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If It Can Happen to Her…

I learned last week that a close friend was being laid off from a profitable Fortune 500 company after 20 years of loyal, well-reviewed performance.  How could this happen?  It turns out that this company is deliberately letting go of older employees because they are considered too expensive, and too easily replaced by lower-paid younger workers.  She is high up on the pay scale and, at 47 she’s probably more expensive to insure for healthcare than a 32-year-old.  She gets more vacation that someone with a five year tenure.  It’s a cost-cutting move that has no reflection on work performance. That’s life, right?  Sure, this company has the right to do whatever it wants to do to cut costs, but that doesn’t make it right.  Or smart.  Where is this woman going to go? She’s going to work for a major competitor and she’ll have no problem finding a job.  They will hire her without hesitation because the word is out that the layoffs at her company have nothing to do with competence. She’s taking 20 years of institutional knowledge, 20 years of “this is how we can destroy you” to a competitor.  For what? Let’s say this company can...[ read more ]

The (Annoying, Pervasive) Self-Employment Myth  

Given how things are going in the American economy for workers over 40, I think that self-employment by age 50 is a sensible wise goal for virtually everyone.   Whether you like it or not, the facts and trends are pushing you in this direction.  Long-term employment prospects for older workers are on the decline.  Employer loyalty is fading away.  Certain industries and skillsets reward younger job applicants. Where does that leave us?  It leaves us with working for ourselves as the best option.  I made this change myself. I went from being a marketing executive at tech companies to being a freelance writer of technology marketing content.   It took a while, but it was a good move for me. I earn more than I used to and my stress level has come way down. But, how can we make that happen?  The idea of self-employment can appear very daunting.  This post takes a brief look at why self-employment seems so difficult to achieve and tries to reset the discussion to make this worthwhile objective seem more attainable and reasonable. Self-employment comes naturally to some people.  These are our friends who don’t fit into readily employable stereotypes. They’re great self-promoters.  They...[ read more ]

Appearing Now: The Movie about Your Career

You don’t know it yet, but you’re a Hollywood producer.  I know about these things. A long time ago, before I became a freelance tech copy writer and career transition evangelist, I worked in the film and television business.  I was a development executive, working with writer on stories that might become movies or TV shows.  Little did I know, it was a great preparation for helping people tell their personal stories in a job search context. Hiring a new employee and figuring out what movie to watch are actually similar processes, in human terms.  We all crave stories that fulfill our needs. In both situations, we want to get hooked and become excited about the potential to experience something of value.  Obviously, the end point is different – making a hire is not the same as eating popcorn for two hours.  But, the thought process is comparable, especially at the job interview stage. When you pitch a movie to a studio, the trick is to dangle an interesting concept, build some suspense and leave them wanting more.  For example, when I pitched “The Stepford Husbands” to CBS, I said, “It’s the Stepford Wives, but now it’s the women who...[ read more ]

Brian Williams and Income Inequality

It’s a little difficult to understand why Brian Williams is facing such an intense degree of opprobrium and punishment for a single moment of embellished war reporting. If you look at what he did, it’s really not that big a deal. In the current media landscape, most people could apologize, accept some symbolic rebuke, and move on. It’s not going to happen with him. He appears to be finished. So, what’s really going on? The Brian Williams flap is about something else, something bigger, that America is experiencing. The episode gives us a view into the underlying dynamics of an important but somewhat misunderstood national discussion, Income Inequality. Williams allegedly earns $10 million a year for his services as NBC News anchor. There’s nothing wrong with this salary. He earns it through hard work. He was chosen from a broad field of talent for one of the top slots in the media world. With that role, comes great wealth. At the same time, Williams is emblematic of a major division taking place in American life. After decades of upward mobility from a growing middle class, the country has cleaved into two groups: Those of us who work for a living...[ read more ]

What Your Story Can Tell You about Your Career Future

A man wrote to me recently after reading my book, The Life Reset.  He said he felt as if it hit him right between the eyes.  He was in a serious state of anxiety.  This is a person who had been successful in the real estate field for 20 years.  He was working his way up and he decided to get an MBA.  He felt that this would catapult him to the next level and get him into a real executive level job where he could earn good money and ride it out to retirement.  Then, he got laid off.  He has been out of a job and there was just nothing doing in his career in that area.  He is very frightened and upset.  He has been cashing out IRAs and selling off little pieces of real estate that he owns just to pay the bills. What should he do next? Part of answer comes in a great post by Alison Doyle, who writes the “Job Search” column for About.com.  In Top 7 Reasons Not to Apply for a Job, Doyle make a very important point, which is, “Sometimes, the job or the company simply isn’t a match for...[ read more ]

What Has Gone Wrong?

Can you feel it? I can. There’s a terrible feeling of unease in American today. Something has gone wrong with American life, especially for those of us in midlife. What has gone wrong with the fulfillment of the ideal of midlife success and happiness in the United States? There are a lot of answers to that question. I’ll try and address a few of them, some of which you may have already thought about, some of which might be a kind of a new spin on existing ideas. One thing that has gone on is we are in the grip of structural factors that we cannot control. What is very unusual about our age group, meaning people between 35 and 55 today, is that we are the last generation really in humanity that ever experienced a world that was not digital. I didn’t get a computer until I was a senior in college. I used a typewriter up until that point. Most of my professional life since then has been spent in the field of computers and software. But, we are unusual in that we have a perspective on what’s happened in the last 10 or 15 years with the...[ read more ]