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The Now, The New & The Next in Careers

Career Management Articles

Stay ahead of the curve with insights from our CTL Associates.

  • 16 Jan 2012 4:24 PM | Anonymous

    By Joan Runnheim Olson

    I recently interviewed Jeff Johnson, who is working in a female-dominated career as a surgical technologist. Check out the interview below:    

    What has been your career path?  I served in the Navy for four years specializing in aircraft maintenance. After my military service I attended college and earned my license as an aircraft maintenance technician. Following that I worked for 3+ years as a test technician for Ball Aerospace where I tested satellites for the space program. Next I worked for as an aircraft maintenance technician for two commercial airlines. After 20+ years of working in this field, I was laid off. At that time I decided to get retrained and went back to college earning my certification as a Surgical Technologist. I currently work for an orthopedic surgery center in the Midwest.

    Were you encouraged to pursue work in a female-dominated industry?  I wasn’t encouraged to work in this field; however, the medical field has always held an interest for me. Another reason I chose this line of work is because of the high demand. There will always be a need for surgical technologists.

    What kind of training was required for this career?  This type of work requires two years of formal training at a college which includes classes such as anatomy, physiology, medical terminology, and clinical rotations.

    Describe a typical day on the job? A typical day on the job starts with reviewing the surgeries for the day; selecting proper instruments; setting up equipment required for special procedures; preparing the operating room for surgery; maintaining a sterile environment; setting up the sterile instruments for the procedure; assisting the surgeon by passing correct instruments and whatever else is required for that particular surgery.

    What skills are important for your career? My job requires being detail-oriented, having excellent organizational skills, and the ability to work well in a team setting. It also requires being able to work in a fast-paced environment with ever changing technology.

    What is the salary range for surgical technologists?  The median expected salary for a typical Surgical Technologist in the United States is $39,983, according to Salary.com. Those that specialize in a certain area can expect a higher salary.

    What is the job outlook for your type of career? I would say it is very good, and I see positions open all of the time. It’s also a portable career meaning you can move anywhere and shouldn’t have a difficult time finding work.

    How do you move up in your career?  You can pursue further training and specialize in different types of surgeries, e.g., heart or robotic surgery.

    What challenges have you faced working in a female-dominated career?  In my prior career I worked with all men and shifting to working with mostly women required a bit of an adjustment. While men tend to not share how they are feeling, I have found that women tend to be more open about it, which can be helpful in a working relationship. If there's a problem, you know it.  Having three daughters and growing up with five sisters I am accustomed to being around females which helped ease the transition.

    What do you enjoy most about working in a female-dominated career?  I enjoy helping people and the variety of people I work with as a team. Plus, working with mostly females, there is always good food around.

    What advice would you give to males who may be considering a nontraditional career?  If you enjoy helping people, consider exploring career options in the medical field. With the aging baby boomer population, I feel that these types of jobs are readily available and secure even in a shaky economy.

    Note: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of surgical technologists is expected to grow 25 percent between 2008 and 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations, as the volume of surgeries increases. The number of surgical procedures is expected to continue to rise as the population grows and ages.

    Older people, including the baby-boom generation, which generally requires more surgical procedures, will continue to account for a larger portion of the U.S. population. In addition, technological advances, such as fiber optics and laser technology, have permitted an increasing number of new surgical procedures to be performed and also have allowed surgical technologists to assist with a greater number of procedures.

  • 22 Dec 2011 4:31 PM | Anonymous

    By Joan Runnheim Olson

    I came across the following information on the Iseek website (http://www.iseek.org/careers/skillsets.html) and found it quite interesting. Job requirements have little or nothing to do with gender. In fact, skill requirements in male- and female-dominated occupations are often more similar than you might expect.  

    Different Genders, Same Skills. People sometimes avoid non-traditional careers because they're thinking about who works in the occupation and not what the job would actually be like. But did you know that some male-dominated careers use the same skills as some female-dominated fields?

    Skill Profiles. Skill Profiles are graphs of which skills are most or least required by occupations. You can learn about how similar occupations are to each other by comparing their skill profiles. You may find some surprises, such as: The skill profile for Registered Nurses (92% female) is similar to the skill profile for Civil Engineers (11% female) (http://www.iseek.org/iseek/static/rn_engineer.pdf). The skill profile for Construction Managers (6% female) is similar to the skill profile for Meeting & Convention Planners (80% female) (http://www.iseek.org/iseek/static/construction_planners_chart.pdf). The skill profile for Firefighters (4% female) is similar to the skill profile for Personal & Home Care Aides (87% female) (http://www.iseek.org/iseek/static/fire_homecare_chart.pdf).

