Archive for the ‘Time to Reflect’ Category

  • Seniors Who Rest on Their Laurels Don’t Stand a Chance in Today’s Job Market


    Yes, 25 years of solid accomplishments add gravitas to your resume, but you could also sink like a stone under the weight of that gravitas if you do not convert past accomplishments into present-day assets.

    Maybe you were a brilliant analyst, but do you know that Google Analytics is not about the company’s earning ratio?

    Perhaps you were a direct marketing mogul. That’s wonderful but do you know how to optimize social media marketing today?

    If you are serious about working in your 60’s, 70’s and even 80’s, we know you’re interesting, courageous, eager to continue learning and contributing to the world around you. The good news is that there are lots of resources to help you bring your skills up-to-speed so you can find a good home for that passion.

    Check out adult education or community college programs.

    Here in Maine, the MCED (Maine Center for Enterprise Development) is an entrepreneur-centric resource for simplifying the process of launching a successful start-up. Other states have similar programs.

    The Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes are another great resource. Use this map to find an OLLI in your state.

    Your passion – your desire to find meaningful work – is only as good as your plan. And that plan requires a tremendous amount of due diligence.  That research begins long before the interview. It involves finding out as much as you can about the company where you think you’d like to work.

    What are their goals? Are they in line with yours? Check out their marketing materials. Then, find customer feedback.  Is the company accomplishing what it says it will do? Are its customers happy, apathetic, dissatisfied or extremely dissastisfied?

    What is the company culture and work environment? It’s easy for the company to project whatever image it wants in a marketing campaign; you need to find out what people are saying about the company, its management team and its employees. This is where your networking pays off. Talk to someone or someone who knows someone who can give you the inside scoop.

    Once you’re satisfied that this could be a good place to work, you need to learn who are the company’s biggest competitors? What challenges is the company facing in the next 6 months, next year and next two years. This information is key so you can tailor your working resume to meet those needs.

    First, make sure your resume prominently conveys that you have the skills (which you’ve so diligently brought up-to-speed) to do the job. You must write with the reader in mind. If the reader/hiring manager isn’t interested, your resume will hit the reject pile in seconds.

    Also – and this is critical – you must make a compelling case that your skills, background and experience make you the best candidate to do the job profitably for the company.  Provide meaningful data to document your assertions.

    All of this is necessary to actually get the interview. Once you are in the interview, you can make a much better case by asking the hiring manager what he or she sees as the biggest challenge facing the company. Then present a mini-plan (informed by your earlier research) describing how you would address the challenge if you were in the job.  This is where all your due diligence pays off. Your plan contains specifics garnered from your research which demonstrate your knowledge of the company and also your genuine interest in working there to help them solve the problems they face.  Your plan is not a generic blueprint that you could apply to any scenario.

    Yes, this is a lot of work and if you’re not prepared to do it perhaps you really do not want that job as much as you thought you did.

  • “It Never Occurred To Me Not To Work!”


    Enid Nemy published a grand obituary about Liz Carpenter, a remarkable – some would say fierce – octogenarian reporter and feminist, in yesterday’s NY Times.

    Liz Carpenter, who spent much of her life working the corridors of power in Washington as a newspaper reporter, an aide to Lyndon B. Johnson when he was vice president and press secretary to Lady Bird Johnson during her years in the White House, died on Saturday in Austin, Tex. She was 89.

    She was in the motorcade in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

    She wrote the brief speech Mr. Johnson delivered at the foot of Air Force One when he returned to Washington as the 36th president. (“This is a sad time for all people,” he said, adding, “I ask for your help — and God’s.”)

    For the next five years, she served as the First Lady’s press secretary.

    Widely known for her caustic and sometimes bawdy wit, Ms. Carpenter was irreverent about herself and her access to power during the Johnson years in Washington. She was also one of the few White House staff members who had no qualms about giving as good as she got, no matter the source.  “Why don’t you use your head?” Mr. Johnson once bellowed at her.

    She bellowed back: “I’m too busy trying to use yours!””

    “It never occurred to me not to work,” Ms. Carpenter said in a 1987 interview, shortly after she had undergone a mastectomy, adding, “I had a restless spirit that kept drawing me to new adventures.” She never hesitated, she said, “to charge hell with a bucket of water.”

