It doesn’t really matter how old anyone is; in today’s economy, people have to re-brand themselves. In this excerpt from her book – “Re-Branding Yourself After Age 50: Recharge your Career, Start a Business or Achieve More Professional Success in Midlife” – Marva Goldsmith has some good advice for baby boomers who find themselves in that fix … whether it applies to their professional, or personal, lives.
As of this writing I am single … and looking. Hello?!
I went on a date a few months ago with a man I met over a popular Internet-dating site. My date worked in the entertainment industry. After a couple of hours, we exchanged Internet-dating horror stories—now that’s always fun to do! We talked about how, during your first face-to-face meeting, it quickly becomes obvious (sometimes painfully so) if your date has a much exaggerated sense of self, has used someone else’s pictures for their profile, has led a really hard life since registering with the site, or is a master at reinventing the truth.
My eyes became as big as saucers when my date confessed that he did not tell the truth about two items in his online dating profile. Please don’t tell me you’re married! I can’t remember the first trivial fib he confessed to, but the second was about his age. He had listed himself as 48-years-old, when in fact he had just turned 50. He explained that entertainment is a very competitive industry, and he was sensitive to the stigma of being an “old man” in a “young person’s” industry where people are routinely shuffled in and out of jobs based on others’ perceptions that veterans may not be “fresh.” I was reminded of a lyric from Harry Chapin’s hit WOLD: “They said they wanted the ‘young sound,’ when they let me go.”
For some, the idea of turning 50 is daunting. For others, it’s a new adventure. Clearly my date had an issue with perception. How could he manage the way others perceive him? How could he prepare himself for what he believes to be the inevitable and untimely demise of his career? How could he effectively brand himself as a valuable, contributing player in a youth-focused industry, even after the age of 50?
A new direction
If you are over 50, or approaching the “Golden Age,” you have been developing a set of transferable skills for years. Most likely these skills are still needed somewhere—even if it’s not with your current or former employer. Baby boomers must learn how to apply the rules of commercial branding to their own career and business pursuits.
In the following excerpt from The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding (2002) by Al and Laura Ries, I’ve substituted the word “YOU” where it applies:
“…Branding in the marketplace is very similar to branding on the ranch. A branding program should be designed to differentiate YOU from all the ‘cattle on the range.’ Even if all the other cattle on the range look pretty much alike, the objective is to create in the mind of the prospect the perception that there is no other product on the market quite like YOU.”
Uncertain times, surprising opportunities
Many people who face unemployment for the first time after 20 or 25 years of continuous employment are justifiably frightened after having been busily engaged in their careers. It doesn’t matter whether you lose your job in a mass layoff, during a time of economic turmoil, or when everything is booming for everyone else. The moment you lose your job, you are at a crossroad.
John F. Kennedy once observed, “When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger, and the other represents opportunity.” So the question you must ask yourself is, “Will I treat this circumstance as a crisis or as an opportunity?” I myself have learned to create “opportunity” from almost any set of circumstances—whether self-imposed or unplanned. After 20 years, I chose to leave my comfortable corporate position at a major utility company and pursue my dreams. Seven years later, I found myself surrounded by comrades in their 50s who were in the midst of “unplanned career outages.”
Here’s the deal: nothing is going to change the fact that you’ve lost your job, or promotion, or the funds you’ve invested. You cannot wish that job, promotion, pension, or golden parachute back into existence. Once the genie is out of the bottle, it’s not going back inside. So now what?
Consider asking yourself: Is this a crisis … or an opportunity in disguise? It all depends on your perspective. What should you do now that the employment game has changed? How can you position yourself within your current industry (or a new industry) to be selected for the job, contract, or opportunity that you desire? If you fully engage in the process of distinguishing yourself from the competition, being visible in the marketplace, and getting into action, a year from now you may look back and say, job uncertainty was the best thing that ever happened to me.
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