The Mid-Career GPS Podcast

237: Navigating Age Bias and Building a Legacy in Mid-Career

April 02, 2024 John Neral Season 4
The Mid-Career GPS Podcast
237: Navigating Age Bias and Building a Legacy in Mid-Career
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

As I toast a significant birthday milestone this week, I'm revealing the often-unspoken realities of mid-career navigation and age bias. While illegal, it's likely that you will encounter various career situations where your age will be judged and valued. Additionally, you will face age bias at every stage in your career. But how you face it and communicate your value will make all the difference. 

In this episode, I'll share some strategies and tips to help you tackle the challenge of presenting your age as a wealth of experience as the asset it truly is. I'll be sharing insights on how to approach interviews with confidence, ensuring that your career's later years are as rewarding as possible. 

Age is just a number. And how you SHOW UP matters. 

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John Neral:

Hey there, I'm going to tell you a not-so-little secret. I've got a birthday this week and I'm turning 55. I believe birthdays should be celebrated and recognized at any age After all, in my case, you only get to turn 55 once and so let's celebrate it. And my birthday has got me thinking that, while I'm no longer in my early 50s and I have officially hit my mid-50s, what does that mean for me? My work, especially if I wasn't an entrepreneur as well as my legacy.

John Neral:

Mid-career has a very broad definition and in this episode I will walk you through what that latter part of your mid-career journey may look like, along with some tips and strategies to help you manage your mindset and where you could be paying a little more attention to the age conversation and, dare I say, bias. Let's get started. Hello, my friends, this is the Mid-Career GPS Podcast and I'm your host, John Neral. I help mid-career professionals find a job they love or love the job they have, using my proven four-step formula. Love or love the job they have, using my proven four-step formula. Today's topic is all about age and dealing with age bias on our mid-career journey. But before we get into that, I want to give you something for free, and that is an invitation to join my email community. It's a twice-weekly newsletter about leadership and careers delivered directly to your inbox. You'll be the first to be notified of special events and promotions. I've got something coming for April, but it's also a chance for you to get fed with useful and relevant information about your career journey to help you build your mid-career GPS. Now, to be a part of this, all you have to do is go to my website at https://johnneral. com. Click on the link to sign up. You can also check the show notes or the featured section of my LinkedIn.

John Neral:

All right, this is the Mid-Career GPS podcast, and as I get ready to turn 55 this week, I'm going to offer to you that that mid-career definition can be really, really broad. According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, they define that mid-career can be as early as 10 years after you graduate, and they don't specify whether high school or college. So can you imagine being 28 or 27 years old and identifying as a mid-career professional? The likelihood is that mid-career can expand well into your 50s, depending upon what your runway looks like, for how long you plan on working.

John Neral:

And I want to remind you, there is no shame in how old we are right, my mindset and beliefs, and especially because of my health history, where I had a cancer scare in my mid-30s. I am very grateful to be standing here in front of this mic with you today, and because of that, I embrace my age. That doesn't mean that I don't sometimes make old man noises or I have a few more aches and pains than what I did when I was younger. But the reality is our age and our life is a gift, and so I stand here before you today to remind you once again that helping mid-career professionals is so important to me. Because I remember, when I was in my late 30s and early 40s, making a huge career transition and leaving the security of a tenured teaching position in a wonderful district, that the mid-career journey is designed and intended to be dynamic. It is to be challenging and it is to be one that, when we navigate it with grace and intentionality, that we get to lean into doing our greatest and best work than we have ever done in our career our greatest and best work than we have ever done in our career and it sets us up on that path that leads to our legacy and, ultimately, our retirement.

John Neral:

But here's the thing when you start getting older and if you have been the victim of a layoff or you have lost your job or you're unhappy where you are and you are trying to navigate to a new position in a new company, you will start to worry about being discriminated against or biased because of your age. And so I'm often asked from people, especially at mid-career, when should they start worrying about age bias? And my answer to them is you have worried about age bias your entire career. It's just the conversation is different when you're newly graduated and fresh out of college, because younger professionals are oftentimes overlooked because they don't have the experience and because they're perceived to be too young. The same thing is true for older professionals where, sadly, they may be overlooked by a hiring manager or a company because they are perceived to be too old or not going to have enough time in the job before they retire. So I want to offer you that age bias absolutely. It is unfair, it shouldn't happen, it is illegal. But age bias it works both ways. So it can work when you're younger, it can work when you're older. There is kind of that sweet spot at mid-career where it doesn't happen as much, but as you get older and you progress through your career, it is understandable to think about it.

