Archive for the ‘Boomers’ Category

Career Management Part 6

February 1, 2018

#6 The challenges and obstacles in career management/planning

No one ever said this would be easy

Unless you live on Mars, we have witnessed the change from an industrial economy to an information economy. As organizations become flatter, the corporate ladder is being replaced by the matrix.

A solid career plan works very nicely in matrix. But the bulk of the success is powered by you.

Developing a career plan is an effective way to keep learning and developing.  You will look forward to going to work.  The plan will define the steps to improve your skills (both hard and soft).  learn how to better engage common roadblocks such as age or a lack of experience.  As a coach, I have heard a common refrain from my senior clients” I am just too old”.  The other common woe is “I don’t have the right experience”.

So, what about age?

There is some good news here.  You can start a plan at any age.  including making a horizontal shift after you’ve hit middle age. Older employees bring knowledge and experience, but do not embrace the new technologies.  Automation is pervasive in every aspect in a company.  Can the senior employee help integrate automation (yes robots) into company’s systems and infrastructure? You bet. All organizations have only two needs: revenue and productivity.  Think beyond the job descriptions.  Ask yourself (and the interviewer), how does this job relate to the company’s basic needs.  Even if you are employed, “how does your job impact those two needs”?  I often ask my clients: “What kind of problems do you want to solve?” The answer to that question can help in creating your career plan.

Knowledge is Power

Career paths require additional knowledge such as industry trends, the latest in technology, current best practices and thinking. Participating in LinkedIn discussion groups who actively talk about what’s happening both now in your current position but also what is happening in your target career area. What else do you need to meet your career target?  Consider additional education, obtaining selected experience or exposure, specialized training.  Talk to people who are doing your targeted job now.  Ask them for their advice.  Asking for advice is in of the greatest compliments you can pay anyone.


“I hate company politics” a client would exclaim.  Or better yet: “I am not politics kind of person”.  My response is always: “Do you want to learn how to be more effective dealing with politics?  And I wait for an answer.  Gone are the days when an employee was measured only on results.  Many interpret that networking is succumbing to back stabbing politics.  Create your own reality if you must. But, career management does rely on who you know.  And those you know need to be stakeholders in your success and be totally supportive of your career planning efforts. Start building your network both inside and outside your organization.  Figure out who is in your alliance and who is not. You will probably make the closest connections with those you share your values. Through social media like Twitter and LinkedIn, follow the key leaders who are the players and who you admire.  They may be in a discussion group in which you are member.  Ask them if you can continue a group discussion offline.  The first rule of networking begs the question: “What do you have in common?”

Changes and you.

There is an old joke:  “Change is good.  You go first”.

Yes, all of us resist change to some degree or other. It is uncomfortable and distracting. But it is important to embrace change.  Career planning/management can help you minimize the rocking of your boat.  With every big change, such as downsizing, acquisition, reorganization etc., there is opportunity.  The biggest reason for this is that most employees go into fear mode.  Many simply do not know what will happen next. It was the author HP Lovecraft who said: “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown”.  With a solid career plan, you have the strengths and wherewithal to know where you are going. You are running towards a goal when the change was announced. Because of the change, you may be able to capitalize on an opportunity at your current company.

You know where the industry is now and where it is going. And you can reasonable predict where your organization fit and what lies ahead.

With a solid career plan, you are prepared for anything.

You don’t have the experience

If the term, “lack of experience” is thrown at you as an obstacle, it means that you don’t have the hard skills or a track record.  For example, we hear a lot about the importance of specialized “hands on” technical skills.  Keep in mind that most employers tend to over hire when it comes to skills.  They discount anyone who is willing to learn – especially if they have the right attitude (read work ethic) and share values with the corporate culture.  You can certainly gain experience in volunteering for programs both in your company and outside.  Keep a record of when you were a quick student learning something new.  Be sure that this quality is known in your network. Join a Meetup group where you can learn a new technology or process and network with people.

We can list other challenges to career planning/management as well:  first time managers leading former peers and transitioning from a command and control style to more of influencing and building alliances are just two.

Your development as a professional will be your “holy grail”.  You know who you are and where you are going.  Most organizations value a career plan.  This is one of the main ways they use to retain top talent.  By developing it.

You will fit in nicely — with you and them.

Up next: #7 The Seven Phases of a Career — which phase are you in now?

Career Management Part 4

February 1, 2018



4 –The Pros Cons of Career Change

I expect that may readers will most likely go to this page first.  It’s recommended that you read all of the chapters.

We always have choices.  Some are calculated carefully to minimize risk.  Still others require some risk.  All things are possible.  However, very few of us make any decision which is based on a possibility of success or failure. It is up to each one of us to assess the probability of an outcome.  And of course, nothing is guaranteed in life.  But you already knew that.