    Read the full obituary. It’s a feisty tribute to Liz Carpenter, a life and a spirit to be remembered!

  • Knead It, Punch It, Bake It! – A Book on Bread and A Recipe for Life


    Judith Jones is one of the most “savvy” and indomitable 83 year-olds whom I know. Last night, I had an opportunity to meet Judith again when she shared some of her reminiscenses with an audience here in Maine at the Portland Museum of Art. The museum had invited Judith to speak in conjunction with their exhibit, “Objects of Wonder: Four Centuries of Still Life,” because so many of those still life paintings included food. All that sounds rather insightful but I dare say they had not figured that Judith Jones is anything but a “still life.”

    Judith is senior editor and vice president at Alfred A. Knopf publishers in New York. She joined Knopf in 1957 and her 53-year career is still going strong! Today, Judith is the most renown cookbook editor in the United States, if not the world. The list of authors she has edited reads like an international Who’s Who in the art of cooking: Julia Child, James Beard, Marion Cunningham, Marcella Hazan, Ken Horn, Madhur Jaffrey, Irene Kuo, Edna Lewis, Joan Nathan, Claudia Roden, Nina Simonds, and Anna Thomas, among many others.

    Judith was born into a blueblood household in which the cooking was done by maids ensconced in kitchens tucked in far-off corners so the “smells” would not seep out and permeate the home. This was also a time when no upstanding person consumed French food, because Judith notes, “with all those sauces, it surely had something to hide.” Judith says that one of the most daunting confessions she ever had to make to her mother was, “I love garlic.” Her mother was appalled.

    Judith managed to escape this culinary wasteland by moving to Paris after graduating from college. She persuaded her parents to let her go for a three week visit. She fell in love with the city, the food and the Parisians’ passion for cooking and eating. At the end of her three weeks Judith “lost” her passport and had to postpone returning home. In the time it took to replace her passport, she cannily managed to secure a job reading manuscripts and subsequently extended her stay for three years.

    It was a heady time in Paris. World War II had recently ended and the people reveled in the freedom and access to goods and food lost during the war years. Judith recounts a joyous moment when she was standing in line in a bakery and the owner stood behind the counter holding a baguette of bread fresh from his oven. He lifted it over his head, broke it in half and proudly revealed its warm, aromatic and fluffy white interior to his patrons. Everyone cheered! Wartime shortages had precluded such luxuries as white flour. Judith was enamored of this new life where people took such joy in a simple loaf of bread.

    One of her most memorable “working” moments happened when she rescued Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl from a “reject pile.” Judith might have been new and inexperienced, but she was fearless about what she believed in – and she believed Anne’s story. She insisted the story be published in English in the US and it was.

    In 1957, Judith finally managed to tear herself  away from Paris. She returned to New York and accepted an editorial position at Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. In the beginning she worked primarily on translations of French writers such as Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre. Over the years she has worked with many distinguished authors, including Elizabeth Bowen, John Updike, Peter Taylor, John Hersey, William Maxwell and Anne Tyler. But food was never far from her heart.

    When Houghton Mifflin turned down Julia Child’s manuscript, Alfred Knopf brought it to Judith’s desk, saying “I think you might understand this better than anyone else in the office.”

    Judith loved the massive tome by three unknown ladies – one American and two Frenchwomen, Louise Bertholle and Simone Becks. She wrote in her memoir, The Tenth Muse, “I was bouleversee, as the French say – knocked out. This was the book I’d been searching for.” She convinced Knopf to publish the manuscript, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and the world of food has never been the same since.

    Judith has written many articles, essays and books of her own. She is the co-author with Evan Jones (her late husband) of: The Book of Bread, and Knead It, Punch It, Bake It! In 2007 Judith published her memoir, The Tenth Muse: My life in Food, and in 2009 she published another beautiful, groundbreaking book, The Pleasures of Cooking for One.

    When Judith is not at her desk or her stove in New York, she is at home in a rural corner of the Northeast Kingdom in Vermont, where she and a cousin are raising Angus cattle, which she calls “the girls.” She is healthy, fit and downright spunky. She calls this time of life her “ripe old age,” as opposed to her “old old age.”

    Dare I say, we should all ripen as well…

    Judith has already received the “James Beard Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award.” I think they may have jumped the gun for who knows what else this 83-year-old dynamo will achieve in her years to come!