    Strength Requirements Exaggerated.  Some women think they won't qualify for non-traditional occupations due to heavy lifting or other physical strength requirements. But the strength requirements of male-dominated fields are often exaggerated. It's true that some male-dominated occupations do have slightly greater strength requirements than female-dominated occupations. But in general, the differences aren't as large as you might expect.

  • 19 Dec 2011 5:48 PM | Anonymous

    This interview will take you through the ups and downs you can expect as a corporate recruiter, what it takes to land the job, what you can expect to earn and more. This is a true career story as told to JustJobs.com (http://www.justjobs.com/), and is one of many interviews with professionals including a Corporate Recruiter (http://academy.justjobs.com/corporate-recruiter/) and many more!

    My formal job title is Corporate Recruiter. I work for one of the leading companies in the networking technology industry. Other corporate recruiters are external to the companies they supply job candidates to, but I am directly employed by this large company. I have been in human resources for slightly more than fifteen years.

    I happen to be a white woman, but ethnicity and gender carry very little weight in this field. Certainly, we all know that any type of discrimination is illegal, but we also know that, sadly, it does still occur. Of all the disciplines where function should be neutral in both ethnicity and gender, human resources certainly is the leader.

    The primary focus of my job is not only to find qualified potential job candidates, but also to strive to ensure that qualified candidates end up in positions that are suited to them. The goal of getting “the right people on the bus” has become a faddish catchphrase in recent years; but recruiters also have to guard against letting the quest for getting the “right people on the bus” become an excuse for failing to develop those already present.

    It is not enough merely to ensure that the “right people” are present. They also must be occupying the “right seats on the bus” if the organization is to gain the greatest effect possible. Besides recruiting and selecting potential job candidates, corporate recruiters also want to ensure that newly hired employees are in satisfying positions so that they want to remain with the company, growing and expanding with the organization rather than leaving for greater opportunity elsewhere.

    Reaching that goal is quite satisfying, because it always is a win-win for everyone involved. The new employee is happy, and the company gains immense benefit from the employee’s contributions. And less turnover reduces the costs of replacing employees. Even customers benefit because of greater internal continuity.

    The job of corporate recruiter is much more than filling a slot with a qualified individual. Anyone considering a career position in human resources needs to understand that the entire discipline has changed dramatically over the years, and it continues to evolve. In the past, we often provided little more than a clearing house for those seeking to file resumes and applications with our respective companies.

    Senior management would determine new headcount needs and notify human resources to fill positions that senior management had created. Today, it is far more common for human resources directors to occupy a permanent position on the organization’s strategy team, allowing human resources to plan for future needs as well as search the current workforce for skills and talents expected to be needed in the future. My company takes that long view, but many others still do not.

    I firmly believe that any company that is going to be successful over the long term will need to adopt the perspective that places human resources in its strategy position. My company’s approach is not unique, but neither is it as common as it needs to be. The journey to this point has been challenging, but we all have been learning along the way. The process becomes easier and clearer as it becomes more common across many industries. It is quite satisfying to occupy a position from which I can influence the progress of this evolution.

    The job is stressful at times, but probably no more than any other similar job. The only hindrance I have to maintaining a healthy work-life balance is making sure that I do my part. I take two one-week vacations each year, and I take other personal time for long weekends with my family. That time off is enough as long as I maintain discipline and avoid taking work home for nights and weekends.

    This position requires at least a bachelor’s degree in human resources, as well as several years’ experience in the field. The average annual salary of a corporate recruiter is $96,000, which is more than enough to support my family and a relaxed lifestyle.

    The job is challenging and rewarding. It changes continually so it is never boring, and there is always something to learn. My advice to someone considering working toward becoming a corporate recruiter would be to gain the proper educational background, accept all relevant internships and be willing to work up from an entry level. Though the journey can seem long at times, the rewards are most definitely worth the effort.