But let’s skim down and see if it is worth it for you.  In my view, these are the big considerations.

Pros of making a career change:
1.) Ability to grow. Say goodbye to mundane tasks. Both entrepreneurship and switching to a different industry will have you pushing new limits by figuring things out, expanding your knowledge and gaining fresh experience.
2.) Focus on strengths and passion. Imagine how great it would feel to spotlight your best abilities and favorite projects day in and day out.
3.) Always working at your best. When you’re fascinated by your field of work, you’re more apt to stay on top of your industry and business altogether. Plus, you’re more prone to want to please your boss and not let her/him down, when the boss is YOU.
4.) Self-reflection. The realization of spending time at a job that is not fulfilling presents the opportunity for soul-searching and contemplating purpose, happiness and personal values.
5.) Sense of control. Simply taking charge and making the decision to change careers can build up confidence, positivity, excitement and ambition.

Cons of making a career change:
1) Financial insecurity. Starting a new business requires investment and also presents the likeliness of an unstable income. Changing industries in anticipation of working for another company might introduce a period of unemployment, paying for additional education and starting with an entry-level salary.
2) Trial & error. It’s important to consider a learning curve and delays when starting something new. Possible setbacks include time, strategy and finances.
3) Doing everything on your own. This one is more geared to those who are starting a small business with a limited budget. Business owners wear many hats and are compelled to learn about all aspects of their business.
4) Stress. Not that you’re not stressed at your current job. So, think of the pressure of completing day-to-day tasks in combination with the intensity of moving an entire company forward.
5) Higher stakes. There is more emotional investment when following your passion and therefore you might experience more worries both in business and personally.

All things are possible. So what is the probability of your success if you change careers? How risk averse are you?

In part 5, we will discuss a step by step process to career plan development.

Career Management Part 3

February 1, 2018

#3 Why is career management important?

When I was interviewing candidates as an executive search consultant, I was always impressed with those who had a strong sense of who they were both personally and professionally.  They were clear about realistic career goals. They comfortably responded to questions based on what they valued. They had an unmistakable confidence.  Many of them exhibited strong leadership skills.  And some were hired by a client but few were not.  Everyone was memorable.

If you want a “job” to pay the bills, there are plenty of opportunities out there for you.  In my view, a “job” means repetitive work, usually task oriented, and learning/development are not part of the equation.  It is important that you are passive and take what is given to you.  If you are looking for a “job”, then this column cannot help you.

There are many of us who want to keep learning, developing and contributing.  And we strive to enjoy doing our work as well.  We want certain things or events to occur throughout our life.  We have goals that we want to accomplish.

The goal of career management and planning is to produce the desired results that impact our lives.  It allows us to prepare and maintain a degree of control over the expected outcomes.

Career management means that you are the one that decides what you want to do in your professional life. You control where you work, and what you need to advance.  You have the power with a good career management firm.

In our professional lives, career management is a necessary tool to assist us in achieving both personal and professional goals.  With good career management, we can make the proper and timely decisions along the way with confidence.

There was a time in the not too distant past when I witnessed the middle manager waking up after about 6 or 7 years in their role.  They would say:” Gosh, I do not have my VP stripes yet.”  They would start scrambling to develop a career management program.  Sadly, in terms of a promotion, it was too late for a career management program.  It would have served them better to start a career management program the first day they were promoted to middle management.

In my executive career coach role, I hear the familiar refrain: “If I do good work in my current role, I will get promoted.”  No. It no longer works that way.  You have established yourself by the success of your current job.   People who have solid career management programs and a supporting career planning process have the edge when it comes to moving up.  They have communicated their plan to their organization.

So, what happens if your career management program does not align with the organization’s goals?  There is a fear that if this happens, the employee will be fired.  If the organization and the employee have started the career management program in a timely way (read early), this misalignment rarely happens.  But there is always the chance that the employee is going one way and the company is going the other. In this case, both parties need to first acknowledge the divergence.  The employee can assure the company that they will continue to perform in their current position.  The company needs acknowledge that they are unable (or unwilling) to support the employees career management program. They are not surprised over this predicament.  The organization realizes that every day, the employee becomes more and more a bad fit for their current role (like over qualified).  The advice to both is to move quickly to remedy the situation.  That is, the employee needs to seek a move to the outside (other company) to continue their management program.  The company must look at who is promotable via succession planning.  The wise incumbent who is moving on will have someone ready to step in.

So, we know what career management is and why it’s important.  So let’s get to the important part. Next  in Part Four, we discuss the steps for developing a career management plan.

