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Changing Careers at 50

First of all, you can do it. Life is too short to stay in a job you hate or where you feel underutilized.Jobs after 50

But ask yourself five critical questions before making a career change at 50:

  1. Should I start my own business? You’ve probably heard the term encore entrepreneur – individuals who start a business after a previous career. These entrepreneurs, usually older, are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the U.S. It is definitely worth considering going out on your own,  but know the answers to these questions:
    • Are my skills and experience strong enough to attract clients?
    • Is there a market for my services? You’ve got to understand who your client is; why would s/he go to you; are there enough of them out there – in other words, is this a sufficient market? What would these clients be willing to pay for my services?
    • Do I have the ambition and work ethic to soldier through the ups and downs of a new business? There are deep valleys when you first start a business. Do you have what it takes to get through periods with no clients? Do you have the creativity to always be thinking of new markets and new ways to reach your current client base?
    • Can I afford to do this? This is related to the question above. How long can you go without clients? How much will it cost to start your business? What can you do to keep your costs in check?
  2. What are my transferable skills? Let’s say your career has been as a commercial loan officer but you don’t want to do this anymore. In fact you don’t even want to work in a bank. Break down what you do in this position. For example: you’ve done research to determine if an applicant is appropriate, data collection, analysis, customer service and marketing (communicating with the applicant, selling the bank’s services to the community, etc). These are all marketable, transferable skills…meaning they are valuable in other industries such as nonprofits, foundations, and large and small companies.
  3. Am I thinking outside the box? This is related to question two above. It’s very easy to “think small” especially when you’re scared of leaving or are sick-to-death of your current job and just want to jump fast. Think big! Just because you’ve worked in a bank your whole career doesn’t mean you have to move to another bank. The whole work world is open to you if you understand your marketable skills and begin to think creatively about where those skills could be used. And don’t forget to make a list of places you want to work. What would make you happiest at this stage of your life? Is it working for a particular foundation? If so, research that foundation and be very clear about the value you can provide them. Then go for it.
  4. Are my presentation skills strong enough? It’s very important that you not only understand the value you bring to a company but that you’re able to present your skills/experience confidently and concisely. This takes practice and often working with a coach or consultant will pay off in the end. It’s sometimes hard to see what we have to offer and how best to present ourselves. A good coach will help you do this.
  5. Am I projecting the right attitude? This is very important, especially for those who’ve been laid off or are beyond sick of their current job. Your attitude could be a huge detriment to getting a new position. Do you think you project anger, frustration, a why-me or poor-me attitude? Ask your friends or spouse/partner; they may be a better barometer. If the answer is yes, you’d better change your attitude right away. Any negativity will show up in your body language, facial expression, reactions to questions – and in loads of other, subtle ways. You are not a victim. There are no jobs for victims.

Older workforceAnd a final bit of advice: If you’re currently employed, stay in that position until you find another job or start your own business.

You’ll be coming from a stronger place in the job market if you are currently employed.

Plus there will be less financial pressure for you to jump into another job.

Keep in mind that these may be the last years for you to make a difference, to contribute in ways you’ve always dreamed of, to do the job you’ve always wanted.

Don’t. Wait. Any. Longer. Go after it.

Now.

 

Unsure about what your next step should be? Contact me today for a free consultation and find the right career for you.

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Graduates: Job Search Tips That Work

questionIf you just graduated, will graduate soon, or will eventually graduate…it’s time to get going on your job search.

It’s never too early or too late to start.

Getting a Job Takes Work

But you’ll learn a lot about yourself and – it will boost your confidence when you land a job

Be prepared to put in a lot of time. You’ve probably heard that getting a job is a full time job.

It’s true. Think of it as the search process getting you used to the real thing.

Six Tips that Make a Difference

These job search tips work:

Know the value you bring an employer

The truth is the employer really doesn’t care that you need a job. It’s true for anyone. But I think you know that.crying girl

The employer wants to know what you can do for him.

It’s therefore critical that you know what your skills are and how those skills will be useful to this particular company.

Relate your skills/experience to each job opening

Be able to tailor your skills and experience to a particular job.

Don’t expect the employer to do that.

You need to bridge any gap in his understanding about how, say, your job as a waitress relates to the customer service position you’re applying for.

And it does relate.

As a waitress you’ve had to deal with lots of different people. Your job was to make them happy.

If you did a good job and can explain some difficult situations you resolved – I’d consider you for a customer service position.

This is called a transferable skill. Don’t forget them.

Research every company you apply to

Research the larger industry as well.

For example, if you’re interested in Lockheed Martin know who its competitors are.

Is it Ball Aerospace, Boeing?

What are Lockheed’s major markets, products, customers? Is it considered an innovative company relative to its competitors?

