• Gray Hairs – the Secret to Successful Boomer Enterprises???

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    That’s right! Stop pulling or, even worse, dying that gray hair. It’s your badge of gravitas – a sign that you are wise and experienced and quite possibly your greatest asset in launching a new enterprise.

    Tired of doing the same old tedious job? Been pushed out of that boring position due to our bum economy? I was going to say it does not matter what your situation, but it does. If you’re bored and have no interest in changing the stagnant-quo or have been made redundant and look forward to the comforts of a rocking chair, this blog’s not for you.

    On the other hand, if you’d like to jump start your life again, it’s never too late. It just takes a big dollop of gumption and an abundance of passion. For heaven’s sake with today’s life span, we’re looking at another 30 years ahead of us. Let’s make the most of them. I’d passed the mid-term mark when I launched CyberSeniors with 12 brave, gray-haired students in Maine and in five years of blood, sweat, tears and little sleep grew it into more than 28,000 senior students nationwide. Further, I have developed more enterprises since then and have no intentions of stopping as long as the creative juices are flowing.

    Just look at the hundreds of Civic Ventures Fellows and Purpose Prize Winners who, after they had turned 60, embarked on a new careers to help solve some of the world’s most critical social problems. Their stories of passion, commitment, perseverance and success are inspiring. One example, Tim Will, a former telecom executive, had thought he was retiring to North Carolina. Once there, however, he was struck by the number of laid off factory workers in his region. Tim brought broadband and economic prosperity to Appalachia by training those laid off workers in sustainable farming and connecting them, via the internet, to gourmet chefs dedicated to supporting “locally grown” produce in nearby Charlotte, North Carolina. Today, Tim is creating jobs and protecting the environment.

    Then, too, if you need some practical tactics to move your inspiration forward, I’d recommend Will Keyser, a 71-year-old neighbor from Vermont. Will has a portfolio of fascinating businesses which he currently manages simultaneously with great aplomb. One of those enterprises is Work Savvy, LLC with a website rich in resources for Senior Start-ups.

    Before we know it some young whippersnapper is going to attempt to die his or her hair gray. We must warn them that no amount of white shoe polish will imbue them with the experience wrought from 60+ years of living and working. We’ve earned those stripes!

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

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    “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!

  • 15 Secrets to Mastering the Phone Interview: What – No pajamas!

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    Talk about personal setbacks… Yesterday, phone interview guru, Paul Bailo, appeared in Fortune Magazine’s “Dear Annie” column to say: absolutely no PJ’s for the telephone interview!

    His advice: “Wear business attire.” Bailo goes on to explain, “Of course the interviewer can’t see you, but ‘you won’t feel, or sound, as businesslike in your pajamas.’”

    “Businesslike?” How does Bailo know we Savvy Seniors are not interviewing to fulfill a passionate desire to become super models for a new “Boomer” line in Victoria’s Secret closet?

    Not many groundbreaking “interview secrets” in this column, but I do like Bailo’s idea to: “Have a photo of your interviewer on your computer screen. This could be from LinkedIn, Facebook, the company website, or anywhere else your interviewer’s face might appear online. (You have Googled him or her in advance, right?) It makes the interview a little more like an in-person conversation.”

    Caveat Emptor:  I think it might be safer to print and post the interviewer’s photo some place slightly to the side your computer screen just in case you feel compelled to hurl a dart at it, should you not pass the “first five minutes” benchmark…

  • Marc Freedman and the “Generativity Revolution”

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    Ahhh, Marc Freedman (Founder and CEO of Civic Ventures and Encore.org) takes on David Brook’s NY Times, op-ed piece, The Geezer Crusade, which we posted on February 2nd. His response (albeit too gentle) appeared in yesterday’s Huffington Post.

    You may recall Brooks rather biased calls for a “generativity revolution” to reverse public policies that he says rob the young to serve the old and take from them funding, freedom and opportunity.

    “It now seems clear that the only way the U.S. is going to avoid an economic crisis is if the oldsters take it upon themselves to arise and force change,” Brooks writes.

    Freedman says, “We agree, except to say that the real generativity revolution is well underway. And with the help of smart new policies, this movement of forward-looking baby boomers might actually succeed…. After decades of decline, the average retirement age has been increasing steadily, with more adults 55 and older staying in the labor force. And its increasingly clear that these older workers aren’t competing with younger people; they are meeting demands for talent that will only grow as the economy recovers.”

