Career Disaster Area
I am working with two clients who are 65 years of age and they are figuratively living in a “Career Disaster Area.”
The career world where they lived for so many years has been hit by a massive earthquake. They truly are living in a “Career Disaster Area.”
Can they recover?
Will they ever go back to the good old days?
Let me tell you their stories but their names and identities have been altered to protect the innocent. You may see yourself in their stories.
Marketing Career Disaster Area
Sally was the consummate marketing professional. She had worked in a variety of different industries over the span of her career. At different times in her career, she worked freelance and she worked for some major agencies.
Like many of her peers, she took a hit in the great recession and then her spouse passed away suddenly. Sally decided to move across the country to be closer to her children. Now she is trying to reestablish herself in a new city, where the culture and job market are very young and vibrant.
Sally is 65 years of age.
Sally is taking courses in social media and digital marketing but the skills required to be a productive marketing professional have made tectonic shifts in the direction of technology and analytics. For Sally, this is really a “Career Disaster Area.”
Tectonic Shifts in Marketing Skills
I spent much of the 1990’s working either in IBM marketing or in an executive briefing center, which was a marketing and sales support function. We produced presentations, marketing collateral, and web content that supported the sale of IBM hardware and software. That world no longer exists.
I am currently working on launching the Career Pivot online community. I am learning about Facebook marketing, Google adwords, re-marketing and pixeling strategies, ad networks, and other digital marketing strategies. When I made the decision to leave the world of technology marketing 15+ years ago, I left a place that looks NOTHING like it does today.
Can Sally shift into this new technological marketing world that is populated with a very young workforce at the age of 65?
It is possible but not probable.
The marketing world where she thrived for so many years is now a ‘Career Disaster Area” for her.
Sally is having to shift her expectations, likely moving to freelance writing, and possibly non-profit community – where her skills are still valued.
Technology Hardware Career Disaster Area
Larry, a 65 year old engineer, has worked for some of the top companies that designed and manufactured leading computer hardware throughout his career. During this time, Larry was a program and project manager for huge, multi-national and multi-company development projects. The projects had huge scope and complexity.
That world is disappearing fast. Companies like HP, IBM, and others have seen their hardware businesses almost completely disappear. Companies like Sun and DEC have been wiped off the map in a very short period of time.
There are many like Larry that built their careers around designing large and ever-growing, complex hardware systems. The hardware market has become commoditized in the last 10 years. The iPhone sitting next to me has more computing power and function than huge computers of just a few years ago.
There have been tectonic shifts such that the market now demands software, mobile app development, cloud computing software infrastructure and similar skills.
Last week, Larry interviewed with for a position with one of the leading cloud infrastructure companies for a program management job. The first thing they asked him to do is take a coding test.
WHAT!! A coding test??? This is a program management job!
I am like Larry. I have not written a line of code in over 15 years. Could I pass a coding test? Probably not.
Does it make sense that they want to see if he can code? Probably not; but that is not the world we live in now.
They Moved My Cheese!
The complex world that Larry excelled and thrived in moved from hardware to software very fast. In fact, at warp speed. They moved Larry’s cheese and he did not even realize it.
The career space that Larry and his peers lived in for so many years now looks like a “Career Disaster Area.”
Like Sally, he could retool; but can he do it fast enough and be accepted in a very young fast-moving market?
It is possible but not probable.
It is now time to shift expectations and direction.
For More: Larry Bird, Winners, Talents and Skills
Rebuilding After a Disaster
We have seen it over and over again. People can and do rebuild after a disaster. Sometimes, people have to walk away from the disaster scene because it is too risky to stay.
The question for both Sally and Larry is do they rebuild on their existing skill foundations or do they move on to something different? Neither of them want to stop working at the age of 65. They both have lots of working years ahead of them and the last thing either want to do is retire.
Does this sound familiar? Has this happened to you?
What did you do?