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How to futureproof your career over 50. Rhymer Rigby offers advice


Article by Ceri Wheeldon

I put this question to Rhymer Rigby, author of The Careerist. This is what Rhymer had to say:

It is important to make it clear to employers that you still want to learn and still want to advance.

Keep your skills up to date

Make sure you keep your skills up to date – if companies are reluctant to give pay rises in tough economic times, they may still be happy to invest in training which will have a beneficial effect on the business. Don’t be afraid to say you want to go on a course. Wanting to take part in courses makes you look good to your employer. Fight prejudices and make sure your IT skills are up to scratch.

Mentoring younger or new staff members

Mature workers make natural mentors. Put your hand up and volunteer to mentor new hires. People who have been with a company for a long time have an enormous amount to contribute. It is better if you volunteer. Become the ‘go to’ person for less empowered people. Feel the value you can bring, network within the organisation.

Use humour to combat prejudices

Humour can often be a positive way of dealing with cutting comments when it comes to age. Don’t take yourself too seriously – humour has the ability to diffuse difficult situations, but make sure that your humour is not at the expense of others – and stay clear of racist, sexist, homophobic and any kind of joke which is seen to victimise anyone. Play to your strengths Experience can offer a premium over youth. Act ‘young’, talk to people of all ages, network. Be seen to be taking an interest- change the perception of ‘winding down’. Remember that skills are easy to learn, but strong interpersonal skills and a good work ethic can be a key differentiater – don’t be afraid to highlight these.

Futureproof your career over 50

Get into the habit of rewriting your cv every year- assess whether it shows progression- what new skills or achievements can be added. If it appears as though you are standing still, make sure you look at ways to address this- perhaps more training- asking to have new more challenging objectives set can all help.

Do you need to rebrand yourself in your 50s or 60s?

This extract from my book ‘The Careerist’ may help you to look at why and how you should rebrand yourself:

Whether you’re worried that colleagues see you as a little steady and dull or moving into a now position and concerned about the impression you’re going to make the idea of treating yourself as a brand that needs refreshing from time to time is one that’s gaining increasing currency in the workplace.

Is rebranding just like a makeover?

Far from it. Like businesses, individuals often need to rebrand themselves when perceptions do not accurately reflect the underlying reality. “You might have joined a business very young and grown up,” says Wally Olins, chairman of Saffron Brand Consultants, “but people still perceive you as the office junior.” Equally, it could be that part of who you are is having a disproportionately negative impact on your overall image – for example, a messy desk could cast you as disorganised or a tendency to raise your voice could lead to the perception that you are unreasonable.

 Are there any easy wins?

There are plenty of little, cosmetic things that can tarnish your brand, says Kim Fletcher, managing director of Trinity Management Communications. “I used to cycle in and instead of changing immediately, I’d answer a call and before I knew it, I’d been working for an hour in scruffy old clothes,” he says. “Looking like that at your desk does belittle you in other people’s eyes.” Addressing areas such as this is a quick way to brush up your workplace image. “Try and see yourself through your colleagues’ eyes and write down a list of things you need to work on,” he says.

What if my brand has more fundamental problems?

In this case, you may need to dig deeper. “The key is discovering what people find compelling about you and building on that foundation,” says Louise Mowbray, a personal branding consultant. She suggests you go to your “market” or “audience” – colleagues, senior managers or suppliers – and ask them how they perceive you, what irritates them and what they like. Then work on the bad points and deliver on the good ones. “It’s about adding value and giving people what they want consistently,” she says. “Consistency builds trust in a personal brand.” You need to find your niche, then get your name out as the person to go to for whatever it is. Ms Mowbray adds that this should be subtle: “Arrange for a speaker to come in who’s an expert in your area and do the organising; some of their brand will rub off on you. Blog. Write articles. Show people how great you are – don’t tell them.”

How long does it take?

Just as it takes a long time to create bad perceptions, erasing them can’t be done overnight. What if there are failings from your past that are not so easy to consign to history? Mr Olins says you can’t deal with problems by ignoring them – if you worked for a failed bank, being upfront about it may help your brand recover but pretending it never happened won’t. But there are limits to what a rebranding can achieve. There is the so-called “career-limiting move” – a mistake so egregious, you never recover. “Some events are so strong you can’t dissociate yourself from them,” says Mr Fletcher. “In this case, you need to move jobs. That’s the best rebranding opportunity of all.”

For more tips on how to how to enhance your career and employability over 50, Rhymer offers excellent tips and advice in his book. The Careerist: Over 100 Ways to Get Ahead at Work.  The Careerist, is available this October, priced £14.99 from Kogan Page.

Ceri Wheeldon

Ceri is Founder and Editor of Fabafterfifty.co.uk She is a frequent speaker at events and in the media on topics related to women over 50 , including style and living agelessly. With 20+ years experience as a headhunter Ceri also now helps support those looking to extend their working lives.

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