New! Q & A Column

Question and Answer

It occurred to me that some of you might have questions that I could address via a Q & A column. I love to strategize with clients about all sorts of issues, and I do that with them on an on-going basis. This column will address questions about career, business and life strategies, choices and challenges. If you’d like to submit a question to Daisy send an email to [email protected] with Q&A as the email subject I will review it and answer it for publication here, if appropriate, and to you personally. I will not include any person’s name or contact information. Questions will be selected for weekly publication.

Q & A with Daisy:

Q: The economic downturn has had a severe impact on older workers, leaving many of them unemployed and unable to find new work. How can those individuals who are suffering this type of career setback maintain their self-esteem so that it does not interfere in their personal relationships and search for love?

This is a great question.  I think it’s really a shame that people believe that they have to put their search for personally meaningful relationships on hold if they’ve lost a job or are in the process of looking for a new position.  The assumption is that we won’t be viewed as strong or capable if we are in a job search; that something is ‘wrong’ with us if we aren’t employed.  This simply isn’t true.  This is really more about a belief that we ‘are’ what we do, or that our ‘worth’ comes from our earning capability and our day-to-day work.   There’s no doubt about it — we do get a lot of our personal identity from our work.  The wonderful gift of being without employment is that we have time to explore other work options, and have time for the often forgotten activities and people who were once more important to us.  I talk to clients all the time who wish to have more time to find a mate or a companion and are working crazy hours.  They don’t have the time to spend their money! Sometimes a layoff becomes the best gift a person can receive — if they can allow themselves to look at it that way — so that they can replenish themselves and become an interesting person beyond the person they’ve been at work.  So essentially, it’s all in the way we choose to approach this time of unemployment.  A man or woman can become more empowered during a time of unemployment if they choose to look at this as a gift that will result in a happier life in the long run.  And, of course, it may mean being a little more clever about dates.  Really, there are so many fun and creative ways to enjoy another person’s company that doesn’t rely on expensive activities – and in fact many ‘free’ activities offer more of an opportunity for people to get to know each other in a more meaningful way.

Q: “If you like what you do, love will find you.” Clearly, this becomes harder after retirement so what are some of the ways in which boomers can continue to stay involved in their passions and connected with other individuals?

The second adulthood time is rich with opportunities to ‘love what you do,’ and be energized by the options life has to offer.  A client of mine was 72 — he was getting bored with his life, doing routine things.  I found out that he loved traveling to countries and he wanted to go on a trip to Italy.  He didn’t realize he could take Italian language classes online.  Once we found a class he was interested in he started having a ball! He started spending hours learning Italian and practicing it with friends at local restaurants and began planning his next trip.  Others find that getting involved in political or non-profit organizations has an energizing impact on their spirit.  What’s more exiting, when you’re meeting people, than someone who’s turned on by the meaningful ideas and activities in their life? It’s never too late to find this kind of excitement in life.  Boomers have a real advantage because they are, for the most part, healthy and educated and have the wherewithal to research and find the activities that can be fun, and alluring, for them.

Q: According to a July 2009 study, nearly one quarter of workers aged 55 and over who were laid off last year said they were considering starting their own business. What advice would you give to would-be entrepreneurs who are approaching their golden years?

I think having your own venture is a wonderful undertaking, especially for motivated and creative boomers, because it offers flexibility, independence and the ability to utilize skills and knowledge developed from years in the marketplace.  Of course it’s always important to do your homework.  That means, if you have an idea that you want to pursue, you need to do the necessary research to really understand the viability of your idea…and not get discouraged at the first bump or possible hiccup.  There are so many great resources online to understand the demographics of a neighborhood, let’s say, or to research prices of materials.  The most important two things I think of is understanding your motivation for the business and also knowing your financial projections and how realistic they are.  Small Business Development Centers or the Small Business Administration can be helpful to conduct a smart ‘reality check.’  It’s also important to have the right people or team to support you when you’re moving forward with your own business.  Nobody does everything themselves — if you need help with marketing or financials, find the right people to help. Don’t think help needs to be expensive.  There are lots of freelance consultants (look at for instance) who can off advice and help for a nominal fee. Sometimes investing in professional help can make all the difference in a launching a successful endeavor.

Q: Romances can flourish in the workplace but what should individuals consider before entering an office relationship?