Career Management Part 2

February 1, 2018

What is career management and career planning?

Throughout the decades, this meaning of this term has evolved.  Back say in the sixties and seventies, companies like IBM and Eastman Kodak were flying high and offered long term employment.  Your personal life was separate from your work life. Career management was usually defined as promotion to the next management level.  15-year career “plans” were common.  Understanding this “career game, playing it well and knowing your place” was key.   It was exclusive to the chosen few working in large companies.  There was a definitive career ladder with specific company generated rigid rules to climb it.  Politics were asthick as flies however. And people “passed over” for promotion usually did not seek employment elsewhere.  With “Personnel” in the pocket of management at the time, the unhappy employee did not find a sympathetic ear.  In defense of the Personnel Department, they had no perceived options to assist the disgruntled employee.  Career management was very frustrating and disempowering for many.  You could play the game and still lose with the company holding all the cards and you talking all the risk.  And so, why bother?  Just do the work.  Your career option was to keep doing what you do well in exchange for security.  Personal footnote:  My uncle and father both worked for Kodak. I heard the stories and some complaints.

So, let’s fast forward to today. As you probably surmise, the definition of career management has changed.  Of all the definitions of career management reviewed, I like Wikipedia’s the best:

Career management is the combination of structured planning and the active management choice of one’s own professional career. The outcome of successful career management should include personal fulfillment, work/life balance, goal achievement and financial security.

There are some key terms: “active choice”, “personal fulfillment”, “work/life balance”, and “financial security”.  These are critical to the individual managing their own career.

Let’s move to the next key term:  career planning.

This is a relatively new term that is different from career management.  It is a subset of career management.

For example, let’s say an individual sets a goal of becoming a sales manager.  They would develop a career plan that would meet that goal.

Let’s start with an axiom. The employer must focus on the best interests of the company. These interests are “profit and loss statement”. company growth, etc.  Today, even nonprofits are not immune to the principles of a “profit and loss statement”. These organizations are under increasing pressure to be “self-sustainable”.  That is, there is a growing need to “breakeven” – revenue/donations/grants cover the costs of running the organization.

Many employers will support you to manage your career if the career development and goals are line with company goals and objectives.

So, this is where you come in. Career planning is a subset of career management. Career planning applies the concepts of strategic planning to fully take charge of one’s professional future. Career planning supports career management goals (and hopefully the organization’s) in an ongoing process.

Let’s go back to the person who has the career management goal of becoming a sales manager.  Their career plan might include selected training, personal and other professional development areas that would help you attain their goal.

The key takeaway here?  You now know the difference career management and career planning. Unlike the past decades, you are entirely responsible for your own career management goals.

In the third article, we will discuss exactly why career management and career planning are important not just to you but also to the employer.  And yes, what happens when your goals do not align with your employer.

Managing Your Career – What Works

February 1, 2018

Career Management

#1 Introduction

In my 30+ years in the recruiting profession, I watched career management evolve. Since becoming a full-time coach (2000), I have paid closer attention to career issues facing the aspiring employee.

At the beginning, the big companies had “corporate ladders” you needed to climb.  Following the rules and the steps (read “career plan’) gave the employee a “shot” at being promoted.  Politics held sway.  Organizations also rewarded loyalty and dedication.  Long hours mattered if you were going to move up.  Stability and reliability were key measures. A person’s ability to master a single skill was highly prized.  Companies would use “golden handcuffs” to retain key employees.  I ran into this a recruiter.  Targeted candidates would often be extremely unhappy but were “locked in” and had few career options.  There were outlandish examples that have become legend.  One example comes to mind.  There was a chip designer who was so “irreplaceable” that he could live in Mexico all expenses paid plus his salary.  He just sent his designs whenever he was ready.

Over time, career management began to change.

Today, the corporate career ladder has gone the way of the dinosaur. The work environment changes very quickly.

Perhaps the term “war for talent” rings a bell. Companies are focusing on the best way to keep the “best people”.  More and more organizations are looking to develop the employee.  As a recruiter, there were candidates I approached who said no because they were in a succession plan to be promoted.  It was not about the money.

The biggest change I have observed over time is most of the burden of career management planning and development originates with the employee.  However, there are no guarantees to promotion by the organization.  Certification in a training program or getting an advanced degree such as an MBA does help.  The big proviso is that they help your career advancement.  A common question I receive at a speaking engagement is “Should I get an MBA?”  My standard response is a question: “What are your career goals? Does an MBA position you for your next move?”  Granted, it is my own count here but only one attendee who asked that question had a career plan or an idea of what they wanted to do with the degree. I don’t know about you, but in my view, education overall is too pricey today from a resource and time investment not to have an end goal.

