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Finding My Career Sweet Spot at 50: Letting Go

My intention with this blog is to be honest. I have now hit the three-month mark on my job search to find a new career. The days are getting shorter, the weeks seem to run together and the months seem very long. Veterans who have been through this tell me that this is just the beginning, but I can’t help feeling like Pi in the middle of the ocean with the Bengal tiger. I need to reach shore.

I am getting interviews, but things move at a snail’s pace. Then there are so many levels of screening that it completely takes the wind out of my sails. Since the last time I looked for a job, “headhunting” has become a cottage industry. Most senior jobs are now advertised through recruiters. Either hiring managers don’t have the time to do their own resume screening, or the Internet has made it possible for so many applicants to apply for every job that hiring a middleman is a way to make the process more manageable—at least for the employer.

For the applicant, adding a middleman to the hiring process can make things harder. A résumé and cover letter are just a prelude for the pre-screening phone call, the ten-page questionnaire, then another phone call, then maybe finally an in-person interview with the “client” and more time spent up front on nuts and bolts and credentials. The problem is, with experienced candidates like me, the skills are pretty much a given and hiring is more about chemistry.

As in every industry, good recruiters tell you up front what the challenges are with the job and the personalities; they keep you apprised of the process, and provide you with feedback after the interview(s). The not-so-good ones pump you up and gloss over the less desirable aspects of the job—or misread the job completely. If they need you, you’ll hear from them with an urgent message, if not, you may never hear from them again.

Headhunters aside, there are lots of good things coming out of this job search. First and foremost, change was long overdue for me—not just career change but more like a total psychic reboot. It’s like Lao Tzu said, “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” It’s the letting go that’s hard.

I can see changes in myself that are for the better—I’m more thoughtful, less reactive, more empathetic, less judgmental, and more grateful. My Achilles heel, however, is patience. I’m working on it, sort of.

I have been told by so many people NOT TO TAKE THINGS PERSONALLY. Intellectually, I get this, but emotionally not so much. Meg Ryan’s character in You’ve Got Mail says it best, “What is that supposed to mean? I am so sick of that. All it means is it’s not personal to you, but it’s personal to me, it’s personal to a lot of people.” A job search hits us at our most personal level. Propelled by economic and also psychic necessity, we put our goals and accomplishments and hopes and fears out to the world. Ouch!

I’ve heard many stories about difficult job searches, career disappointments, compromises, and eventual triumphs. I can’t even count how many people have told me stories about their friends, acquaintances, distant cousins, or spouses who lost their jobs after 30 years of working, and it took them eons to find a new job—or not. Last week a stranger started to tell me about her husband who was out of work for so many months that he started applying to McDonald’s and Safeway, and even they wouldn’t hire him. I burst into tears on the spot.

As crazy as it sounds, some people have said they envy me. They feel stuck in their jobs, and here I am exploring the universe. (La-dee-da, La-dee-da.) Most of the time, it feels like nothing is happening. At the same time, anything is possible. Like Pi, I don’t think I can tame this tiger, but I know with a little patience, I can train it.

Do you need some inspiration for your job search? Well, the musing of guest blogger Greg Peters are destined to distract.

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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.
  • http://cctmobiledetail.com/ Mike Chason

    I’m so sorry that you are having to go through this struggle ! I do understand the frustration, and I’m sure it can feel overwhelming. I know that you may feel like your going nowhere, but as you’ve said, you’re learning patience and the self revealing art of letting go! I follow the latter with ” Letting go and letting God ” ! I don’t know where you are in regard to trusting a ” higher power”, but through God all things are possible and attainable ! I put my trust in God on a daily basis and let him have my problems and although I put forth the effort, I leave the results up to him ! Its so much easier and relieving when I remember God’s in charge !!!

    Just so you’ll know, that I too had difficulty in attaining work, after unfortunately getting a 4th DUI in 1996, which at that time was a felony. ( I’ve since had that reduced and dismissed, so no more felony ) But with the legal ramifications and consequences in getting that “F” as a label over my name was devastating. No one wanted to hire me , regardless of my qualifications. I went through many job applications and interviews and even some postions , where I had interviewed several times for a good job , only to be turned down once the prospectful employer found out about the “F” ! ” Normal” people wonder why convicted felons go back and create more crime …. it’s because they can’t get any kind of work, except maybe digging ditches, etc. Unfortinately societies image of someone with even one “F”, who made a mistake , is unforgivable in their minds and can never be made to be an upstanding citizen ever again.