  • 27 Jun 2011 5:28 PM | Anonymous

    By Joan Runnheim Olson

    Over a decade ago, I began my journey helping females and males consider non-traditional careers. I worked for a St. Paul, MN-based non-profit helping women enter and succeed in blue collar jobs in the trades. My role was to assess women's readiness to enter the six-week pre-apprenticeship training program and then help them find jobs once they finished. 

    I conducted lengthy interviews to determine their level of interest in working in the trades. We found that a few women were merely interested in learning skills to help them work on their own home. Because the non-profit I worked for received grants with goals and outcomes tied to it, it was important to carefully screen potential participants and identify those that had a sincere desire to work in the trades. Plus, the pre-apprenticeship program was designed to help graduates jump into an apprenticeship program.

    Because males grow up knowing the different tools and how to use them, the pre-apprenticeship program helped women get up to speed so that they could be successful in an apprenticeship program. The women who moved into the training program were educated on tool identification, participated in strength-building through weight-lifting, brushed up their math skills, worked on a project where they could actually use their hands to build a house.

    Oftentimes, they worked on a Habitat for Humanity house. Participants learned about the challenges that come with being in a male-dominated industry. Training also included tips on job search strategy. During the last week of the program, we invited employers from the construction industry and union representatives to serve on a panel for what we called "Job Leads Day." Panelists explained what they were looking for in an employee, how to get a job in the trades, what to expect, etc.

    Many of the females that completed the pre-apprenticeship program enrolled into a technical college program for carpentry or electrician. Others went directly into an apprenticeship program. Some graduates of the pre-apprenticeship program eventually became carpenters, electricians, laborers, cement masons, or roofers.

    One of the key things I noticed about these women is that they wanted a job that was physical. They enjoyed working with their hands creating something.  This type of work is what they found the most satisfying. I think that's what we all want - a career that brings us satisfaction. That satisfaction can mean something different to different people. The key is figuring out what it is that you enjoy doing the most and pursuing it!

  • 03 May 2011 5:38 PM | Anonymous

    By Joan Runnheim Olson

    In this post, I interviewed Lisa K., a financial coach working in a male-dominated career. Lisa shares her career path, some of the challenges she's faced and how she's overcome them, and how she uses math and computer skills in her career.  

    Could you provide a little background on your career path? My career path was one with many turns. I’ve held positions within sales, marketing and project management. After deciding that I really wanted to own my own business, I then pursued the industry that comes very easy to me. I have owned my own financial coaching business for over 10 years. 

    How did you decide on your career choice? When I was working in a Fortune 500 company, I had the opportunity to hold several positions within the organization over the 12 years that I was employed there. 

    What I found is the area that I really enjoyed that didn’t seem like work was one that I wanted to pursue. Economics and money come easy for me to understand. Plus the training in project management and sales adds to the knowledge of owning your own business and being strategic about it. 

    Did someone in high school encourage you to pursue a non-traditional career? I had a wonderful experience with my economics teacher who encouraged me and challenged me in high school.  He was also the mentor for Student Council which helped with building my confidence and influencing my life decisions. 

    What challenges have you encountered being in a male-dominated field?  Financial planners have the image of not being trustworthy and looking out only for their own benefit. This is a comment I hear often, so I work hard in having my clients understand my philosophy. The other thing people have to understand is that money has a psychological component, and they need to own their responsibility. 

    Seeing a planner just to invest into the stock market, without being financially responsible on their own, can result in uncontrollable consequences in building wealth. There is also a challenge in social settings where you are with your peers and understanding the differences and boundaries between men and women. 

    My industry is 90% men, so whenever I am in a training environment with them or at a conference that entails large numbers of people together, the opportunity to be put into a sexist situation is heightened. 

    What have you done to overcome those challenges? I think most women have an advantage with relationship building. These skills help us build a better client trust level by listening and positioning products that are to the client’s best interest instead of selling to them.

    Describe a typical day on the job. My work day starts at 7:30 a.m. when I check my email and mutual fund transaction confirmations. It typically takes me 1½ hours to go through everything that has come through overnight, which includes returning phone messages and finalizing case prep for the day. I have clients that are in a five state area, so I try and bundle review appointments to be effective in my travels. 

    Throughout the day, I try to keep up with client emails via my Blackberry, as I believe that the customer expectations need to be met and exceeded.  My business is strictly based upon relationships and education. I focus in teaching the differences in money movement and empowering clients to make great decisions. I also spend time daily reading economic literature and running different case analyses.

