Looking back on my visualization of middle age when I was in my youth, I must confess the picture currently is a lot different.
At the ripe old age of 72, I thought I would share a few thoughts tonight in the hopes that others would be willing to share theirs. Any editorial/notes from members contributions should be sent to Leads@TheFENG.org. Please be sure to properly label your opus – Middle Age. And, don’t send it to me. I currently have more than enough emails in my inbox that I am trying to clear.
I graduated from college in 1968, went to graduate school because I was 1-A and finally got drafted in April, 1969. After two years in the Army, this Indiana boy went to work in New York City at B. Altman & Company as an Internal Auditor. As I say to my wife even now: Wow, look at all the tall buildings!
I don’t remember how I got the interview except that it was through a contingency recruiter, but after getting most of the way through my MBA at New York University I got a job as a Financial Analyst at CBS. At the time, CBS was on an MBA hiring binge and it was a very exciting place to be. Basically, you stayed one or two years in each job on the way up. It was at that time that I learned that although Treasury was my major interest during my MBA program, there were only about a dozen folks in this function at CBS.
So, with my focus now on Financial Planning & Analysis, I moved up through the ranks. In my last job at CBS, I was Business Manager for Holt Rinehart & Winston College Publishing. It was one of those “minister without portfolio jobs.” All the responsibilities of a CFO with none of the authority to get the job done.
In 1982, seeing I was never going to be a CFO at CBS (so much for the mental image of the “great corporation” taking care of you for the rest of your life), I jumped ship to be CFO of an Advertising Agency. At 35, to have my own command was quite a hoot. As difficult as the job was due to the volatile personalities, I stayed 9 years. The last three were particularly difficult because we were in decline. We had basically outgrown our management and everything was kind of out of control. The end result was that we lost our largest account and at the beginning of the recession in 1991, I was unemployed. Now I was middle aged – over the hill at 46.
Those next two years were tough years. Remember, there was no Internet and no organization like The FENG. (Yes, there was a time when our august body did not exist.)
I learned about networking and keeping good records. At the end of two years, I had 1,400 index cards with contact information. I had this information in a database on my desk computer, but it wasn’t like now. Laptops weren’t available.
I found a job as CFO of a temporary senior level staffing company – but that job ended up being temporary. (Sorry, one of my many jokes that I tell on myself.) And then through networking (big surprise), I found a job at The Thomson Corporation, now Thomson Reuters. It wasn’t a big job, but it brought in money and allowed me to “get a grip on myself.” To be quite honest, I needed that at the time.
And, just to reassure everyone that life isn’t over when you take a step back, even a big one, it gave me the time I would never otherwise have had to do the initial development work on The FENG and The FECG – my consulting practice: www.TheFECG.com. As you all know, I am capable of doing a lot of work and they weren’t giving me all that much to do. A sad state of affairs for one of life’s volunteers.
It was during this time that I decided I was not going to give up all hope and that I was going to do something BIG with the rest of my life. For those of you who have been members for some time, you know that I am one determined guy.
Anyway, enough about me and now for some “lessons learned.”
1. The first is never give up on yourself. Each of you has gotten a good education, had a significant series of work experiences and since you are not planning to retire (I assume), we can still get some work out of you. The only question is what?
2. You are not your job. Sure the talents you have acquired that make you unique came from your job(s), but they most likely followed your interests. In my case, I worked in organizations focused on personal selling and I sat in on all those training sessions. Somehow, the accountant became a convincing salesman. (Like any skill, it can be learned.)
3. EVERY stage of life is difficult. When you were young, you were inexperienced and probably broke most of the time and struggling. So, now you are too experienced for you own good and hopefully know how to manage your money. I suppose that many of you have been told that you are too smart for your own good, but how can that be bad? I thought companies hated to spend money on training. You are already trained and know what needs to be done at any company by lunch time on the first day. (Don’t tell anyone that this is the case because it falls under the “too smart for your own good” rule.)
4. All problems are opportunities. Come up with a way to sell your experience. The story goes that my grandmother was breaking up housekeeping and had a marble statue she was trying to sell. Unfortunately, in trying to clean it, she dropped it and a few fingers broke off the figure. (I don’t remember what it was.) Her pitch to the purchaser was that this showed its age. Need I mention that he bought it? Whatever your “problem,” you can come up with a pitch to make it into your best feature. It just takes a little creative thinking.
5. Middle age is just that – the middle. Some of your best years and most productive years could well be ahead of you. All you have to recognize is that each job search as you get older comes more frequently and offers more challenges. Notice, I didn’t say more problems. (I used the word “challenges” because it is a little softer.)
Unlike the rest of the discipline areas, we have a well recognized organization behind us. Some of us have older members we can count on and some of us have a whole raft of younger members. The resource is there for you to use. That’s why those of us in leadership positions in The FENG work so hard on your behalf. We WANT you to use it.
Make good use of it and you will do just fine. Use the Member Directory Search feature for networking. Go to Chapter and SIG meetings. Offer to participate on the Resume Review Committee. (Contact Jim Saylor: ResumeReview@TheFENG.org) The FENG is a well that cannot be emptied no matter how many buckets of water you drink because others keep pumping more water into it.
When you can, I am sure you will help with the process of refilling the well! (Or should I say reservoir?)