    This is when , ” by the grace of God” I turned my life around and got sober ( my F was a drunk driving with no accidents, just 4 in 7 yrs ). Even though I was now on the path of sobriety, I still obviously needed to find work and rewarding and successful work too. Most everyone I met with loved what I had to offer , but again the “F” was hangng over my head …..So I prayed and prayed about it , went to my recovery meetings and on God’s time, “More was revealed” … at this point , I had had some personal success in detailing some friends hot rods and classics , that people suggested I go back into providing custom detailing as my own business. Friends told me that regardless of a “F” or not, when you own your own business, you can NEVER be fired, laid off, etc. So I ran with it…….

    I told you all about my past to let you know, that tough times in finding work can be done and with grace and dignity. Most people wouldn’t have shared that with you as far as having someone see the “F” situation. I still own my own business, so “My employer” doesn’t care… ! ; ) and it’s now gone anyway.

    My point though of this message to your blog , is that , speaking from personal experince, that getting through this difficulty that your having finding a new career,is something that can be done. I took an almost impossible situation and turned it around into a positive and rewarding career , where I’ve never looked back ! I now thank God of going through what I did to then be led to be where I am, today ! if that makes sense. Now by the grace of God and AA I have over 16 yrs sober and am happily and usefully whole !

    You too can get through your difficulty in finding rewarding work ! But as I’ve said it the past here today as well as before on your blog, you may need to create your own company and do what you really love ! I know you mentioned high end shoes before as a passion… maybe thats where you could go and be happy ! in any event I truly believe that turning this situation into a new career direction , based on one of your passions , may all be meant to be !!! Take the leap of faith and give it a try … you’ll be amazed before your halfway through !

    I truly believe in you and know that with all the talents I knew you had in highschool have only become greater and greater through your life ! I know that God has a plan for you , if you just trust his process and ” Let go ” !!! Try what your passionate about as a new career and leave the results up to God… he won’t let you fail !

    With well intentoned thoughts,

    Mike : )

  • https://www.facebook.com/OpBoom Lisa S.

    Deborah,
    I admire your patience and optimism. Would also like to caution you about the realities of finding work after 50. It takes longer. Hiring practices are arduous, protracted and – well, there’s no other word for it – shameful nowadays. Just read some of the stories on the Operation Boomerang Facebook page. . . .
    Word to the wise – stay positive, prepare for a longer search than you may have anticipated, believe that you will find decent position and be creative in your approach to prospective employers. Network like crazy. Schedule informational interviews.
    I wish you the best.

  • http://xogdog.wordpress.com/ Greg

    Deborah,
    Hang in there. I’m into my 16th month of looking after my second media layoff. There are countless fits and starts, so you have to remind yourself not to lose your self-worth.

    I’ve had more than 20 interviews during this time for companies ranging from industry giants to tiny start-ups. Fifty-plus can be a bear as you are finding out. But you’ve got to keep up the good search.

    I found that it’s good to map out your day. I include a set amount of time searching and networking; a set amount of time for training; time for exercise and health; and be sure to get out of the house.

    I’ve had good luck doing contract work, and experts tell me that’s sort of the new normal for 50-plus folks. I’ve had offers, but they involve moves across the country or working through the night. I even had a tryout that lasted a few weeks.

    One thing we were coached not to do by an employment expert at my former job was to apply for the low-end jobs because if you’re receiving unemployment you technically can’t turn down work. So be careful.

    I’m not sure when it happened, but some time over the last four years 50 stopped being the new 40 and became the new 60. This is a blog I posted the other day about the situation http://xogdog.wordpress.com/.

    Network, network and network. Friends and former co-workers can be great assets in the search. LinkedIn is your best friend.

    Rest assured you’re not alone in the struggle. Keep in mind that only you know how many interviews you’ve done, and for each company this is the only search they’re doing for the position so there is no accumulative effect for them like there is for you.

    Good luck to all of us.

  • http://www.facebook.com/deborahbrody.hamilton Deborah Brody Hamilton

    Greg, thanks for sharing your story. Your blog is amazing, and you have a wonderful perspective. With you wiritng skills, I hoep you can always find ways to make a living. Thanks for reading my story. Good luck & keep blogging!