Another good and important question! Many office cultures now have policies regarding in-office relationships.  Know the policies before getting involved with someone…it could mean the difference between having a job or not! The issues are complex when it comes to hierarchy between people in an office.  Sexual politics can turn sour very quickly.  If you are going to get involved with someone think about how closely aligned your colleagues, departments or bosses are.  Think about it like this:  How comfortable would you be dating someone who lived across the street or hall from you? If you feel a little cringe about this thought, then don’t go forward with the relationship. Wait it out.  If the relationship becomes so enticing it might be worthwhile to look for a new job to minimize workplace issues.

Q: You offer Job Search & Networking Groups for Mid-Career Life Stages. Can you tell us a little bit more about the program?

These groups have been so helpful for people who have found themselves in a situation they never thought they’d be in.  People who have had really successful careers have suddenly found themselves writing the first resume they’ve needed in a decade.  Being with others who are also creating a ‘plan B’ is so helpful and inspiring.  In our groups people learn ways to effectively talk about what they’re looking for, learn strategies for networking and utilizing new technologies to research opportunities or find helpful people, writing an effective resume for the job they want.  We keep the groups to under 10 people so everyone gets individualized attention, and everyone has the opportunity to learn from others experiences.  Finding and being with a community during a job search is so valuable.  People often isolate when they are looking for work.  These groups offer a safe, and even fun, place to talk about what’s really happening; and we at Daisy Swan & Associates are all very grounded and positive so we keep people focused on the possibilities even when we might hear stories that can be discouraging.  We keep the groups looking forward to taking energizing and useful actions.  And people make great friends who are in different social circles; that helps to increase the ‘networking pool’ for everyone.

Q:  Any other word of wisdom you care to share with our readers?

Being curious about the world and all of the changes we’re going through can be challenging sometimes when you just want things to go back to the way they were.  We have all experienced so much change in the past five years, 10 years.  It’s only going to keep going this way.  So I encourage people to embrace change and uncertainty with as much humor and willingness as possible.  If you aren’t familiar with new technologies push yourself to take a class or enlist one of your kids to help with your ‘education.’  Being up-to-date will feel good and empowering and also bring more fun to your experience. Really.  Boomers are so smart about so many things; we’re going to see so much more evolve in the next decade.  I think we’re alive at a really cool time.  Embrace it.  There’s really no wrong time to become a student of life, and being open to change is really sexy, don’t you think?


Q: Entrepreneurial Burnout
My husband is at a crossroads. He’s been running his own computer service business for three years and he’s tired of the demands of being on-call all the time. He’s starting to think he should just take a job that can offer him a good income and benefits, and where he’ll feel more respected for the work he does. I think he should stay with his dream and expand his business so that he can eventually have more flexibility and income. I don’t want to lose him to long hours and a corporate life. What do you think?

Being on-call 24/7 is tough on anyone but these demands are balanced by the rewards one receives. It sounds to me as if that’s just one piece of the puzzle. Start by sitting down and figuring out what your husband’s, and your family’s, ideal lifestyle goal is. Once that’s clear it’s easier to work backwards to figure out how to get there. It’s possible that your husband is feeling burned out by the demands of doing everything needed to run his business. It’s not unusual for people to enthusiastically start their own business only to find that running it is more than just doing the actual skilled work or service. Your husband might renew his interest in his business if he develops a plan to expand the business. Perhaps bringing in others as employees or contract workers or delegating some of the more menial tasks will help. Can he start to delegate some of his responsibilities to free him up to develop his business in other ways? He might be reinvigorated by taking a class about business planning or management for entrepreneurs where he can hear how others have successfully developed their businesses. Many universities and community colleges have spring courses, so now would be the time to jump on that. He might also contact SCORE to speak with a volunteer advisor about his business.

Any major decision begins with good probing questions; what does your husband enjoy about having his own business? Why did he choose to start it, and what successes has he accomplished already. If he could paint a picture of his business being a great success, what would it look like? His value of owning his own business may have shifted now that he’s got a business that requires repetitious activities. A little productive ‘day dreaming’ could help get his inspiration going again.
Another issue you mentioned is that he wants to feel more respected for the work he does. We each have our own way of interpreting how we’re respected. It’s time to understand what he likes about having his own business and what it is he thinks he would gain from working for a company. Working for a ‘name’ company whose services, products and culture he respects could be a great way to achieve personal stability and credibility. It will take some time conducting research to find the right company and job fit, but it could be very worthwhile if, after answering larger career and life planning questions, he determines that life as an employee fits better for him and your family.