Over 50? What You Should Expect From A Job

Gail Belsky career change

I'd be lying if I said that I'm not worried about my age -- 51 -- being a problem in my job hunt, especially after working independently for more than a decade. But I just can't believe I'm doomed because of it. I have friends who've switched jobs, acquired new skill sets, and launched satisfying careers after 50. So why not me?

A couple of weeks ago, my editor set me up with AOL Jobs blogger J.T. O'Donnell, a coach who offers an online program at CareerHMO.com. It turns out O'Donnell was a great match for me.

O'Donnell believes that every career has three phrases. Phase III, the last 20 years of a career, is all about reaping the rewards of decades of working. That's what phase I'm entering. And as a seasoned professional, O'Donnell says, I should derive great personal satisfaction from my job -- without having to work insane hours. I should have fun at work, love what I do and not have to put in more than 40 hours a week at work.

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I can almost hear your reaction: Good luck with that.

Believe me, many of my friends would say that, too. It's become brutal out there. I don't want to take it easy; I love working hard, and I'm used to fairly long hours. I just don't want to be eating dinner at 9 every night like I did when I was 30. I still have one child at home, and I'd like to see him.

And I know the fact that I'm 51 in a lousy job market, and lack certain skills for certain jobs, makes my quest an uphill battle. But I'm not willing to give up yet -- and O'Donnell says I shouldn't. If you understand what you want, she says, you can be flexible with your wish list, and strategic in the jobs you pursue.

So, O'Donnell gave me some self-assessment exercises, which confirmed what I already know about my work style and preferences. Articulating it, however, helped define the type of work and environment that is most satisfying to me.

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Here's what stuck:

My 'Belief Statements' About My Chosen Career

My ideas of what a good editor -- my chosen profession -- does: A good editor knows her audience. She sees the story, and packages it for the greatest impact. She can illuminate any subject, and is a great communicator. She makes smart decisions, and moves quickly. She is a champion of the work.

My work style and preferences: I'm an "energizer." I thrive in an environment where colleagues are positive, fun, competitive and quick-minded -- and where management is energetic, decisive and supportive. I'm also a "reporter," which means I like to seek out and share information, and build strong work relationships. I'm happiest in a position that involves motivating and persuading.

My mantra: You don't know until you try.

As a Phase III job searcher, O'Donnell says I should ask myself: Am I asking too much from my goal? Will I have to compromise too much to achieve it? And then, knowing what I want, I need to shape my search to get as close to personal satisfaction as I possibly can. I'm going to give it a try.

What about you: Are you going after what you want in a new career? Or are you compromising before you even started?

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