    Neither addresses the FACT that two wars – Iraq and Afghanistan – are draining the economy at warp speed. It’s not the seniors who continue to work, holding down important, value added jobs, nor senior programs such as Social Security to which those same working seniors have contributed for their entire working lives!

  • Entrepreneurial Boomers

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    The Sloan Center on Aging and Work at Boston College is doing some innovative projects – research, workshops and publications – on older workers.

    This month it published Fact Sheet #26 which provides a fascinating snapshot of entrepreneurship and the older worker.

    It cited, for example, a 2009 analysis of data from the Kauffman Foundation on Entrepreneurship in which individuals aged 55-64 “experienced the largest increase in entrepreneurial activity from 2007-2008 (0.31% to 0.36%), making it the age group with the highest entrepreneurial activity rate.”

    And for those of you who might be thinking that the current economic environment, layoffs and the dismal lack of job opportunites forced this entrepreneurial activity, another 2009 survey from the Kauffman Foundation, generated these results: “80.3% of respondents stated that inability to find traditional employment was not at all a factor in starting their own businesses. Only 4.5% said this was an important factor.”

    We’d love to hear some of your entrepreneurial thoughts – a new business, a new way of doing business, entrepreneurial ideas for your interview with the company where you’d like to work???

  • The Geezers’ Crusade

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    Don’t miss this highly provocative essay by New York Times op-ed columnist, David Brooks. But beware being lulled into thinking, “he gets it!” Just as you begin to think this is a marvelous tribute to our intellectual and leadership prowess, he knocks the pins out from under us.

    But again… do not despair. Keep reading until you reach the “readers comments,” They – for the most part – are a brilliant antidote, guaranteed to restore your faith in the power of reasonable people.

    And, for those of you not familiar with David Brooks, I admire his writing, his thoughts and especially his ability to provoke. Isn’t this what good journalism should be, as opposed to simple regurgitation of news or even worse manipulative spin?

  • Confidence Among Executive Recruiters Reaches 18-Month High

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    At last – a bit of positive news…

    From ExecuNet’s February 1st, “Executive Insider” newsletter:

    Mark Anderson, president and chief economist of ExecuNet, the private membership network for senior business executives and those who recruit them reports, “We’ve been signaling this growth since recruiter confidence began to improve mid-year, but the good news today is that the economic recovery is happening and companies are starting to add jobs.”

    A growing number of companies are adding new executive jobs, fewer are eliminating them, leading executive recruiters to confirm economic recovery is beginning to take hold, according to ExecuNet’s latest Recruiter Confidence Index (RCI) data. (Introduced in May 2003, ExecuNet’s Recruiter Confidence Index is based on a monthly survey of executive search firms and recognized as a leading indicator for the economy and the executive job market.) A reading above 50 percent indicates recruiters expect the number of search assignments in the next six months will increase.

    Based on January’s [2010] survey of 214 executive recruiters, 64 percent are “confident” or “very confident” the executive employment market will improve during the next six months, up 10 points from December 2009 and the highest confidence registered since May 2008. Moreover, almost four-in-10 recruiters say hiring will improve by the end of the first quarter.

    Executive recruiters point to signs that more companies are focusing on growth in the next six months, reporting:

    • Companies will be adding new executive jobs (21 percent up from 14 percent in December)
    • Fifty-six percent indicated they expect employers to leverage the current economic climate by “trading up” with new hires for existing management roles
    • Only 3 percent still see companies eliminating senior-management jobs
    • Executive search firms themselves will increase hiring to meet new assignment growth — 33 percent report hiring in contrast to massive layoffs in January 2009

    Anderson cautions, however, that, “Despite this good news, the speed of the rebound seems slower than coming out of past recessions, so executives and recruiters should be prepared for a slow and steady rise in opportunity, not a rapid upswing.”

  • Job Interview Prep

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    When the wind chill here in Maine plummets well below zero and caresses your face like an exfoliant during your early morning constitutional on the beach, it’s time to focus on the interior: a warm fire, in-house blossoms, coffee and a little research on the Web.