Let’s look at this career planning and career management from another angle. An FYI, career planning is a subset of career management.  In the 1967 movie “The Graduate”, the one word of advice to Benjamin Braddock was “Plastics”.  It meant nothing to him because it was irrelevant.  The term meant nothing to me and other graduates searching for jobs at the time. Like Ben many of us were quite worried about our future but many of us knew that plastics was not it.

Today the one word is “relevance”.  We do not live in a vacuum. A resume that stands alone is merely a document until it clearly shows your relevant skills for a specific need/job description.  How relevant are your strengths and values to the needs of others?  Although this sounds harsh and cold.  Consider that each person you meet filters what you say with the questions: “Why should I care?  Do your words mean anything and do they matter to me?”  At the end of the day, you connect with people that matter to you and you matter to them.

The previous paragraph is relevant because your career management must matter to you first.  It starts with you.  Then you look at how to implement.  More organizations are asking “What do want to do?” They are moving beyond what you can do and certainly away from what you are supposed to do.

NEXT:  #2 We will go into greater detail with the definitions of career management and career planning.



Boomers: Rethink Seeking Full Time Jobs Working For Gen Xers.

March 16, 2016

Boomers: Rethink Seeking Full Time Jobs Working

By Randy Block


In my coaching practice, I often hear complaints from job seekers who are over 50 because they are not considered for a full-time position by a Gen Xer.

“I was fully qualified and it makes no sense” is the most common complaint.  “They simply don’t know how to hire” is another one.  “They told me that I was overqualified.” Other comments cannot be repeated.

To put some perspective on this phenomenon, here are some observations I have made, both as a coach and an executive recruiter:

  1. Thirty-somethings don’t want to hire their parents. It’s uncomfortable. Boomers have hired people from their own age demographic or their juniors for years. Would you have hired your dad or mom to work directly for you?
  2. Boomers also are considered a “flight risk.” Once the economy turns around, they probably will take a better job.  They will be viewed as someone who just used the company as a “half way house”.  And guess what?  They are a flight risk.
  3. Boomers want to be “led and not managed”. Boomers will follow a leader who influences but not directs as a manager.  In my coaching practice as well as my past recruiting experience, most thirty-something managers look for someone they can “manage.” In coaching sessions with young managers, I observed that their leadership skills typically lag behind their management skills.  Therefore they are clearly not a fit.
  4. The age antidiscrimination laws in this country have backfired.  If you hire someone for full-time work over 50, they can be hard to get rid of, even in an “at will” state like California. So why hire them in the first place?


  1. It’s common knowledge that medical premiums rise significantly at age 60.  The potential employer considers that a liability as well. It could be true that over 50 workers may also have more health issues than younger workers.

I have found that most young managers are open to getting help with business decisions and careers.  They appreciate being mentored, coached, or advised. They recognize the need, but look at it as a temporary or project-based opportunity. Young managers have hired me, for example, for three-month engagements and I am a “sixty something” boomer.

If you are a Boomer and still want to work with these “young lions and lionesses,” what can you do?

Here are six steps that you can take:

  1. Know thyself: What do you value?  All decisions (personal and professional) are based on values.  Relationships are based on shared values.  I believe that shared values make up most of what we call chemistry.
  2. Know thyself II: You have to be an expert in something.  There is something that only you can do.  Remember, you have specialized knowledge and/or experience.
  3. Develop your own personal brand:  People associate your name with something.  Find out what it is by calling five or six of your most trusted associates and ask them, “When you hear my name, what immediate impressions come up, both personally and professionally.”  Their answers may surprise you.
  4. Target your industry and market segment: Set up your own selection criteria (location, size of company, public or private, product or service, etc.)
  5. Select the top 15 organizations that interest you the most. Companies like to be chosen. They resent being blasted with unsolicited résumés.  Remember, you have to be as excited as they are about what they do.
  6. Network your way into top management:  This can be the toughest part.  You will need to be introduced. Networking is exchanging information.  It is not looking for a job or selling.  Keep in mind that all organizations have only two basic needs:  revenue and productivity.  This is what keeps any top management up at night.  If your brand can help them, they will seek your advice and counsel.

So the Gen Xers need your help. Now what?

The tough part is over. Your working relationship will most likely be either part- time or a short-term contract.  I have found this arrangement to be more comfortable between generations because there is a beginning and an end. A younger manager would have to be very shortsighted not to explore a working relationship with someone more experienced. You have a wealth of experience, and you can make a difference in their lives and careers.

If they don’t want your expertise, then there are plenty of others who do.


(c) 2016 Randy Block. All rights reserved.