Ages and Stages in Your Career Life

I had the good fortune to be interviewed recently by Teresa Bryan Peneguy, an editor with the Wisconsin State Journal.  The subsequent article “Ages, stages are factors in education, career” was published in the newspaper on 12.10.12.  It was at the back of the Sports section under the heading “Education for Life” and I thought it might be helpful to share it with you.  Here it is in full:

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women are merely players; they have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages.”  –William Shakespeare  

The average American now works close to 50 years.  That’s a heck of a long time to do something you detest.  Luckily, you don’t have to.  Even in today’s economy and job market, you don’t have to feel trapped at a job that makes you want to run screaming for the exit.  Nor do you have to feel hopeless if your career is threatened by changes in technology and society.

Whatever stage of life you’re in – whether you’re new to the workforce or a seasoned worker – you have options in education and occupation.  “You just have to find out what you really want to do, know what your talents and gifts are, and figure out who needs what you have to offer,” says Madison-based career life coach Dee Relyea.

Your 20s

Although some people are questioning whether or not college still offers a good ROI, labor force data still reveals that the college educated do earn more than their peers without degrees, and the higher the education attained, the higher one’s earnings over a lifetime.  The times of spending seven years in college for a degree in Medieval Literature may be gone, but college is still a smart choice as long as one’s chosen career path requires a college degree.

An awesome thing about being in your 20’s is that you may have great flexibility at this stage of life.  Relyea talks about Sally, who attended college in Minnesota and earned a liberal arts degree.  After she returned to her home state of WI, she went to work in an off, “which didn’t suit her,” said Relyea.

Because she had a roommate, which lowered her living expenses, she had some wiggle-room in terms of her salary needs.  So she worked part time in retail and part time providing marketing for a martial arts school.  “She began trying on different workplaces,” says Relyea.  “She discovered she really liked social media, and since she had no need for a steady paycheck, she decided to do that (and be a freelance writer) full-time.”  Since all of her work was done via computer, she was able to live anywhere – so she moved to Denver.  It was the perfect scenario for Sally.

Your 30s

Another client of Relyea’s; Bob, got a computer science degree, went to work at Epic, where he had “no trouble getting his foot through the door.”  He loved his job, until his position changed and he was required to travel frequently.  This was a problem because he had dogs, “and he was miserable with the travel aspect of his job.”  Bob realized that his favorite thing was teaching computer skills to other people, so he stared a home business doing that.  He needed to earn a little more, so he picked up a part time job at the Apple store.  (Addendum to this story from Dee: “which evolved into a full time career and where, incidentally, he met the love of his life and is not only fully engaged in his work, he is engaged to be married!”  The universe works in wondrous ways…)

Your 40s

Betsy had a high-end marketing job at a Fortune 500 company.  As technology advanced and Betsy was required to carry a smart phone, “she found she had no respite from the office whatsoever,” says Relyea.  Betsy was a single mom with two adolescents, and she was working 70 hours a week.  Then she heard the company was going to be bought out.  “She came to me to create an exit strategy,” says Relyea.

Betsy completed a career assessment (the MBTI) which revealed her natural personality preferences and transferable skills.  She discovered she wanted to teach.  She had a master’s degree in marketing, but she needed to go back to school for a teaching degree.  When she was laid off, she got a severance package – which gave her the time (and the money) to get the education she needed.  “She was prepared and thrilled when she got that pink slip,” says Relyea.  Today, Betsy is a high school teacher and loves what she does.

Your 50s and 60s

In middle age, many people find themselves discontented with unfulfilling jobs.  “They want to do something they are passionate about,” says Relyea.  “Sometimes they have been downsized, and (sometimes) they want to respond to an inner calling.” 

You have a right to enjoy what you do for a living, says Relyea. “It’s really not a luxury,” she says.  “We don’t have much time on this earth.  You shouldn’t have to do something you don’t like.”  Often, people in this age range have “golden handcuffs” – they’re held hostage by a big house or a fancy car or expensive recreation.  “But you can choose to downsize your standard of living,” she says.  “People have successfully done that to find more fulfilling work.  A lot of people in their 50s freelance or consult, and work part-time in retail (or whatever) to make ends meet.  Multiple streams of income are the way to go.”

Relyea has answers for any questions you may ask.  For example, what if you want to start a home business but you need health insurance?  “You do have options,” she says.  “If you have a spouse, you may get it through them.  Umbrella group policies are available:  the Chamber of Commerce may offer insurance as do almost all professional associations.  You might be able to get COBRA to tide you over until insurance is easier to purchase through the Affordable Care Act.  You can find a way to do what you have to do.”

The bottom line is that you do have choices.  There are many paths available: just decide which one you want to take.  “I’ve seen some people achieve some amazing things,” says Relyea.  

I’d love to hear stories of your career experiences.  Please comment below.    —Dee


And the winner is…

The $100 Startup winner

I met Janis when she attended my “1st Steps for Starting a Business” class last month.  She is a fine art photographer and has been self employed for over 20 years.  Her photographs have been purchased by health organizations for placement in hospitals and clinics and provide wonderful uplifting images of nature.

Four years ago, she became interested in social media and how it could help her promote her business. Janis, who holds an Masters in Fine Arts, recently completed the Social Media Certificate program at Madison College.  She wants to assist other creatives to ramp up their entrepreneurial efforts by having a web presence and participating in social media marketing. 