    Economies and cultures may differ but job-seeking and anxiety-inducing interviews know no boundaries.

    Interview Prep is basically the same – no matter the job or the continent in which you live. Here, African Writer and Editor, Temitayo Olofinlua, offers sound advice:

    “So your CV made a real good impression, and you were called for an interview? Congratulations! Now you have to scale the next hurdle-the interview. (To be honest I hate interviews. They are just not real. All they succeed in doing is this: they put you on the spot and assail you with questions that make you stare, stammer or ramble away in the desperate hope that it all makes sense). Preparation is key while getting ready for an interview.

    Before the Interview

    This starts right after the (invitation) email, phone call or text message. It’s polite to say thank you and confirm if you’d be available for the interview. It’s a ‘little act’ that goes a long way to demonstrate courtesy.

    The invitation should show the date, time and location of the interview but it’s not sufficient to get you there on time. It’s advisable to take a trip to the interview venue a day before just to get a good idea of the location and distance.

    We all understand how traffic emerges from nowhere; you should give a generous time allowance for this. Remember lateness increases your stress levels which can affect your performance. There is no harm in getting to the venue 30 minutes earlier. Punctuality is the soul of a business; show that and you may be on the road to a successful interview.

    Pack a file. Yes, it’s such a shame when you realise that you have to go back home because you forgot your NYSC certificate. So pack the required essentials-the certificates, invitation letter, awards, stationery and a jotter. It is also important to have photocopies at hand. Most companies are going paperless but there are still a couple of them who would ask you for the certificates. Packing a file ahead of time gives you the opportunity to focus on other things like what you should wear.

    What you will wear will generally depend on the company you are applying to. However the safest route seems to be the corporate – a suit or a fitted shirt, pants/skirts. The important key here is neatness, no scruffiness allowed. All collars should stay where they belong; same with the underwear. Please no blings, flashy earrings or jeans; unless it’s an interview for a deejay position. Dress appropriately; it sure makes a good first impression.

    Knowledge is power. The applicant needs a firm knowledge of the organisation and the way s/he can contribute to the success of the organisation. Visit the company’s website, read up as much as you can. If you can get the company’s annual report(s) – companies quoted on the stock exchange will have this in circulation – by all means do. Know the company’s mission, vision, history and management.

    And very importantly, what exactly the company does. This shows that you are passionate about the company. It also saves you some embarrassing moments during the interview. You don’t want to look blank when asked to talk about company products.

    During your research about the company, it is important to bear in mind questions to ask your interviewer(s).

    It is also important for you to literally ‘embody’ your CV, i.e. be the person that your CV says you are. And continually seek ways in which your past experience can make your potential job more realisable. Why would anyone sound unsure or hesitant when asked what year they graduated from high school, or university. Or at what age they graduated?

    The ‘Interview’ Before the Interview

    Read through your application and try as much as you can to answer questions like why do you need the job? What skills are related to the job that you seek? What position are you applying for and how do you hope to execute the job? You should be physically and psychologically prepared so have a positive attitude.

    So you think you are ready? Brush up on your knowledge of current affairs. Then, attempt some play-acting-let someone act as an interviewer posing likely questions to you. This gives you an idea of what to expect; it also helps you relax and sometimes laugh at your failure at some questions. As such you are better prepared to address knotty questions. Throughout the preparation it is important to stay calm. Interviews can be as long as a day (a series) or merely a few minutes, but it’s advisable to eat, and to visit the toilet before you step out for the day. The Boys Scout slogan ‘Be Prepared!” means a great deal more when it comes to interviews.”

  • Barbells and Brains

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    If, like Leonardo, you wish to develop a dazzling “working resumé” (see SSW’s 1/26/10 post) it behooves you to keep in top form – mentally and physically.

    This snippet, Exercise: In Women, Training for a Sharper Mind by Roni Caryn Rabin from the NY Times, heralds a new study from Canada which has demonstrated that “Older women who did an hour or two of strength [not just toning] training exercises each week had improved cognitive function a year later, scoring higher on tests of the brain processes responsible for planning and executing tasks.”

    Exciting news, but for those men and women not yet ready to heft the barbells, hope thrives in this fascinating and equally energizing article by Jane E. Brody, Healthy Aging, With Nary a Supplement.