Being armed with more than basic information about the company you’re interviewing will allow you to ask smart questions during your interview.

This is the kind of employee I want to have working for me.

Be aware of networking opportunities

diagramThe vast majority of jobs are filled by networking with others.

Take your professors to coffee.

Ask your neighbor’s cousin if he has any connections at that company you’re interested in.

Go to job fairs – but make sure you’re prepared before you step up to the booth.

Your goal should be to network with someone every week. Believe me, it will pay off, as will this One Key Networking Tip.

Stay confident

The results of negative self-talk are crippling, especially in a job search.

Read my post on Staying Confident.kitten and tiger

When you’re busy beating yourself up about not getting a job, you can’t be fully present in an interview; you can’t think straight, and you can’t respond well to questions.

Your negativity will also show in your body language.

One way to build and maintain your confidence is to practice.

Practice answering questions. Practice explaining what you offer the company.

Make a good first impression

The easiest way to do this is to dress professionally, follow the points above, and do three critical, but simple things:

  1. Smile

  2. Firm hand shake

  3. Good eye contact

In my experience these three points will make you stand out from the competition.

Take Time to Prepare

In case you didn’t notice, the common denominator in all of the above tips is: prepare.

It will definitely pay off.

Have a Marketing Perspective

The job market is better than it was a few years ago –  but it’s still very competitive.

You must have a marketing perspective in your job search.

That means always look at things from the employer’s point of view. Ask yourself “How can my background and skills help make this employer’s business more successful?”

With this attitude and approach you ‘ll be way ahead of the competition.

the futureAnd much likely to hear the two sweetest words for any job candidate:

“You’re hired.”

 

 

 

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I'd love to help you market yourself or your business. Please fill out the form below to contact me and I'll get back to you within one business day.

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5 Tips to Great Public Speaking

I just got off the phone with a client who’s got to speak in front of 500 people next month – probably in some impersonal hotel ballroom complete with dais, a lonely wooden lectern in center stage and flooded with very bright lights…focused right on HER.

She knows her material, speaks well in front of smaller, more intimate groups.public-speaking-melbourne

But every time she speaks to large groups of people physical changes happen. Her voice gets shaky; her vision blurs; she feels wobbly.

So, other than that things are just fine, right?

Can you relate to this?

I definitely can. Every time I had to speak I would begin stewing about it as soon as I hung up the phone or sent an email saying I would speak.

That could be six months in advance or two weeks.

My negative self-talk would begin immediately like a gunshot starting a race.

What if my mind goes blank? What if I faint? What if my throat constricts and my voice sounds like I’ve just taken a huge dose of helium. Someone on stage sounding like Daffy Duck does not carry much gravitas.

On and on I would go, focusing on all the bad what-ifs, dreading my speaking date and wondering why I had accepted.

I’ll tell you why we accept those dates. Because we’re professionals who know our material. In fact, we often are in a position of authority because we are experts in our field.

That’s why people call us to speak.

Our material excites us and we’re happy to tell anyone we meet about it.

publicSpeak3But especially if they come in groups of 10 or fewer.

However getting on stage with 1000 eyeballs staring at you…well, we don’t even want to go there.

Where are the doughnuts or scotch when you need them?

Miraculously I now speak comfortably to large and small groups. I even teach others to get over their fear. Can you believe it? I can’t.

I love to talk with people, even in enormous impersonal settings. I’ve learned to avoid ruminating about all the bad what-ifs; to focus on the material, and to practice a few tricks I’ve learned that have helped me when my anxiety creeps back – which it still does at times.

I refer to it as –  I’ve learned to manage my own personal anxiety attack.

Here are five tips:

1. Know your material cold. I know you know this but it’s still the number one thing to do. Especially if your personal anxiety attack renders you slightly blind so you can’t read your notes. Which, by the way, should be only a sparse outline – NEVER READ YOUR TALK.  But you know this too.

It’s incredibly boring; you sound stilted; you’ll lose your place and then you’ll be stuck with really frightening silence as you try to find where you left off.

You know it’s better to speak with your head up, looking out and engaging with your audience. So do it.

2. Talk to people in your audience. Take some time before you speak to talk to a few random individuals in your audience.

Somehow this works to break the ice forming in your brain.

You no longer view your audience as one scary mass sitting before you. They are individuals; you’ve met a few. You know they aren’t out to hurt you.

You might even incorporate a conversation you had into your talk. It can make your speech more relevant and the person you mention will feel like the Most Important Person in the Room. You now have a new best friend.

3. Throw a question to the audience. This is really helpful. I can’t tell you how many times I feel fine until I’m introduced and I make the looooooong walk to the podium.