John Neral:

So what can you do to limit any kind of potential age bias? There are a few things you can do, and I'm going to call out two particular tips here that you can do immediately on your LinkedIn profile. That will help you. Immediately on your LinkedIn profile. That will help you. So the first thing is it is in my professional opinion and expertise please, please, please, remove your graduation dates from the education section on your LinkedIn profile. Now, as you're hearing me say this, if you're sitting at your desk or your phone, you're probably gonna scroll up your LinkedIn profile to check, but here's why I recommend you do that. Our brains are extremely intricate machines.

John Neral:

So when they say that you've graduated, say, in 1990, you're going to go okay. Well, if you graduated college in 1990, you were 22,. We're 34 years late, probably 56. Okay, I graduated in 91,. But make the math easier. Take the graduation dates off. You've got the degree. That's all that matters. Secondly, you do not have to include your entire work history on your LinkedIn profile. It is strongly recommended that you only include the last 10 to 15 years of your employment history on your LinkedIn One, because that's your most relevant work. And secondly, while it is absolutely important job you being a server at TGI Fridays or Applebee's that experience probably isn't relevant to your current job right now. So take it off. You don't have to tell your entire life story, okay?

John Neral:

By the way, I never had a job where I waited tables. I've always wanted to do it and, admittedly, this might be something I do later on in my life. I've never done that. My mom was a server and she would often tell stories about that part of her work and I have tremendous respect for food servers. I actually spent a large portion of my college days, especially during the summers, working for a convenience store. I used to work for Wawa and so if you're familiar with Wawa, if you happen to live on the East Coast, I loved working for them, so shout out to anybody that works at Wawa or owns a franchise of Wawa. I totally appreciate that, but I love that customer service aspect. Customer services are great skills. They just may not be as relevant to you and what you're doing right now.

John Neral:

Another question I'm often asked is how can I stay relevant and valuable as a professional to my current employer or future employer as I get older. Well, to help you stay relevant and valuable, the first thing is you have to know why you are valuable. I often walk my clients through an exercise called building their unique professional value statement who you help and what you help them do specifically, and why that work is important to you. So you have to know your value. Additionally, you want to be able to keep your finger on the pulse of what is happening inside your organization to manage your brand and your reputation. If you get wind that there's layoffs coming or there might be a reorg, you want to make sure you land in the best way possible for you in your career at that moment. So you must manage your brand and your reputation. Additionally, to help you stay relevant and valuable, get really clear on what is your legacy.

John Neral:

What do you want to be known for? Why is right now where you get to do your best work? And if it's not, how do you get there? What do you want to be known for? And ultimately, you have a runway. Your runway is determined typically by when you want to, and are financially able to, retire. But here's the thing I want to offer you, and at the time of the recording today, which is March 27th, is when I'm recording this.

John Neral:

So we got news today that someone from New Jersey hit the 1.1 mega millions jackpot. All right, look, I'm going to tell you right now. If I hit a jackpot for $1.1 billion, I'm going to shut down my business. I'm going to go do something else. I may morph my business into something else, but the likelihood is, if I were working a corporate job and even my own business, I'm probably going to close the doors in a short amount of time because I've got other things I can do and would want to do. All bets are off at that point.

John Neral:

Our brains take us to this place where we think, oh my gosh, I'm going to retire at 62 or 65 or 67, or I need to work until I'm 70, whatever that may be, you have a runway. Know what your runway looks like. Know what your runway looks like and when you're interviewing, part of the job is to overcome any potential objections somebody may have about what they think your runway may be like. You know, oftentimes we often think that as an employee, we're going to be organizationally loyal and be there forever. That may be true, but companies may have situations and circumstances that change, whether or not they want you to stay or they can afford you to stay. So one of the best pieces of advice I ever got in my career was a friend of mine years ago who shared with me that he looked at his career in the frame of two weeks. You work for two weeks, the company pays you for those two weeks. If you both agree, it fits and it's good, you re-up for another two weeks. There are no promises here. So your runway is with best intentions, but your runway needs to be rooted in why you are relevant and valuable to your current or future organization.

John Neral:

All right, as we start to wrap up here, I want to share a few more frequently asked questions that I get as a career coach. Number one here is is it more difficult for older professionals to find work? It could be. Oftentimes, if you believe you are going into an interview and you believe that your age is a deficit instead of an asset I will offer you, you are making it more difficult for yourself. And yes, sometimes if you've been laid off or you've been separated from a company, it may be a little more challenging to enter into a new job at the same pay rate you had before your separation, but you may also find a job that pays you more. So, yes, it could be a little bit more difficult, but at the end of the day, I know it is how you strategically position yourself from that place of value and service and how strongly you lean into your value in how you are going to help a company solve their particular problems and get them the results that they desire.

