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Restarting your career at 50 (or older)

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BY TONY DOLLE

Restarting your career is always challenging — and at least a little stressful — but this is especially true when at 50 you find yourself embarking on a new path.
Job loss heads the list of reasons, but there are many, many others factors to force you to restart your career. Sure, you were once the belle of the ball in your industry, but now you are just another job seeker. Only this time, you are at the twilight of your career, not the beginning or middle.
While writing this story, I did some research, asked a lot of questions and several themes kept cropping up. Here’s what I found and I hope it helps you if you find yourself in the unenviable position of having to restart your career at age 50 or older.
What’s in your wake?
Just about every story I read on this subject and every piece of information and advice I found recognizes we are in the midst of a workplace cultural revolution. If you are 50 or older and are looking for a job, the need to focus on “here’s-how-I-made-a-difference” stories and the answer to “What business problem(s) do/have I solve(d)?” is mandatory. Yes, you read that right — mandatory.
Experts on this subject say focusing on the answers to those questions is far more important and carries much more weight on your resume than 20 or more years of devoted service to a blue chip employer.
Rather than list on your resume the several positions you held with one or two prominent employers, list how you solved problems for those employers and how your working there made a difference in the companies’ successes.
Create a branding statement
I spoke with a couple of headhunters who told me they tell their clients to come up with branding statements that tell people “what you do on the job” and why you are different from other people who do the same thing. Here’s an example: “Marketing communications, digital content, public & media relations that challenges the status quo.”
Here’s another one: “I make little brands bigger via nimble, grassroots public relations” or how about this one: “As a call venture manager, I put my clients first, just behind employees.”
Tell your story
Since I found this suggestion online in a story without an author,I can’t take credit for it, but its great advice.
“Fifty-plus professionals have years of experience and dozens of stories to relate, but a laundry list of job titles and employer names won’t make anyone’s heart beat faster. Look for the story arc in your own career and bring it home to employers and clients in a powerful résumé summary: ‘I dug for dinosaur bones in the backyard as a kid and followed that love of detection to become a library science pro who still gets excited about digging up essential information.’ Litanies of jobs held are boring and powerless. Notice and articulate your storyline instead.”
Add your voice to your resume
One of the best things about researching this story is it forced me to re-think my own resume and begin revamping it. Out went the tired old boilerplate statements (“Results-orient professional”)and (“Decision-making, Know-how and P&L responsibility) and in their place went “stories” much like I would tell during a face-to-face interview.
Here’s an example I found: “I began in accounting before realizing my problem-solving bent would come in handy in sales” is far more powerful than “seasoned sales manager with multi-industry experience.”
Get technical, digital and online
There are more than 250 online social and business networking outlets. LinkedIn was by far the first choice of nearly every expert I researched and those I spoke with when it comes to connecting online for business and job search purposes. If you aren’t there, get there.
It takes about 30 minutes to fill out the profile (you’ll need a photo, too). If you don’t understand or think you aren’t savvy enough to utilize this major league online networking success tool,read this book: “The Power Formula for LinkedIn Success. Kick-start Your Business, Brand and Job Search,” by Wayne Breitbarth. It will teach you everything you need to know to get started and be successful using LinkedIn.
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and a host of others can help further your cause. But be aware that HR managers and hiring managers nearly always look at your Facebook page and your Twitter account to find out more about you. Take care in what you post and tweet. It could come back to haunt you. A post or tweet as simple as “I can’t wait for this day to end” has resulted in more than one person being told to find work elsewhere.
Sharpen your look
OK, there’s no good way to say this, so let’s cut to the chase. You’ve been sedentary too long and it is starting to show. One too many desserts and lack of exercise have you frowning when you step on the scale. On top of that, everyone can stand a style update now and then.
If you are in a “visual rut” (I stole that phrase from a story I read online), do yourself a favor and get yourself a new haircut, try some new colors or better yet, hire a style consultant (in our family that’s my 28-year-old daughter) to help ensure you present yourself as sharply as possible.
Network in person
Attending local and regional networking events is mandatory. If there is a monthly meeting with a media group and you get invited, make sure you are there. Building your contacts at events is just as important. It will also help your reputation as a writer, photographer, public relations guru – you name it.
If you can find the time to attend an event each week, you’ll increase your chances of landing a job much more quickly than if you stayed home.
In the public relations field where I’ve worked for many, many years, there is a Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) chapter is most metro areas. Contact a local public relations professional at any major company in your nearest metro area and chances are they are a PRSA member or know someone who is.
It’s the same with photographers, writers, book authors, computer wizards and other communications professionals. They all hold networking events regularly and are happy to have new members.
Those of us who are 50 and older have a wealth of work and life experience almost any business could use to its advantage. Its up to us to find ways to convince those businesses we are the asset they have been looking for to move them to the next level. The information above is just a beginning. Modify it to fit your situation. Restart your career and don’t look back.

Tony Dolle is the executive vice president of Windward Communications, a marketing communications firm with clients in multiple industries, including the outdoors. He is also a past president in OWAA and a past president with the Tennessee Outdoor Writers Association, as well as a past president with the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers.
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