    Brody notes, “The desire to achieve a healthy old age is laudable indeed, and will be even more so in the future. According to a projection of the century-long rise in life expectancy published in The Lancet in October, 2009, more than half the children born since 2000 in wealthy countries can expect to celebrate their 100th birthday. If so many of us are destined to become centenarians, it is all the more important to be able to enjoy those years unencumbered by chronic disease and disability. There is no virtue in simply living long; the goal should be to live long and well.”

    “Americans have yet to learn,” she continues, “what Hippocrates, the father of medicine, recognized in 400 B.C. ‘All parts of the body which have a function if used in moderation and exercised in labors in which each is accustomed, become thereby healthy, well developed and age more slowly; but if unused and left idle they become liable to disease, defective in growth and age quickly.’ ”

    She concludes, “It’s time to stop making excuses and make regular physical activity an integral part of your life, like eating, sleeping and brushing your teeth.”

    Soooo, put an extra dollop on your toothbrush, walk twice around your accustomed one-circle block, maybe begin to carry a baseball (Leonardo preferred a chisel) in each hand. Before you know it you, too, will be reaching for the barbells, nudging those neurons and enhancing your brain’s capacity.

  • Resumé Blasphemy

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    Nick Corcodilos, in his Ask the Headhunter blog, shares what he calls his “blasphemous resumé” philosophy.

    The idea, he says, is to create a “working resumé, where you provide the employer with just what he or she is looking for: proof of your understanding of the work that needs to be done, proof that you can do the work, do it the way the employer wants it done, and proof that you can do it profitably.”

    Prescient as that might be, I find the real piéce de résistance in Corcodilos’ blog is this extraordinary “working resumé” from Leonardo Da Vinci. One of Corcodilos’ readers, Phil Hey, at Briar Cliff College, Sioux City, Iowa, sent him Leonardo’s 1481, job-seeking letter:

    Leonardo DaVinci’s letter to Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan, applying for a job in 1481:

    Having, most illustrious lord, seen and considered the experiments of all those who pose as masters in the art of inventing instruments of war, and finding that their inventions differ in no way from those in common use, I am emboldened, without prejudice to anyone, to solicit an appointment of acquainting your Excellency with certain of my secrets.

    1. I can construct bridges which are very light and strong and very portable, with which to pursue and defeat the enemy; and others more solid, which resist fire or assault, yet are easily removed and placed in position; and I can also burn and destroy those of the enemy.

    2. In case of a siege I can cut off water from the trenches and make pontoons and scaling ladders and other similar contrivances.

    3. If by reason of the elevation or the strength of its position a place cannot be bombarded, I can demolish every fortress if its foundations have not been set on stone.

    4. I can also make a kind of cannon which is light and easy of transport, with which to hurl small stones like hail, and of which the smoke causes great terror to the enemy, so that they suffer heavy loss and confusion.

    5. I can noiselessly construct to any prescribed point subterranean passages either straight or winding, passing if necessary underneath trenches or a river.

    6. I can make armoured wagons carrying artillery, which shall break through the most serried ranks of the enemy, and so open a safe passage for his infantry.

    7. If occasion should arise, I can construct cannon and mortars and light ordnance in shape both ornamental and useful and different from those in common use.

    8. When it is impossible to use cannon I can supply in their stead catapults, mangonels, trabocchi, and other instruments of admirable efficiency not in general use — In short, as the occasion requires I can supply infinite means of attack and defense.

    9. And if the fight should take place upon the sea I can construct many engines most suitable either for attack or defense and ships which can resist the fire of the heaviest cannon, and powders or weapons.

    10. In time of peace, I believe that I can give you as complete satisfaction as anyone else in the construction of buildings both public and private, and in conducting water from one place to another.

    I can further execute sculpture in marble, bronze or clay, also in painting I can do as much as anyone else, whoever he may be.

    Moreover, I would undertake the commission of the bronze horse, which shall endue with immortal glory and eternal honour the auspicious memory of your father and of the illustrious house of Sforza.

    And if any of the aforesaid things should seem to anyone impossible or impracticable, I offer myself as ready to make trial of them in your park or in whatever place shall please your Excellency, to whom I commend myself with all possible humility.

    Leonardo Da Vinci

    At last, we know the reason behind that enigmatic smile!

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