another post…)
  • Challenge – This is our raison d’etre: the challenge to "be all that we can be" is what makes life exciting.  To achieve our work/life goals and succeed in a work environment in which 4+ generations work side-by-side, we must challenge ourselves to transcend the limitations of our own generational box.  Ellen Sautter, whom I met at the Career Management Alliance Conference, suggested that she is the embodiment of the trans-generation: she is a Traditionalist by birth, who recently co-authored a book that is likely to appeal to all generations, Seven Days to Online Networking.

We can Accept differences and search for commonalities, but we must poke ourselves, our clients, and our colleagues to accept the Challenge of a trans-generational workforce – one that takes a "so what" approach to the issue of age. 

So with AbC in mind, here’s a challenge for you to chew on; your comments are encouraged:

How should we distinguish between personal and professional
networking? Is online networking similar to meeting associates and
friends at the 9th Hole? Are these online networking tools superficial
and self-promotional?

  • Is LinkedIn an electronic Roladex? Can it promote real relationships?
  • Is posting to Facebook
    superficial or does it promote connectedness? Should "friends" be
    expected to cleanse their page for evaluation by employers?

Please respond to this blog, or directly to my e-mail address:

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