    What is the salary range for work such as yours? The sky is the limit based upon who your clientele is and how much you work. There is no glass ceiling when you own your own business. 

    How do you use math, science and computer skills in your job? [Note: Females tend to lose confidence in their math abilities at an early age and these skills are important in many high wage careers.] I use math every day along with computer skills. There isn’t a day where I can function without those in my skill set. The way that we correspond leads us to be proficient in computer skills and as far as I’m concerned, math is something that we all need to know.

    How did you move up in your career? My business continues to prosper because I am always learning. If you are truly are an entrepreneur, you must continue to keep up with your industry, learning and thinking out of the box.

    What advice would you give to females who may be considering a non-traditional career? Follow your heart with your desires. Research what comes easy to you and how to use those gifts to make a difference in the lives of others.

  • 30 Jan 2011 4:33 PM | Anonymous

    By Joan Runnheim Olson

    The following interview is with Julie Selton, a Master Electrician of 27 years, owner of The Universe Electric Service, LLC, and an electrical technology instructor at St. Paul College in St. Paul, Minnesota for 12 years. Julie is a good role model for both female and male students by breaking down gender stereotypes as to what is considered "women's work." 

    Were you encouraged to pursue work in a male-dominated field?  Yes, I grew up in a family where we didn't hire out for home maintenance and remodeling. The theme was, "You can do it. You can build it." Women weren't just cooking and cleaning. My immediate and extended family (aunts included) participated in their own home improvements. My mother was a trail-blazer as one of the first female letter carriers in the 1960's. Later I met my future husband, a sheet metal worker, who exposed me to the trades and encouraged me to pursue a job in the trades.

    How did you get started in your career?  While in junior and senior high, I took accelerated math and science classes. In the early 1980's I enrolled as a preapprentice at a technical college in Minnesota where I received my diploma as an electrician. In 1986, I earned my license as a journeyman electrician and went on to earn my Master Electrician license. I worked for several companies as an electrician. 

    In 2004, I started my own business, The Universe Electric Service, LLC, which was created to provide quality electrical services to homeowners and businesses with a niche of high-end remodeling. I have several part-time electricians and a part-time book keeper. In the beginning, I did most of the work myself and now I am phasing out of the hands on and concentrating on administration duties, sales and training. I recently became a NABCEP Certified Solar PV Installer, and I now have the premier certification to install environmentally-friendly solar panels on residential homes. 

    What challenges have you encountered working in a non-traditional career, and how did you overcome them?  Well, the first challenge was heights. I didn't realize that I would be working up high on a ladder at times. That wasn't mentioned in school. With time I have become comfortable with heights. 

    Initially, as a female, I thought the older male workers would be difficult to work with, but I found them to be very accepting of me. I found that I have gotten along well with most everyone throughout my career. I found that the folks I didn't get along with were the same folks that the other guys didn't get along with either. 

    I did have a challenge with my first boss who thought I should be taking care of his office paperwork. I clarified what my job was as an electrician and needed to remind him of that several times. Finally, after he asked one too many times, I told him, "My attorney will be calling you." That was the last time he asked me to do HIS paperwork. 

    What's the salary range? An apprentice electrician earns about $30K/year. A journeyman with overtime can earn up to $80K+ year. As an electrical technology teacher, the salary is similar to that of a journeyman without overtime. For a business owner, the salary is unlimited. 

    How do you use math, science, and computer skills in your job? As an electrician, I use math a lot for circuit sizing and dimensioning. I use physics in mechanical assembly. I don't use computer skills in my work as an electrician. As a teacher, master electrician and business owner, I do use math and computer skills for administrative tasks extensively. 

    How did you move up in your career? I was able to move up in my career by being excited about the challenge, and setting and achieving my goals. Initially, one of the driving forces behind becoming an electrician was to support my horse hobby. At times I worked overtime to support my budget. Eventually, I became bored in the field and decided to go into teaching. More recently, I purchased a new condo and decided to launch my own business to increase my earnings to afford it. 

    What do you enjoy most about working in a non-traditional career? I enjoy innovation, and in my field, there are changes often, e.g., changes in codes, materials, and the way we use electricity. New parts are being created every day to make our job easier. I enjoy going to different places and meeting different people. And, I'm excited about being a pioneer of sorts. I was one of the first female journeyman electricians to start my own business in Minnesota and one of the first female electrical technology instructors in my state.  