John Neral:

Another frequently asked question I get is how can I boost my confidence level? Well, that's one of the things we work on in coaching is building up your confidence and your awareness about why you are valuable, why you are worthy, where you are worth exceptional value to a new company. But it is also about leaning into exactly the results you are going to deliver for your current or future employer. One of the biggest things we are seeing right now when it comes to interviewing is that, yes, companies want to know what you've done. They also want to know what you're going to do for them, and if you're not communicating that story, that's where coaching may absolutely help you in that regard. All right. Another most frequently asked question is how do I interview for a job when I may only work for another five to 10 years. And again, this piggybacks on the comment I just made regarding the last question. Again, it's about what are you going to do for them. Companies want to know what results you are going to deliver and, additionally, this is not a time for you to come across as desperate or needy. It shows up in convincing language like I'm a really hard worker, you need to hire me. I've been laid off for three months, my bills are piling up and I'm running out of money. Companies don't want to hear that you may have an empathetic hiring manager but in the end of the day, they are not there to solve that particular problem for you. They want to know what you are going to do for them and that's why knowing your value, where you are contributing, why your seniority is an asset, is integral for you. Leaning into that conversation Now, as many of you know, I had a 25-year career in education.

John Neral:

I started off as a classroom teacher. You're going to hear a really powerful story and a client success story in this next episode about someone whom I used to work with turned client. But I worked for the District of Columbia Public Schools. I worked for a state superintendent. I went to work for an educational nonprofit that for all intents and purposes in this conversation, we'll call it quote unquote a corporate type job, right? And so if I was still teaching, if I had never left my classroom job, I would be 55, with 27, 28 years of experience in the classroom, I'd be gunning for 30 and probably in early retirement. But, being tenured, I would have some job security.

John Neral:

If I was working at a nonprofit or in a corporate type job, like I had been and never left, would I be worried? Of course I would be right. Companies are changing all the time, shifts are made, and when people look at org charts and they look at senior level professionals, it is understandable that those who are often the most highly paid are sometimes the ones that are often the first to be let go. So yeah, I would be worried in that regard. But then again, I'm a worrier by nature. I'm going to be 55. I really should do better at working on that. I am, but it's just part of my wiring in that I am very cautious and very concerned, and so that's one of those things where I know who I am. I would always be ensuring that every single day I would be going in, adding value, networking, building relationships, keeping my finger on the pulse of what's happening, do that branding and reputation audit and make sure that, whatever would happen, I would always, always have a plan B. So I want to leave you with this one final question.

John Neral:

As we get older and we start thinking about our career journey coming to a change or a pause, or a stop, what's your legacy? What do you want to be known for? What's the one thing you want to look back on your entire career and be undeniably proud of, for the things that you've done? What will you do when you retire? What does the next chapter look like for you? Whatever that is, or whatever it may be, it may be, always remember it's your career, it's your life and you are 100% responsible for it.

John Neral:

If there's one big takeaway along this mid-career journey, it's this Mid career sets you up for later career, and later career sets you up for retirement, and retirement allows you to do the things you've wanted to do, been wanting to do and can do because of the career path you have chosen and executed on. It's why building your mid-career GPS is so vital in this entire conversation, and I want to offer you that. If you have ever wondered or questioned about whether or not coaching can be helpful. All you have to do is reach out. You can email me at john at johnnerocom, and we can talk about what setting up a discovery call may look like for you. So I can help you start building your mid-career GPS, like I have helped hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of people do this before, and let them get to a place where they find a job they love, or they love the job they have.

John Neral:

So until next time, my friends, thank you so much for spending this time with me. If you enjoyed this episode, kindly share it with somebody. It would mean the world to me. Thank you so very much. And you will build your mid-career GPS one mile or one step at a time, and how you show up matters. Make it a great rest of your day. Thank you for listening to the Mid-Career GPS Podcast. Make sure to follow on your favorite listening platform and, if you have a moment, I'd love to hear your comments on Apple Podcasts. Visit johnnarrellcom for more information about how I can help you build your mid-career GPS or how I can help you and your organization with your next workshop or public speaking event. Don't forget to connect with me on LinkedIn and follow me on social at John Narrow Coaching. I look forward to being back with you next week. Until then, take care and remember how we show up matters. Thank you.

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