    NB: In the interest of full disclosure, I was one of Judith’s editors. I asked her and her husband, Evan, to write a book on bread for children, and when they delivered the manuscript to me it was as much of a magnum opus as Julia’s for Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Not easily daunted myself, I asked Judith if I could submit the tome to a colleague to be published for adults and if she and Evan would work with me to pare the manuscript down to a second book, appropriate for children. We did and the result was two award-winning books.

  • Social Capital on Display: A Norwegian Parable about Social Entrepreneurs


    This astonishing and true story, about Jan Baalsrud a Norwegian anti-Nazi Resistance fighter in 1943, is the closest parable I have ever read about the trials and tribulations of a social entrepreneur.

    NY Times columnist, David Brooks, retells Baalsrud’s epic to capture the essence of Norway’s long-standing Olympic Gold Medal success, but Brooks also describes the story as an “interesting form of social capital on display.” He writes, “It’s a mixture of softness and hardness. Baalsrud was kept alive thanks to a serial outpouring of love and nurturing. At the same time, he and his rescuers displayed an unbelievable level of hardheaded toughness and resilience. That’s a cultural cocktail bound to produce achievement in many spheres.”

    Determined to succeed for a cause greater than ourselves – isn’t that the essence of a great social entrepreneur?

  • Ten Tips to Beat the Waiting Game Doldrums


    Boomer or budgie – the waiting game can be maddening: waiting to hear if they have received your resumé; waiting to hear if they have read your resumé; waiting to see if they will call you for an interview; waiting to see if they will call you back after your first interview; waiting to learn if you will or will not be offered the job. With the paucity of jobs open and the glut of qualified applicants today, all of this could take months. Even worse, if there’s no job offer and if you have done nothing but twitch and bite your nails whilst waiting, you have wasted precious time.

    The good news is that we do learn to be more patient as we grow older. The bad news is that we have less time to be patient as we grow older.  Soooo, it’s time to take back some control: time to use those days, weeks, months to gear up for the next opportunity.


    1. Eggs:  Never, ever put them all in one basket! Pursue several opportunities simultaneously. What you learn from one will build upon what you need to know for another. The efficacy of the way in which you present yourself for one will inform your next “self” sales pitch.

    2. Intelligence Gathering:  Network, network, network and then network some more. Find someone who works where you want to work or who knows someone in that organization. Use your friends, family, paper rolodex and online networks. You need to get the inside scoop: what works; what needs to be fixed; what’s the strategic vision and what’s the organizational culture – collaborative or stressed, competitive or satisfied? This info is crucial for you to be able to communicate the ways in which you are a good fit and articulate the value added you bring to help the organization meet its goals.

    3. Insights and Perspectives:  Scour industry specific publications, niche business journals and online blogs and pipelines to determine what’s happening in that industry, who are the thought leaders? Form your own opinions and do not be afraid to articulate them. Innovative leaders are looking for new, actionable ideas. They are not seeking clones nor are they satisfied with the status quo. They want fresh, independent insights and perspectives to help achieve their vision.

    Remember President Lincoln’s Cabinet? He deliberately appointed a contentious “Team of Rivals,” and that team became one of the most successful Cabinets in US History.

    4. Compelling Story:  Put your best foot forward. Metaphorically and realistically speaking – polish your boots. The competition is fierce and you need to be able to demonstrate you are the best of the best. Create a compelling story. Answers alone may be quickly forgotten but stories create an impact and are memorable. Focus on what you have to offer and why it will be of value – what’s in it for the organization. You know to compose your story with active verbs but do not forget the blockbuster nouns – key words – that capture you, your strengths and your industry savvy. If your key words’ vocabulary needs a boost, explore Google’s Key Word search tool.

    5. Qualify and Quantify:  Provide metrics to quantify your successes and specific examples to qualify your accomplishments. Create bullet points to remind you of each anecdote during the interview. If you have to flip through pages of notes, you defeat the purpose of the exercise; it will appear as forced documentation rather than spontaneous elaboration or sharing.  You want to engage the interviewer so he or she is genuinely interested in what you have accomplished and how you have done it. Caveat Emptor: be brief. The best storytellers leave their audience eager to hear more.

