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SBJ/Nov. 1, 2010/From The Field Of
How older employees can get ‘a little help’ with their game
Published November 1, 2010
As my 13-year-old son and I were watching golf and football on TV, he startled me by asking, “Dad, why are there so many Cialis commercials?”
After the initial moment of panic, I said, “As we get older, sometimes we need a little help with our game. Cialis is just trying to remind us that it’s OK to get help.”
It may not have been the most direct approach, but he nodded. And that was it. Phew!
This brief but awkward exchange got me thinking about my generation — the baby boomers — and our later-in-life career challenges. Because of a crippling economic crisis and ensuing sluggish recovery, our long-held expectation for “golden” retirement years has been severely compromised, and the retirement finish line has been pushed further out.
The fact is, most of us will need to stay in the work force longer than we expected. And that raises some unsettling issues about being an older employee in today’s America in general, and in today’s sports and entertainment industry in particular.
Here, then, are a few simple guidelines to help ease your career anxiety — specifically if you’re a baby boomer who’s had to push retirement onto the back burner:
1. Don’t burn bridges
As we get older, the world seems smaller, largely a result of business travel and colleagues met along the way. Our industry is a tight-knit group, and it’s easy for one person to derail a potential job opportunity. Think about personal consequences before you speak or act out on unfavorable situations. People, though they would like to think otherwise, tend not to forgive those transgressions, no matter how long ago.
2. Prime evacuation plan
It may be a long drawn-out exit transition, or a sudden knock on the door from your boss or human resources. Either way, always have an evacuation plan ready.
Ask how your departure will be communicated.
Be gracious and appreciative as you exit; your maturity will be remembered.
Ask HR for outplacement services that are relevant to our industry.
Take a deep breath before sharing your situation with the outside world; let the shock, anger and disappointment pass before initiating aggressive yet positive outreach.
Think about how you’ll update your social media sites; there are no secrets when posting.
3. Refresh your network
Our industry relationships are a lifeline to career opportunities, and they become more important as we age. Don’t wait until you’re in panic mode to strengthen your network. Build relationships while you’re not in need.
Identify your go-to contacts.
Know your next ring of relationships where there’s mutual respect, such as contacts who return a communication within 24 hours.
Isolate those who will return your outreach only when they think there’s an immediate benefit; don’t expect anything from this group.
Consider if a contact is willing to risk political capital to help you.
Aim for two-way conversation. For example, ask about family, children, hobbies.
4. Look in the mirror
Conduct a sober assessment of your skills, experience and situation, and share it with your personal board of directors.
What matters most in life?
What is my (brand) identity?
Where are my passions?
Am I better suited in an entrepreneurial or corporate setting?
How do I position my age?
5. Seek job harmony
The more seasoned we are, the more certain we should be on the type of work environment and boss that best fits our personality. Seek a diversified workplace that embraces colleagues of similar life status. Read “Delivering Happiness,” by Tony Hsieh, Zappos.com’s CEO. It highlights how the right corporate culture can drive both company success and personal happiness.
6. Make lemonade
If you have 30 minutes to spare, watch the documentary “Lemonade” (lemonademovie.com), which is an inspirational film about 16 advertising professionals who lost their jobs and yet found their calling. It encourages people to listen to their heart and ask the familiar “what if” question. Think about what you would do if money were no object.
7. Burnish your best assets
Describe in 50 words or less what makes you attractive to a prospective employer and how that claim is supported. Highlight your top benefit and why that’s a guaranteed promise.
8. Schedule your checkups
Shockingly, many people don’t have the necessary discipline to stay on top of their personal finances and physical health. High anxiety occurs when career, financial and health uncertainties converge. Simplify your life. Schedule annual financial and physical checkups. You want a clear mind when considering your career options.
9. Stay forever young
Be contemporary. Don’t let age be a convenient excuse for why corporate America may be “retiring” you. Continuing education, embracing new technology (especially social media), exercising, eating healthy, volunteering and mentoring are just a few of the ways to stay young.
10. Anticipate senior moments
As much as we don’t want to feel our age, there are many challenges that we should anticipate in the latter half of life.
Plan for future financial burdens (e.g., college education, wedding, retirement, etc.).
Explore demands that may be placed on you to take care of your parents.
Be aware of hereditary health issues.
Educate yourself on potential emotional challenges (e.g., empty nesting).
It’s not wise to decouple our professional and personal lives, nor should we be afraid to grow old in a vibrant industry like sports. We have ample resources to adjust to the current economic times, especially with the help of industry friends and colleagues. We are quite capable of re-engineering our careers — and ultimately finding those “golden years” — if we ask for a little help.
Glenn Horine (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the executive director of Iona College’s Center for Sports and Entertainment Studies as well as a business development and career consultant.