Questions for Marc Miller, author, Repurpose Your Career
1. In a world where employers want experience, how does a person in their 40s or beyond make their case for a new career?
It is all about your ability to demonstrate that you know your stuff. You will need to create something that demonstrates your skills and knowledge. This might be building an online portfolio on Pinterest or SlideShare, creating a blog, speaking at the local Rotary club and videoing the event, or writing a book. A lot of people in midlife feel embarrassed that they don’t have the specific skills listed on the job description but they have to make the case that their experience translates well, possibly even better, than what employers are looking for.
2. What are some of the biggest obstacles people in midlife face in transforming their careers?
It boils down to two things: The first is fear—fear of failure, fear about finances, fear of what other people will think. We have been programmed since childhood that failure is a sign of weakness rather than a learning opportunity. We make up stories on what could, should or would happen if change careers. All of these stories are made up in our head and inhibit progress.
The second biggest obstacle is that we don’t know who we really are or what to do next. That’s why I always include a lot of introspection in this process. People will tell you “I don’t know what I want to do next” and so they wind up doing nothing.
3. What’s the most important step people in the second half of life should take to find a better career?
Figure out who the hell they are. What makes them happy? What makes them tick? When have you been happy? When have you enjoyed work?
4. What’s the biggest mistake people make in changing careers?
Not doing their homework. Not dealing from realities. That’s what I did when I went off to teach high school, I didn’t do my homework I learned a hard lesson. I had one client who was a project manager sitting behind a desk for 20 years who decided he wanted to be butcher. So he went to classes, took a seasonal job in a meat department. He found out he didn’t want to be on his feet all day, it was a really hard, physical job. He did his homework before making a career transition that would not have worked out.
5. One chapter is on MSU Disorder. What is that?
Making Stuff Up, or you can substitute another word for stuff. People tend to create their own stories about what’s possible, what hiring manager or recruiters are thinking, what their bosses are thinking, and make bad decisions based on what they made up in their heads. In this book I deal not only with people looking to change their careers but also people looking to change their experience of their current jobs. MSU Disorder can lead to misery and it doesn’t have to.
6. What is the most surprising thing you’ve discovered between your first and second books?
The most surprising thing is how fast things are changing and how adaptable people are when they decide to be. Every pivot they make teaches them to adapt and helps them grow and be ready for the next one. Since things continue to change, that’s immensely important.
7. What were your best and worst career moves?
The best move I ever made was leaving IBM and going to a successful startup. It got me out of the monolithic organization where I worked for many years and into a smaller one. It taught me a lot about what I really liked.
That worst was switching from an IBM sales organization to being an IBM IT consultant. I assumed I was so technical I could go back to that, but I was sitting in a cubicle eight hours a day writing technical specifications and I hated it.
8. Tell me about your nearly fatal bicycle accident. How did it change your perspective?
I was riding my bicycle and I collided head-on with a 96 Toyota Corolla. Our combined speeds were 50 miles per hour. I totaled the car with my body. I was 46 and survival rates at those speeds are 10 percent, but I was up, walking on crutches in a matter of days. I had no business living through that. That made me really look at “What am I doing with my life?” Since then I’ve always done things to help people.
9. What piece of advice in your book do you think readers will have the most difficulty with?10. Is the information in your book only applicable to people in the Second Half of Life?
No. Most of the practical steps to finding a career run across generations. The part that applies more directly to midlifers is the introspection part. They have a lot more career and life experience to draw from than younger people. They have more previous choices to examine to help make future choices.