    6. Questions:  Formulate questions to ask the interviewer, such as: what do you see as the most critical elements of this job; what are you looking for in a candidate; why is the current job holder leaving; how would you prioritize the organization’s top goals; when and why did you join the organization and what continues to interest you most? Listen carefully and then use the information you have researched on the organization and this field to follow-up on the interviewer’s answers. Don’t merely match questions tit for tat; create a dialogue. You are interested in this position and are not just desperate for any job.

    7. Continually Update Your Resume:  Note everything you are learning as you move forward. For example, if you’re becoming more fluent in social networking, provide some data to let the interviewer know you understand what differentiates each of these online tools, how to use each to your best advantage and how you would use them to the organization’s advantage.

    8. Current Events:  Keep on top of what’s happening economically. Understand how the ways in which you want to work and the organizations with which you’d like to work relate to and affect what’s going on in the context of the community, state and global economy.

    9. Beyond the Economy:  Relate current political, cultural and social events to the broader context of history and literature. Check out “deep thinking on the web.” Nothing is happening now that has not happened before. Technology may change. Human nature does not. Competition in the workplace? Remember how Julius Caesar was stabbed by his fellow Senators in the Roman Forum? Are today’s hallowed halls of the US Congress equally welcoming to our leaders?

    10. Relax: Enjoy this opportunity to learn more about yourself. If you value yourself, others will too.

  • Mea Culpa!


    One of my trusty readers took me to task today, thinking I had maligned seniors who might be “looking forward to the comforts of a rocking chair.”

    This was certainly not my intention and I do apologize. I personally adore rocking chairs. I think their appearance in airport lounges is the single best addition to air travel since Lindy landed in Paris. I have rocking chairs in my garden (above) and one in every room of my house except the bathrooms. That being said, I am sure that once some ingenious soul invents a rocking commode I will install it immediately.

    My intent was to tell those readers who were not contemplating creating their own business but rather were looking forward to the comforts of a rocking chair not to waste their time reading that particular “boomer enterprise” posting.

    Rest assured I would never demean anyone’s ambitions nor the rocker in which I do most all of my creating thinking.

  • Mind the Gap – in Your Resumé That Is, Not the London Underground


    “Mind,” as in pay attention! Be proactive. Reclaim that territory – don’t avoid it like a failed relationship. Every point, or lack thereof, in your resumé is connected and has a purpose. A jazz musician would describe it as the music played between the notes.

    Take time to think. Don’t just jump from one job to the next. Reflect on what has worked for you and what has not. A blog I have mentioned before, Zen Habits, has boiled this reflection and action process down to Four Laws of Simplicity that you can use on your resumé, any area of your life and, in fact, your life as a whole:

    1. Collect everything in one place.
    2. Choose the essential.
    3. Eliminate the rest.
    4. Organize the remaining stuff neatly and nicely.

    Your experience and your thinking are assets. It’s your story. Share those assets with your future employer, after all you were not just sitting home eating bon bons. Truth be said, maybe you were powering up with chocolate, but the enlightenment at the end of the munch is what counts. If you’ve filled the “gap” testing new opportunities, launching entrepreneurial start-ups, acquiring more formal education, learning new skills, working in the trenches, building your network or mentoring others, tell those stories and highlight the ways in which that “gap” experience makes you an even more credible candidate for the job. Any employer worth his or her salt should be thrilled to learn you’re not going to flip out prematurely or abandon ship because you did not take the time to get your act together before stepping into a new environment.

    Pay attention to the gaps, capture the music between the notes and remember: the London Underground only looks like a labyrinth to those without a map!

  • “Retirement, that swoon of a word, just won’t do!” Ellen Goodman


    Twenty inches of fresh snow, 3-foot drifts and small white mountains, higher than I can lift my shovel – that’s winter in Maine. But to see the summer hydrangeas – looking a bit ragged around the edges, I admit, but still – bravely lifting their elegant heads toward the sun is enough to sustain hope that Spring will come again!

    Snowbound days like these are good for reflection: considering where we have been and where we would like to be.

    To help put you in the right frame of mind, I recommend Ellen Goodman’s final column, “Letting Go,” in which she says, “it is never easy to know that right moment to step into the next stage.”

    “After 46 years of deadlines” she continues, “it is time to take in some oxygen, to breathe and consider.”

    The snows will melt soon enough. No need to hurry our decisions. The back steps are icy and I would not want to slip. The future holds good things. No need to nip them in the bud.

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