    What are you teaching in the electrical technology program? I am currently teaching the following classes: introduction to national electrical code, blueprint reading, direct circuit analysis, alternating current analysis, alternating current motors, and trade calculations. 

    How many female students are typically enrolled in this program each semester?  Typically there is only one female at the most enrolled each semester. For four straight years during my tenure, there were no females enrolled.  

    To what do you attribute the low number of females in your program? One reason I think there are so few females in our program is the general lack of awareness females have of non-traditional career options and the job skills that are needed to be an electrician. The females are often provided career guidance by someone with a four-year degree path that has had no exposure to non-traditional careers. 

    Another detriment is the stereotypical images that go along with the trades, for example, that all trades people go to the bars and drink after work. Another stereotype is that trades people aren't well-educated, where in fact; apprentices have a minimum of five years of education to reach journey-level status and require continuing education after that. 

    What advice would you give females who may be considering a non-traditional career? Engage in a self-discovery process. Do some soul searching to identify your true likes and dislikes along with your strengths and weaknesses. Identify your interests. Explore different career options. Try out new things. Dare to dream! Also, have a sense of humor and don't take things personally.

  • 06 Dec 2010 5:56 PM | Anonymous

    By Joan Runnheim Olson

    In the following article, Jane Mertz, owner of St. Croix Telecommunications, LLC, in Stillwater, Minnesota, shares her journey along with tips for being successful in a male-dominated field.

    Since I can remember, I loved to figure out how things work. When I was little, I broke things and, when reprimanded I would claim "I was just looking at it." In my mind, looking at it meant taking it apart to see how it worked. When I was a kid, I always had boxes full of springs and gears and magnets, and my favorite toys were my Lego blocks. Being a girl, I was never encouraged to pursue a career working with my hands.

    I went to college and got a degree in Business Administration. I worked for a few years in business but was never very interested in what I was doing, so I wasn't very good at it. Three years after college I was looking for a job and ended up in the Navy recruiters' office. I needed an adventure, and they needed women in technical fields to meet their affirmative action quotas.

    They sent me through two years of electronics school and I maintained communication equipment for four years. I loved my job, but the Navy lifestyle is difficult. Sailors work shift work and move every three years, or they spend months at a time at sea. This is not ideal for family life, so when my contract was up I got out.

    My skills easily transferred to civilian life, and I got a job working for a telephone system vendor shortly after moving back to the Twin Cities. When that company's business began to fail, I went to work as a central office technician with a telephone company and eventually went into business for myself.

    I believe I was destined to do this kind of work but realized quickly I was not going to be accepted by my coworkers right away. I always felt I needed to be better than the guys to get the same recognition. After 22 years in a male dominated field, this is what I know.

    1. Don't expect to be accepted right away. Even if they are nice to you the first day, it won't last if you don't pull your own weight.

    2. Don't expect your coworkers to change the way they normally act or do things. If you can gain their respect, and they know you hate a certain behavior (i.e. cussing, telling off color jokes, spitting etc.), they may stop doing it when you're around. If they don't respect you, and they know you hate it, they'll do it just to bug you.

    3. Be prepared to spend some time alone. You're not one of the guys, at least not right away. Give them some time to get to know you, and what you can do for them and the organization. They'll come around eventually.

    4. Men communicate differently than women. Men are much less direct so you have to really pay attention and figure out what they are really saying. For example, a woman will say "don't do that" but a man will say "you don't need to do that." I once had a guy ask me if I wanted to go with him to a site where we kept some equipment. I thought he just wanted some company and, finding him a big bore, I said "no." He later accused me of refusing to help him. In my mind, he didn't ask for help. He didn't even ask me if I would go with him, only if I WANTED to go with him.

    5. Always be professional. Flirting may get you what you want today but in the long term you need them to respect you, and flirting won't get you any respect. Sometimes you may even need to be a little cold. This is difficult, but keep a professional distance at least until your coworkers get to know you. Once you're part of the group you can relax a little.

    6. Do all you can yourself and ask for help only when you really need it. Don't ask them to do it for you. If you can't lift something, ask someone to help you lift it; don't ask them to lift it for you. Everybody needs help sometimes. If you ask them to do it for you, they will think they will always be doing your work for you. Nobody wants to work with somebody who can't do their part.

