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August 22, 2014

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Book Bag: How To Reinvent Yourself After 50

Ellen Lubin-Sherman is the author of The Essentials of Fabulous: Because Whatever Doesn’t Work Here Anymore. Below she answers questions about reinventing yourself in the workplace after 50.

1) Many of my colleagues over 50 have been downsized.  I enjoy my work but I’m terrified that the pink slip is around the corner.  How do I convince my employers that I’m fully deployed and one thousand percent committed to my job? Employers hesitate to let go of people who exude these two qualities:  Relevant and indispensable.  Those are the qualities that make someone a terrific addition to the workplace.  Relevant means totally with-it – they understand the zeitgeist whether it’s social media or the competitor’s products.  Brimming with enthusiasm and curiosity, an employee who’s fully engaged is going to have more job security than someone who has to drag herself into work.  The other quality is indispensable.  You can make yourself indispensable by keeping up with trends, reading the blogs that relate to your company’s service or products as well as staying late when it matters and offering to assist someone in getting out a proposal even if it doesn’t fall within your purview.  An employer will fall in love with an employee who doesn’t work only for a paycheck but rather, to add value to the company’s reputation and differentiation in the marketplace.

2) For employees over 50, mastering the various platforms for reaching consumers can seem overwhelming.  As a senior level employee, is it that important to understand how these new forms of communication are of benefit to the company’s bottom line? Dismissing the important of social media could be perilous to your current position and/or moving ahead into new opportunities.  The joy in reinvention is the mastery of a learning curve – forcing yourself to take on a challenge with confidence.  An employee who relishes a challenge, takes responsibility for mastering it and demonstrates the acquisition of new skills will always be on the radar screen of someone to watch.  You must be thirsty for knowledge, new skills and big challenges in order to evolve, grow and open the door to big opportunities – whether you’re 50, 60 or 70.

3) Once I turned 50, I seemed to lose my mojo.  My confidence level slipped rather precipitously and I wasn’t as ambitious as I was when I was in my 30s and 40s.  Now I want to get back “on the horse” but I don’t know where to start. The way you present yourself to the world speaks volumes about how you feel about yourself.  Would someone see you on the street and think you’re on top of the world?  Do you walk into a room and initiate a conversation with a stranger?  Are you happy to be you?  Don’t even consider reinvention unless you’ve nailed the basics – wardrobe, grooming, accessories (get rid of that bifocal line!), and a perpetual smile on your face that embraces people and signals accessibility.  Now you need to reclaim that mojo since that’s going to hold you back from opportunities.  Call your “board of directors” – the people in your life who are compassionate and direct and have your best interest at heart.  Invite them to meet with you for a personal 360 review.  What would they say about you for a personal recommendation?  What are you like when you’re at a social event? Write everything down including the negative feedback.  Use this information as a guide to what you’re great at and where you need to close the gap.  Now, just extract the information about what makes you a standout – your social ease, your willingness to help, your amazing courage and put that on a separate piece of paper that you will scotch tape to the inside of your medicine cabinet.  Every morning and evening, look at the list of attributes and memorize them so it becomes your “inner speak.”  By listening to those self-affirming comments day after day, you will be able to do the tough work of asking people to give you an assist or an introduction so you can move ahead, well-oiled for your trajectory.

4) In my last review I was lauded for my excellent skills but not for my attitude.  Why is attitude so important? After 50, you’ve got to be extraordinary, not ordinary in every possible way.  In this anemic economy, employers have the luxury of only choosing people with a stellar attitude, people who groove on their life and make work a blast.  When the late director Sydney Pollack filmed a documentary about architect Frank Gehry, every client said the same thing:  He was fun to be with.  He was a joy to work with.  His energy and excitement for the project was energizing.  Gehry is still working and still winning new projects and while his work is sensational, he also has a reputation for breathing oxygen into the air and not sucking it out  A fabulous attitude will shave 10 years off your life.  Guaranteed.

5) I’m in my mid-50s but I think I have one more career inside of me.  Will anyone give me the opportunity? People don’t give opportunities.  We make opportunities happen by using every tool at our disposal to get the word out that we’re ready to try something new.  First, the packaging:  Do you look like a luxury product?  Are you polished and put together?  Are your manners superb and do you observe the secret code of cell phone usage? (Do not answer it when you’re speaking with someone). Is your narrative ready?  Do you know what you’re looking for and can you tell someone that in three sentences or less?  You must know what you’re interested in.  You’re in your mid-50s.  This is not about your potential.  This is about your skills and mastery of material.  Make phone calls, send emails, set up lunches or coffees with the most influential people you know.  Do not expect them to get you a job but ask them if they would know someone for you to call.  Are your social media skills up to par?  Again, I emphasize that since most companies expect their employees to use Twitter and Facebook to burnish the company’s reputation.  Do you have stellar references that can emphasize your business acumen and your social adeptness?  This reinvention can only take place if you’re gung-ho about you, who you are and what you’ve done.  Be proud of your accomplishments, relish your successes and don’t be wary of taking a risk.  If you don’t succeed, try again.  Remember, failure may feel like you’re being tossed from an airplane but you’re really only two inches from the ground.  www.essentialsoffabulous.com.

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