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Finding My Career Sweet Spot at 50

Today, CareerFuel launches the first of a series of blogs from Deborah Brody Hamilton.  Like millions of Americans, Deborah is new to unemployment.  She will be chronicling her ups and downs as she navigates her way to her next position. 

It is week two of my full-time job search.  So far, I have had two interviews, numerous phone calls, informational interviews, hundreds of emails and applied for dozens of jobs.

One job interview resulted in a decline sent the very next day via US Mail. It was okay because it was a job I really could not have done­. In reality, it sounded like a job that no one could do.  Regardless, the rejection still smarted because I wanted them to want me, even if I didn’t really want them– to quote The Jane Austen Book Club, “High school is never over”.

The other interview took place over the phone with a headhunter.  The conversation went well and we talked for more than an hour. I had expected to hear back right away, but another four days go by before I received an email from an assistant to arrange a Skype interview (even though we are in the same city) with the senior partner for a whole week away.  To quell my nerves, I decide that this is the week for me to generate more options so that when I get to the second interview with the Desirable Company, I will not appear desperate.

The week goes by, and I have no concrete leads.  Just a lot of advice that falls into two basic categories:

(1)“Get crystal clear about what you want to do and put it on your resume.”  (Also phrased as “what’s your Dream Job?and “This is your life; go for what you really want to do!”)–or–(2)“It’s a terrible job market. This is not the time to be changing careers.  Go for a job doing what you’ve done, otherwise you’ll never get hired.”  (Subtext: “Plus you’re old – 50 – and if you screw around now, you’ll never be able to retire.”).

Both of these camps leave me feeling equally deflated.  Most of all, I really hate being asked what my dream job is. Okay, if a magic fairy granted me my ideal job wish it would be to have an advice column in Oprah Magazine, in which I would never give someone advice such as I have received (see above).  Actually, I left out category #3, which is the worst! Above all else, I hate when someone says, “Don’t worry. It will all turn out for the best.”  Advice that falls into this category always makes me want to scream, “Really, well, I’m glad you have a direct line to Deepak Chopra, because I’m not so sure.  And please don’t tell me about your friend who lost her job and is still looking for work three years later and had to tap into her 401K and pay these Ginormous penalties, etc. ”

This got me thinking about my dream jobs over the years. When I was seven, I wanted to be Miss America. By the time I was 12, I realized that I would NEVER be Miss America, so I decided to run for Student Council.  This led to years of wanting to be the First Woman President.  By college, I realized I wasn’t cut out for politics, so I settled on public policy, which led me more or less to the place I am now.  But this was never really a dream, it was more of a path where one step led to another and suddenly almost 30 years had gone by.

Reviewing my dream job made me realize that I am good at what I do, and I do like the fact that it supports the ultimate goal of making the human condition better.  So here is the best advice I have received, from executive coach Catherine Michela, “Take it slowly and try to select the right fit for you. Think about not only the job itself, but also what it will allow you to do that you haven’t been able to do in your last position. Also think about your next job in terms of what you want to learn.”

As I mentioned earlier, my next step is to generate as many options as possible.  I will do this by making more phone calls, arranging meetings, writing emails, etc.  I don’t believe the economy is as bad as everyone says–at least not where I live– and I do believe that a really good job is out there looking for me, just as I am looking for it.  Stay tuned as I search to find the needle in the haystack.

When did you find your career sweetspot?

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About Deborah Brody Hamilton

Guest Blogger Deborah Brody Hamilton is a writer and communications professional with almost 30 years of work experience in Washington, D.C. Her peak moments were (1) in 1972, when she won an award from the Yonkers Public Library for most books read in a summer, and (2) in 1997, when she was a mediator at Congress’s first Bipartisan Retreat for Civility.