    7. Find things to do that you can do better than everybody else, and offer to do them. Having smaller hands than the guys enabled me to reach farther inside the walls and equipment. Women are usually smaller and more flexible and can squeeze between the ductwork and pipes in the ceiling more easily.

    8. Find somebody that likes you and knows more about the business and get them to mentor you. It doesn't have to be a formal thing. If somebody likes having you around, they won't mind teaching you. Offer to help them with something they don't like to do. In the technical world administrative tasks are considered a necessary evil.

    In the Navy, I worked for a guy who was a phenomenal technician but couldn't type to save his life. I typed up all the division parts orders, and in return he taught me all about antennas and radio transmission. This can be tricky though; you don't want to be seen as a kiss up, and you don't want everybody to think you're the administrator. It's all about balance and limits. I typed for Dan but no one else.

    9. Work hard! Try harder than anybody else. Once you know the ropes, get better at it than everyone else. Anticipate the next step and prepare for it. Don't wait for a supervisor to give you direction if you know what comes next. If you're ahead and ready for the next step, take it. If you're not sure, ask if you should take it or if there's something else you could do that would be better. Learn from your mistakes and don't repeat them.

    10. Have a sense of humor. You're not perfect. You're going to make mistakes. It's okay to laugh at yourself when you do something stupid. People like people who can make them laugh so even if you do mess up, at least you've entertained your coworkers. Don't take yourself too seriously. If your first day is a disaster, laugh it off and try again tomorrow. It is all worth it to do something you really love.

    Working hard is not hard when you like what you do. To me, wiring is cathartic. It relaxes me the way knitting or crocheting relaxes some people. Programming is fun. It's like a game where you have to outsmart the machine and make it do what you want. Troubleshooting is the best part of all. It's great to be the hero when somebody goes down hard and you get them running again. When your customer thinks they sent him the bottom of the barrel this time.

    After all, what was this woman going to do that the two men they sent before her couldn't do? There is such a feeling of triumph when you figure it out. I love it when the customer shows me to a telephone room that looks like somebody took a bucket of colored spaghetti and threw it against the wall. They give me that frightened and confused look and leave me to go back to their desk and pray I don't mess it up even more. The shocked and impressed look you get when you figure it all out and get them working is all worth the extra effort you had to make in the beginning.

    I know that I am never going to make the history books. I'm not going to find a cure for cancer or bring peace to the world. But hopefully, I have cleared a small path so that women in the future will be able the chose their occupation based on their talents and interests not their gender.

  • 24 Oct 2010 1:18 PM | Anonymous

    By Kathleen Sullivan

    In an environment of economic uncertainty and high unemployment, a portfolio career offers you the opportunity to be independent, choose the skills you want to offer, work for the employers you want to work for, and create a worklife that reflects your interests and values. What is a portfolio career? A portfolio career is a nontraditional approach to jobs, the job market, and career management. 

    The term “portfolio career” is attributed to the British management expert Charles Handy.  In the early 1990’s, Handy predicted that the model of a having full-time job working for one employer would not endure and instead, evolve into a new model where an individual works for multiple employers, sometimes simultaneously, performing a series of short term assignments. 

    In this new model, everyone would be self-employed and responsible for planning and managing his/her own career. A portfolio career can be packaged in several ways: A core occupation blended with one or more additional occupations. A core occupation combined with one or several hobbies or personal interests. A core profession offering multiple services such as consulting, teaching, professional speaking, and writing.

    Examples of these types of portfolio careers would be: A human resources professional who works for one employer three days per week and who is a customer service representative for another employer 2 days per week. A software developer who contracts for a high tech firm who also is a watercolor artist who sells his paintings in a gallery he operates on the weekends.

    A finance expert who consults to the CFO of two start-up companies, teaches accounting at a community college, speaks at professional meetings, and writes for a financial periodical. In each example, the individual is an independent agent who earns a living from multiple income streams often working for multiple employers in various capacities:  part-time employee, contractor, consultant, and freelancer.

    What are the benefits of a portfolio career for people over 40? People over 40 often experience longer job searches and more discrimination than those under 40, despite their more extensive experience and proven accomplishments.  If you are over 40, building a portfolio career allows you to leverage your expertise, retake control of your career, and define success in your own terms.  The benefits of a portfolio career for people over 40 include:

    --More autonomy
    --More egalitarian relationship with employers
    --More freedom from corporate politics
    --More variety:  in projects, colleagues, and environment
    --More responsibility for results
    --More opportunity to create the desired balance between work and personal life.