She told me that her mission is to help others expand their artistic vision by reaching more people using the internet.  Using the Springboard for the Arts in St. Paul as a model, Janis decided launched a social media consulting business.  She assists artists, art organizations, small business owners and nonprofits to find marketing solutions using the internet.  Check out her website and her beautiful photos.  

Janis suggests that social media can “transform your business”.  She states; “Here you are , exploding with this fantastic, brilliant creative idea that you want the world to know about and beat a path to your door.  How can you possibly spend time on marketing and turn your idea into an art form at the same time?  The answer is to use social media to get the word out.  Those people who are listening, are following you, are your supporters and will buy your product.”

I asked her to give some specific benefits to using social media and she shared the following:

  1. Increases traffic to your website
  2. Improves your search engine optimization (SEO).  Better SEO = being found = more sales.  93% of all purchasing decisions start with an online search.
  3. Amplifies your message through word of mouth.  
  4. Communicates with and engages your fans.  Suggested channels:  Facebook, Twitter, Blogging, YouTube
  5. Spreads your content beyond your locality.  You have the potential to attract potential customers world wide!
Whether you are thinking about starting a business, wanting to expand your marketing or just want to share your latest pictures with others, social media can maximize your efforts!  Janis would be happy to be of service.  Please contact her for a complimentary consultation. 
Oh, and if you haven’t already done so, get your hands on The $100 Startup!



The $100 Startup, Self Employment on a Shoestring

$100 Startup with Chris Guillebeau

Me and Chris Guillebeau

I recently had the good fortune not only to find a great book for entrepreneurs, but to meet the author – the inspiring Chris Guillebeau. In case you’ve never heard of Chris, he has a blog called the Art of Nonconformity, runs a national event called the World Domination Summit, and offers unconventional guides  to traveling, freelancing, making money with your art and more.

I just finished reading his new book, “The $100 Startup,”  and I have to tell you, it’s terrific!  As the instructor of the “First Steps for Starting a Business” course at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Small Business Development Center, I constantly come across people with great ideas who feel held back by a lack of capital and minimal online skills.

This book shows you how to turn an idea into an enterprise and create a good income by doing so. Chris provides you with a step-by-step process to start up a small business utilizing the power of social media, relationship marketing, and online tools. 

Sprinkled with humorous illustrations, inspiring quotes and success stories, this book is a fun read.  Each chapter concludes with a summary  of key points which I found to be helpful.  In addition, the author generously provides downloadable worksheets from his website, to support readers on their entrepreneurial journey.

It was great to meet Chris at the book signing in Milwaukee.  He’s the real deal!  Sincere, humble and charged with purpose, he has “walked the walk” and turned his own passion for traveling and writing into an incredibly successful business.  His words positively impact not just entrepreneurial wannabes, but everyone who is seeking an alternative to the 8 to late full time job. 

I will be giving away a signed copy of “the $100 Startup” to one lucky reader on July 1, 2012. There are several ways to enter, and I will choose one entry at random (via Rafflecopter) at the end of the giveaway. You can do each of the things below once for additional chances (all are evenly weighted). 

With Chris’ permission, I’m creating and will be teaching a 3 session mini-course at the UW-Madison in Oct. based on his book.  Check out his website, enter the giveaway, and let me know what you think of the book once you’ve read it!  





Use Linked In and See Your Career Opportunities Blossom

I participated inTree with pink blossoms a webinar last week; Linked In Insider Secrets and it was an interesting perspective on the job search process.  The presenter, Greig Wells, provided some great tips on enhancing your marketability to potential employers by utilizing social media.  You don’t need to be a job hunter to appreciate the following tips for leveraging Linked In as I think they work equally well for entrepreneurs, freelancers, and the self employed.

Create a strong LI profile.  Think about why you are on Linked In.  Are you looking for a career change, trying to attract customers or clients, or are you just creating a network of colleagues and potential collaborators?  If you are in the job market, you want to be sure your profile includes key words commonly found in your ideal position description.  Demonstrate your abilities and highlight your accomplishments as your profile is like a mini-resume. Do put that you are open to career opportunities under the contact settings unless you are concerned that your current employer may see it as a red flag in which case, indicate you are open to “expertise requests”. Be sure to get your profile to 100% completeness by adding a picture, your education, specialties and recommendations.

Build your network. When you send emails to people you’d like to add to your network be sure to personalize your request and remind the person how you know one another.  LI offers to search you email address book and send a generic request to all.  It sounds like the easiest way to gather a network but there is the quality vs quantity issue.  There is some debate over whether to ask to link to everyone or just people you have some personal connection to. Linked In Open Networkers (LIONs) for instance, link to anyone who asks which is how they have those prodigious numbers!  I think it is more productive to approach individuals who are well known in your field and have a large network.  You are more attractive to recruiters if it appears that you are connected to leaders in your industry.  Additionally, you are much more likely to show up on recruiters’ searches if you have 500+ connections.

Join and participate in Groups. If you have been out of the workforce for a while, creating a group can be a good way to fill your gap in employment.  Greig shared an example of a marketing professional who started his own association on Linked in and subsequently listed his role there as Vice President under his work experience. Another advantage to being in groups include meeting new people with similar interests, learning from what others share in the discussions, and enlarging your sphere of influence though your contributions.

In summary, if you want to be found on Linked In, you need to be perceived as having expertise, providing value to others, and being well connected.  If you’d like more information on using Linked in and other social media resources for finding a job, I recommend this book:  How to Find a Job on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and other Social Networks by Brad and Debra Schepp.