How can you make sure you’ve got the skills to do what you love and get paid what you’re worth? Find out here.
In my coaching practice, I see a lot of women in midlife struggling to maintain their footing in the work world. They realize their skills are out-of-date, but they don’t know what to do about it. They say they have a “sinking feeling” that they are no longer as sharp, as valued or as relevant as they used to be.
Perhaps you, too, have had this feeling. Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?
- You are returning to the workforce after years, even decades, of raising your kids. You don’t want to just get a J.O.B.; you want something that has meaning for you. Yet, you find your choices are limited based on what you can show on your resume. You know you need new skills and training (not to mention a boost in your confidence), but have no idea where to start.
- Perhaps you’ve been successful in the corporate world, but now, like so many others, you’ve been laid off. You may have no trouble finding job prospects, but wait a minute—suddenly employers are offering you a lower salary to do the same work you’ve always done. You’re used to earning a lot more money, and you now realize you may have to take a big pay cut just to stay employed. Where before you had the income to travel, buy yourself nice things and pursue your creative or spiritual side, now you worry how you’ll pay your bills or that you’ll outlive your retirement.
- Or let’s say you’re one of the “lucky ones”. You haven’t been laid off, but you are increasingly put off by the long hours and high-stress lifestyle of your current job. It’s too much for your body to handle anymore. You are burned out—tired of the schedule, tired of working for someone else. You’re ready for something new, something that matters to you—be it launch your own business, or advocate for a cause you care about. But you’re terrified to make a change, telling yourself over and over, “I’m lucky to have a job at all!”
No matter which of these scenarios rings true to you, there’s one thing all women (and men) in midlife need to know: In order to stay marketable and employable, you have to keep up with your skills. This is one of the only ways to counter the unpleasant realities of ageism in the workplace.
Now I know what you’re thinking. Skills? I’ve got enough skills—why do I need more?
I know the feeling. By the time most of us get to midlife, we feel we’ve paid our dues.
You may have invested a lot into your education in your early 20s or 30s, but somehow after that, you lost the urgency to continue learning. Either that, or you got too busy.
Unless you had an employer who was willing to pay for your professional development, your own training took a backseat to what you needed to get done on any particular day. Now in midlife, you’re ready to sit back and reap the rewards of near-retirement. You’re ready to relax.
This attitude may have worked in the days of pensions and fat 401K accounts, but it doesn’t work anymore. Being a lifelong learner is no longer an option—it’s a necessity.
Whether you have a job now, have been canned from your job—or want to quit the job you have, it’s critical to keep your skills up-to-date.
- Do I have the skills people are paying top dollar for?
- What baseline or specialty skills are employers looking for?
- What skills are required for someone in my area of expertise?
- How often do I actively upgrade my skills?
It may not be easy to answer these questions. You might need to do some research. If you’re wondering how to find out what skills employers are paying for—the skills you need to learn, try this:
- Ask your colleagues
- Talk with recruiters
- Request informational interviews with people doing what you want to be doing
- Scan job postings
- Join online groups, such as Yahoo groups, Google groups, LinkedIn groups
- Read professional publications, magazines, journals
Don’t wait until you’re looking for a job to find out what skills you need. Stay in touch with the skills your market values—and be sure you learn them!
Are you ready to get intentional about cultivating your skills? Here are three steps to creating a plan.
1. Start with self-reflection.
Take some time to yourself to answer the following questions (preferably in writing):
- What parts of your current (or desired) job give you the most energy and satisfaction?
- What areas tend to drain your energy?
- Of the new and recent developments in your field, what interests you the most?
- What are your current strengths and skills for pursuing these interests?
- What skills do you need or want to work on?
- At what times (if any) do you feel confused, unsure or overwhelmed on the job?
- Where could you use support?
- What is most important to you in your work and your life?
- How do you typically learn best—by reading, listening, watching a video, attending a class with an instructor, attending a self-paced class, or engaging in conversation with others?
Tip: It may help to talk with a trusted colleague, friend or family member about your strengths and desired skills. Sometimes other people are better able to identify the areas where you can best improve, and point you to opportunities and resources you may not know about.
2. Set your goals for skill-building.
Given your answers to the above questions, how would you summarize the additional training and skills you need to succeed? What connections do you hope to make? What is the first thing you can do to update your skills that will have the highest payback—in the next month, and in the next year?
3. Identify opportunities.
What opportunities are there for developing new expertise and skills, or strengthening those you already have? This is your chance to locate the continuing education you need—perhaps conferences you would like to attend, classes or teleclasses you want to take, people you want to meet and projects you would like to work on. You might want to start an electronic and/or a paper file to keep track of upcoming events and learning opportunities.
For more on keeping your skills relevant and valued, read my book: 5 Strategies for Staying Employed in Today’s Economy.
ARE YOU READY TO GET SOME NEW SKILLS?
You’re in luck!
My signature program Turn Heads After 50 program is for women like you who are ready to WOW the WORLD in a whole new way. You’ll learn how to build a magnetic personal style, appearance and attitude—and create a better, bolder version of you. We’ll look at the skills you need to stay marketable and employable in today’s economy AND get paid what you’re worth.
If you didn’t catch my free sneak preview for Turn Heads After 50 with my co-host Cinder Ernst , you can listen to our conversation here. To find out more and sign up, go to the Turn Heads After 50 site. Don’t miss out—Turn Heads After 50 starts next week, and I only have a few slots left. Click here to join me
BE SEEN. BE HEARD. CHANGE THE WORLD.