All the physical reactions can come up – sweaty palms, dizzy feelings, dry throat (have water near the podium, by the way).

When I feel this happening I will almost immediately ask a question of the audience. There is something comforting about this interchange and it breaks my brain freeze. I am then speaking to ONE person and he/she is just speaking to me.

It has a significant calming effect.PublicSpeak2

4. Walk around (and don’t forget to breathe). You can take your outline with you for security if you like.

Moving will make you feel better – it gets the blood flowing. Your brain needs that. Now.

Besides, I know you’ve watched speakers as they clutch the podium for dear life, not moving an inch.

It’s much more interesting to see speakers moving and gesturing appropriately. Remember, this is the way we speak to people when we feel normal.

Let me add here: don’t overdo it.

I’m not recommending that you flap around the stage. That is a distraction. But moving as you speak is normal and will help engage the audience in what you’re saying.

5. Prepare. This is sort of a summary point. It assumes that you know your material. But I want you to practice presenting it. Many times: in your living room to a bunch of empty chairs and the piano.

Or ideally go to a hotel ballroom, walk around, get on stage, get the feel so it breaks the spell of doom and disaster.

Ever heard the expression, “what you know can’t hurt you.” It’s true here. But certainly get to your talk early. Make sure things work – audio, slide presentation, lights (maybe ask if they can dim them).

Know the questions you’re going to throw out to the audience.

And how about making a connection with the tech guy. You will want to have a close personal relationship in case something happens.  Ask him (it’s usually a him) to please stick around.

 

I promise you, if you do these things you will feel better. And that alone will help you give a better presentation. The more you speak the better you’ll get.

That doesn’t mean you won’t ever have unsettling feelings. You may, but you’ll be better prepared to handle them.

And besides, it really is true that when you have some adrenalin moving through your system you will give a more dynamic talk.

If you want some more pointers, take two breaths and call me.

 

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I'd love to help you market yourself or your business. Please fill out the form below to contact me and I'll get back to you within one business day.

Comments or questions are welcome.

Interview Questions You Wish They Wouldn’t Ask

These are topics you’d like to avoid…like maybe something you wish the employer might not notice.

I call them dreaded topics. Everyone has one – at least one. What’s yours?woman and man

Let’s discuss a few.

Gaps in Employment?

Not everyone in this world starts a fulfilling job right out of school and then remains employed until retirement. In fact, can I think of one…?

The majority of us has had fits and starts in our employment history. Some with longer fits – and often through no fault of our own. In the recent, severe recession many people were laid off and despite their best efforts could not find another job. Unemployment turned from weeks into months.

There are also people who have chosen to leave the work force for a period of time. The reasons can include taking care of children, illness, elderly parents, travel.

Too Young or Too Old?

Well, with that headline you can’t win! Interviewers are not allowed to ask your age in an interview. Why? Because the conversation might be viewed as age discrimination which is against the law.

That doesn’t mean age discrimination – on both sides of the age spectrum – doesn’t happen in the job market. It happens every day.

For example, there is a generation of Baby Boomers many of whom don’t want to retire or they can’t afford to retire.

However, an employer may be concerned about hiring an older person, fearing she might leave after a short time or be a know-it-all and not trainable.

Age is an understandable dreaded topic. And don’t think the interviewer isn’t wondering about your age. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice that your resume says you graduated from college in 1978. A quick math calculation and voila – this candidate is probably not 39.

No Job Experience?

If you’re right out of school you may not have much work experience. That’s a concern for employers because they want to know about your work ethic, how well you work with others – and why you haven’t held a job. This topic needs to be handled the same way any dreaded topic should be handled: Head on.

More about that later.

Multiple Job Changes?

Does your resume look like you’ve been job hopping? That too is an understandable concern for an employer. If you’ve changed jobs a lot, why should he trust that you’ll stick around his company? It costs a lot to train an employee.

The Best Way to Handle Dreaded Topics

Head On! Bring it up if the interviewer doesn’t.

I guarantee you if the topic is a concern to you, it’s likely a concern to the interviewer. Clear the air. Get the topic on the table. If the interviewer doesn’t mention your obvious concern, you bring it up and explain the issue. You take control. The issue will likely become a non-issue.

Isn’t that better than wondering if it might affect your being hired. And being concerned about something could affect the way you come across. You might be hesitant or distracted.

When you address the topic it gets diffused. It’s no longer a threat. You’ll also come across as more confident.

Prepare your explanation before the interview and be ready to address it. If the issue is not mentioned, you explain calmly and confidently what happened.

Some Example Responses:

Work Gap – “In 2007 I was laid off from my job as were many people at my company. As you know, it was a very difficult market. But while I looked for an engineering position I took a part-time job and volunteered in my community.”

