Six jobs in my 50's

I started to drift from the moment the Indiana congresswoman shook my hand and said welcome to the family. I just received tenure and was officially a professor with a job for life. Psychotherapists would have a field day with my fear of success. Truth is academia in the liberal arts is hard work and low pay. My role as a primary investigator on large grants also provided a glimpse into what my statistics and engineering colleagues were making which made my stomach churn. I cultivated external consulting to make up for my low salary and in the end this was the narrow, lowly lit pathway out of academia.

I was on the beach in the Outer Banks on a family vacation when someone I managed at a research center in graduate school called me. Hello? Scott, this is Brea. I am working with a startup learning consulting firm and was thinking about you. Would you ever consider getting out of academia and working for us?

Serendipity with a capital S.

The ocean waves took on a new vibrancy. My wife was shocked but intrigued since, as an artist, our Indiana home was a wasteland. She also did not get tenure and was disgruntled. This serendipitous call smelled of a way out for us both! In the fall term, I began plotting my exit strategy and I turned in my resignation in November. My new firm made an offer to become a partner with double my salary and a move to Austin.

T for Texas and I is for Involuntary

This story is about jobs and careers so I’ll focus on that and come back to the experience of moving from Illinois to Florida to Indiana to Texas in a 10 year span another time. Again, a feast for a psychotherapist: were we exploring opportunities or running away? Yes, and yes. I work in the general area of people development and human resources and one metric to measure how people in an organization are doing is by looking at turnover. There are two types of turnover or job separation: voluntary and involuntary. I voluntarily separated from my university in Indiana in 2011 and joined a startup consulting firm that I involuntarily separated from in 2014. Remember Brea. She along with the rest of the partners involuntarily separated in 2014! High risk, high reward, and no looking back. I smoked and drank hard for 2 months. It took me a total of 9 months to find my next role with a consulting firm where I stayed for 10 months before I was magically recruited away by a company looking for a people development and measurement expert.

I joined this new firm as an internal employee in 2016 and had a long honeymoon and lots of runway to try new things. Then the person who hired me left the firm. Note: when the person who hired you is no longer in the firm you are at risk. His replacement shook things up and I was again involuntarily separated from my role and colleagues and identity.

59 is the new 60

I practiced harder at getting a new job by networking and focusing on getting a job every day for 6 months and I succeeded after 4 grueling interviews and a final suit and tie interview in Philadelphia with a large healthcare firm that also wanted a people development and measurement expert. I won the job! Then, guess what? The person who hired me lost his job and I was repositioned with a new manager due to reorg. My literal first reaction was oh shit and I immediately started networking and looking for jobs. My new manager basically ignored me and I knew the end was just a formality. I had negotiated a good salary and I had an opportunity to see what others were making and let’s just say I was an outlier. This is the hardest part of my job my new manager began after calling a rare meeting with me. Don’t take this personally it is not about you or your performance. I immediately started taking notes. Experience told me my brain goes to mush when it hears really bad news so I wanted to have a record of what was said. They paid me off in case I was considering filing a lawsuit for discriminatory practices in the form of 6 months of severance pay.

The End, The Beginning of the End, or The End of the Beginning?

I paraphrase Churchill in the title of this section because I feel like ruins lay at my feet. The only choice for the UK and Europe after WW II was to get up and carry on and that is my only choice right now. I came out strong and had 3 different interviews in the first 2 weeks of unemployment. The further I got into the interview cycle the less enthusiastic the interviewers became. The fact that I am twice as old as them is daunting for them and me. My past few weeks have been spent vacillating between meditation, mindfulness, mindlessness, and massive quantities of mind altering substances. Sometimes you just have to look away from the monster that seeks to devour you and deny its existence. I am now 60 years old and on the job market and I am here to tell you I have something to offer and can add value in a myriad of ways and I would love to discuss this with anyone who cares to listen! Then again, this schtick is starting to wear me out. Maybe my career is over in the conventional sense? If this is the end of the beginning it is time to get scrappy!



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