    What are the success factors for a portfolio career? To establish and manage a successful portfolio career you must set clear goals, stay focused, tolerate risk, be flexible, adapt to change, and manage your time and resources effectively.

    Some of the steps necessary to design a successful portfolio career include: Identify your most saleable skills and interests and the customers who would want to buy them. Design an overall framework for how you will package your portfolio career. Develop a marketing plan. 

    You may need more than one marketing plan depending on how you package your portfolio. Create financial goals and manage an annual and monthly budget. Determine the benefits such as insurances you will need and purchase them. Put the necessary technology and resources into place. Develop a weekly schedule and action plan; measure results.

    Create a professional network and consistently expand the network to reflect your portfolio. Defend against the pitfalls of a portfolio career:  isolation, poor planning and budgeting, insufficient networking, etc. Make adjustments to your portfolio based on the market, financials, and your evolving interests.  

    Would a portfolio career be viable for you? If you are over 40 and have had a traditional career, it can be intimidating to consider a portfolio career.  You would be self-employed, have an uncertain income, and be responsible for continuously finding new job assignments and employers. 

    Where would your job security come from? If you honestly evaluate the realities of the new job market, all of these aspects of a portfolio career are the norm:  essentially being self-employed, facing economic uncertainty, and managing frequent changes in jobs and employers. 

    Your security does not come from a job or an employer, but from your ability to uncover new opportunities and sell yourself as the best person for these opportunities. You may find that a portfolio career may be a viable option for you.

  • 08 Oct 2010 4:46 PM | Anonymous

    By Laurie Smith

    After examining the experiences of 160,000+ laid-off workers who completed training programs subsidized by the U.S. Department of Labor, the DOL concluded that the education did not help them land new jobs. Neither did it help them to hang onto one if they were able to land a position.

    This rather startling conclusion bears further examination. Of course, if you go out willy-nilly and take just any training program to equip yourself for entry into a new line of work or to advance in your current field, the results may be less than you hope for.

    The key is to identify job categories where opportunities are growing versus shrinking. For example, what good could it possibly do to train for a manufacturing job in an industry in which workers with vastly more experience than you are currently being laid off in droves? Training for any field in which technology advances or changes in the economic landscape are routinely making jobs disappear will not position you for success.

    In the job market of the 21st century, candidates need to position themselves attractively in occupations which have a high demand for quality workers. It is imperative to keep a constant eye on emerging trends to ensure the job or industry targeted is experiencing increasing rather than decreasing worker demand, and then adjust career planning accordingly.

    While the career retraining approach applies primarily to those who are in lower level to mid-management positions, the overall career management strategy applies as well to executives. You don't want to be left behind when the economy evolves so as to greatly reduce or even eliminate the industry you've hung your hat on for perhaps decades. In an unforgiving global economy, it's adapt or perish.

  • 19 Jul 2010 7:04 PM | Anonymous

    By Charlotte Weeks

    Yes, sometimes it comes down to what’s in a job ad or what a recruiter is sourcing for. However, if you’re proactively looking while employed, you may have the luxury of targeting associations that interest you the most.

    Let’s assume for just a moment that you are an experienced executive director, and you get to strategically plan your job search–you’ll contact recruiters in your areas of interest, network with people in your target area, and apply to associations with missions that really speak to you–but what IS that mission?

    There are a few ways to go about finding out:  Look to your past work experience. What jobs did you enjoy the most? What tasks did you prefer spending your time on? What companies did you most like working for? Go back even further. What did you major in? As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Think about which causes are closest to your heart. What organizations do you donate money to or volunteer with? How do you spend your free time (sports, arts, travel, etc.)?

    While these questions may not give you an immediate answer, you should gain clarity on what areas you’re most passionate about. For example, if the arts are a strong theme, start exploring associations that focus on arts in the schools, professional theatre, or art museums.

    Depending on your area of interest, there could be a variety of options out there. According to the ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership, there were an estimated 86,054 trade and professional associations in 2004.

    While you may have to repackage your career marketing materials for your area of interest (if you’re breaking into a new industry), rest assured there are plenty of exciting possibilities within association management.

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