Experience – “I may not have a lot of work experience because I just finished school, but I want you to know about the things I learned in my volunteer jobs and as a teaching assistant…”

Age – “I’ve been in the work world a while but want you to know that I plan to work for many more years. I’ve got a lot of experience but I also know I have more to learn and more to contribute.”

These answers may not sound perfect but they’re the truth and you’ve addressed the issue head on. The interviewer is likely to admire you for this plus it will resolve any qualms he may have had about you.

But most important, you’ll feel more confident and be able to present yourself clearly.

The bottom line? You’ll be a much stronger candidate.

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I'd love to help you market yourself or your business. Please fill out the form below to contact me and I'll get back to you within one business day.

Comments or questions are welcome.

Common Mistakes on Skype Calls

Video chat programs (Skype, G-chat, Google Hangout) are wonderful technological inventions that allow us to simultaneously talk and be seen during a call.

And let’s remember the emphasis on the “be seen” part right up front.Girl w cat Video chats are not your old fashioned phone call.

Remember Why Video Chats are Called Video

You need to be mindful of at least three things:

  • What you look like.
  • What you’re doing during the call.
  • What’s behind you.

Let me be specific – especially about business calls involving several people where you may be less aware that what you’re doing can be seen by everyone on the call.

This came to mind a few weeks ago when I was on a Skype call with a colleague who lives in Boston.

Because I’m in marketing, if this person had been a client I would have said something immediately about what was happening during our call. She was clearly oblivious.

This was a business call. By definition that means you want to look like you’re at work. That includes combing your hair, washing your face, putting on fairly decent clothes. As I write this you’re probably thinking: how basic can you get. Who doesn’t know that?

Most of us should know it, but apparently it’s easy to forget because I have more than one memorable video call stories. This is just one – and it’s a cautionary tale.

The colleague I was speaking to last week is a professional, in business for many years, working from her home office that day. I’m pretty sure she was in her nightgown.

How do I know that? Because during the call she got up several times to retrieve papers…and I can tell you I would not be wearing her outfit to work including the baby blue terry cloth slippers.

An additional entertainment feature of this call involved her robe which she (fortunately) pulled around her to cover her nightgown every time she got up from her desk.

What was she thinking you might ask?

I thought it was pretty amusing but I’m a woman so maybe was less startled. But I can tell you this experience has affected the way I think about her professionally – and not in a good way.

It’s also interesting to note that I remember the visual peculiarities of this call more than the serious substance we discussed. That’s not good, especially if you’re trying to sell me something.

Another entertainment feature of this call included my colleague’s hair which was in an interesting formation. I’ll call it pillow perm – an apt description of most of our hair-dos when we roll out of bed.

And she looked like she just rolled out of bed.

More Skype Mistakes

Moving on, here’s another Skype-world caution: before your call, look at the camera light and then notice what’s behind you. How’s that artwork on your wall? Are people constantly walking behind you creating a distraction? Are your dogs wrestling in the background or doing something unseemly?

Another video call oddity: when you change chair positions you often lean forward toward the computer…and therefore, the camera. This movement can look like your head and face are going to crash through the viewer’s computer screen.

Additionally, the close-up distorts your features, sort of like a fun house mirror. Maybe not your best look.

Keep this in mind and stop fidgeting – or at least back up in your chair so you avoid these fast close-ups.

A final point – don’t pull down the lid of your laptop while the video call is running.

Depending on where you’re seated that little camera light at the top of your screen will land with a full frontal view of your lap. Perhaps not the feature you’d like to showcase during a business call. But it will keep people entertained.

With the sudden lap shot during my call I had to bite my lip to stop laughing. My colleague meanwhile was oblivious about what was going on.

What to Remember During Your Skype Call

So what are the take-aways from my experience besides a few laughs at this person’s expense?

We have probably all done something weird during video chats and not known it. Try to remember that little camera light, where it’s pointed, and what it’s seeing.

Dress like you’re going to work – duh, you are going to work! This is a virtual business meeting.

Consequences of Video Chat Mishaps

Don’t forget this is a video chat – everyone can see you. And if you’re doing something interesting, that will be the focus – watching you, not paying attention to what’s being said.

This means no scratching, nose picking, or adjusting clothes. Things get magnified in video chats. Again, think fun house mirrors.

Video chats are powerful, efficient ways to communicate but you’re on camera. Some consequences I’ve seen from inappropriate video chat behavior include: firing, being taken off the project, not getting the contract, or (at best) a diminished reputation.

Those consequences are not so funny.

Let's Chat

I'd love to help you market yourself or your business. Please fill out the form below to contact me and I'll get back to you within one business day.

Comments or questions are welcome.

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