Starting Over After 40
Likely, you have 15 or more years of work experience. You have developed your own personal work style. There is a network of people who would jump in to help you if needed. All of these things will help you reinvent yourself, but the real problem is knowing where to start.
Let me give you some tips to prepare yourself for starting over after 40.
What is Your Brand?
Have you thought about your personal brand? I love Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezo’s definition:
Your brand is what other people say about you when you are not in the room.
Your first tip for starting over after 40 is to ask for 3-5 phrases that describe you from:
- 3 people you know from your personal life
- 3 people you know from your work life
I can guarantee you that there will be something that surprises you. Doing this will also show you how your persona at work differs from your persona at home.
Are You Suffering from MSU Syndrome
When starting over after 40, many of us suffer from MSU syndrome. By the way, MSU stands for “Make Stuff Up.”
We all suffer from MSU syndrome from time to time, but we are particularly prone to suffer from it when we are making big changes in our lives.
A good example of this was a client who said to me:
My dream job is writing for the New York Times.
My response was:
How do you know what it’s like to work there?
I don’t know what it’s like to work there, but they write great stuff!
She was suffering from MSU syndrome. She was making assumptions that were not based on facts. Assumptions are very dangerous when making changes in career.
Talk to people who are doing the work you want to do when starting over after 40. Find out whether you are making assumptions that are not true.
Build Your Tribe
When starting over after 40, you will not do this alone. You will need a tribe to help you get over the sometimes difficult threshold.
What I mean by a tribe is the people in your network you can go to for a favor and actually expect it to be granted.
How big should your tribe be?
There actually is a science to this.
The number of relationships you can maintain is also known as the Dunbar Number. Evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar began a study of the Christmas-card-sending habits of the English and found that they sent on average 153.5 cards each year. The number of 150 has come up over and over in society. The Amish break up communities when they reach 150. Chimpanzee families reach a maximum of 150 …
Expect to have something under 150 people in your tribe. Your tribe should include:
- Connectors – Connectors are those who know a lot of people and enjoy making connections between them.
- Industry or Company Experts
Strategically create your network for career success.
Ask for Help
I am a guy. I do not like asking for directions, much less asking for other kinds of help.
The method I like to use when asking for help is to ask for A-I-R. (Advice, Insights and Recommendations).
A – Advice– When you ask for advice, it is a compliment. Rarely will anyone turn you down when you ask for their advice. In an e-mail to a hiring manager, you might ask for 30 minutes of his or her time to ask for advice. It could be about how to pursue a position at the company or to learn more about the company. The magic word is “advice!”
I – Insights– When you talk with the hiring manager ask for his or her insights into how the company functions, the culture, and management structure. You might ask them how they were hired or do they like their job. You will want to ask very open-ended questions. This is NOT ABOUT YOU.
R – Recommendations – This is the part that many people forget. Ask what should I do next? Is there anyone else you would recommend I talk with? Can you introduce me to anyone else within the organization?
Be prepared to ask for help. I know it has helped me throughout my 6 career changes.
The hardest part of starting over after 40 is…getting started!
Inertia is a powerful force. Do not let inertia keep you from making changes that will take you to a better place.
Sometimes you just have to follow the Nike saying “Just do it!”