Recently at a lay-lead service at a local Unitarian Universalist church, the lay leader, Don Rawding, gave a sermon on “Change”. After discussing some less than adequate ways of dealing with change such as deny it, lash out at every person, situation and event involved with it, ignore it and hope it will go away, get stubborn and refuse to change, he suggested the best thing to do was FRET: Face reality, Reflect, Evolve, and Thrive.
Job loss and “forced retirement” are changes that many older but not old workers must deal with. Many workers need to have income throughout their 50s and 60s and maybe even into their 70s. Others want to work for a variety of reasons: colleagues, they still enjoy their professional work, their job gives their life meaning, structure. If we have a job at this age we’re advised to keep it since we will see more SSI income if we wait and retire at 70!
Hit with job loss, many do take these less than adequate strategies. “Those higher ups will see their mistake and hire me back in no time.” “It’s all the fault of ______ (fill in the blank).” “I’ll just keep posting resumes on Monster and someone will eventually hire me.” “One of these days my lucky number will come up.”
FRET struck me as a good model for dealing with this change. Face reality. Older workers with great up-to-date, in demand skills do sometimes get new jobs in their fields at pay comparable to their former jobs. But age discrimination is real. Older workers are seen as more expensive, not up-to- date on skills, and 30 and 40 year old managers do not want to hire someone who is the age of their parents! If you want a job, the research suggests that nonprofits are the most likely to hire you, but your skills must still be a good fit.
Face Reality – I have a collection of books going back at least 20 years. The advice in almost all these books is that if you lose your job in your late 50s or 60s, start your own business. A few books published between 2004 and 2007 projected that older workers would be needed and ageism would become a thing of the past within a few years because of the smaller generation that is coming along. The authors of these books did not foresee outsourcing, the potential of computers, or the Great Recession.
Reflect – What have you accomplished thus far in your life? What gives you a sense of pride and accomplishment? It does not have to be what you did in the work force? It may be the family you raised or what you have contributed to a church or some other organization. It may be a hardship or a trauma that you have overcome. What skills have you used? Is it important that you continue to exercise these skills? It may be useful to write down your accomplishment s and skills. There is something about seeing things in writing. Is there anything that is unfinished that is still important to complete? Are there areas of life that need to be enlarged? Maybe you were a workaholic and have forgotten what leisure and play feel like!
Evolve – Make some changes in your life. Do you need to develop your computer skills, exercise, lose weight, get training or a certification? Is it time to try something new or go back and enjoy some activity that you have not done in years? You may very well have 20 to 30 years of good health ahead of you.
Thrive – What will happen if you successfully combine the fruits of your reflection and evolving actions.
OOPS – For some individuals, there may be too much of a gap between FRE and T. What if you have no idea what thriving will look like for you? Keep the idea of thriving in mind and add “TING”. Start FRETTING.
Take Time (the second T) More reflection. Give yourself the time to figure things out. Don’t rush into any decisions. What do you want your life to look like at this point? Where do you want to live? Is it time to downsize to a smaller house? Move to another area of the country or the world. You need or want income, how much do you need or want? How much work time and leisure time do you want? Is there something that you have always wanted to do? Do you have a passion, expertise, talent that can become a new career? Are there problems that you see in your community, your region, your country, the world that you can solve? If you have never figured out what you want to do when you grow up, now is the time! If this is too much to consider on your own, some career counselors, and many life, career, and retirement coaches can help you with your self-assessment.
Innovate. If you do not want to be underemployed, you probably have to consider starting your own business. Consider the problem that you can solve, the service that you can deliver, the craft that you make. What makes it different from the other solutions, services, crafts that are there? How can you make yourself standout? Better service, a more targeted niche? Some type of customization? Check out your competitors on line in and in real time. It is good to have competitors – it means that people are willing to spend money on what you are offering!
Network. Use your virtual and real time connections. There is FaceBook, LinkedIn, and Twitter as well as Blogs. There are the associations and organizations that you belong to in real time. Networking can help you market and sell or get any help you may need.
Give. Give of yourself. Give samples; have a free gift on your website. Let people know who you are. Practice generosity. When you are thriving adopt a charity. Give a percentage of your sales to Trickle Up or a similar organization. According to the psychologist Eric Ericson you are at the psychosocial stage known as generativity, a stage of life characterized by finding meaning through enriching the lives of others. A generative person constantly envisions a better world for themselves, their families, and their society. What do you imagine when you picture the good that will outlive you?