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6 Best Career Moves to Make in Your 50s

Jan 07, 2016

Rounding the half-century mark? It's time to make some defensive moves to sustain your career success. “Some people automatically assume 50-something workers are resting on their laurels and coasting through to retirement,” says Amy Glaser, senior vice president at worldwide employment agency Adecco Staffing.

As a more seasoned employee, you’re probably earning a relatively high salary, which could put a target on your back during company cost cutting, says Jaime Klein, founder of Inspire Human Resources, a New York-based HR consulting firm.

Your play: Make your age an asset rather than a liability, by demonstrating your worth to your employer. Take these steps to show you’re indispensable.

1. Take on High-Profile Work

Maintaining visibility is crucial, as is demonstrating your value, so focus your efforts on projects that affect the company’s bottom line. Klein recommends offering to spearhead assignments that produce quantifiable results, whether increased revenue or cost savings.

For greater exposure across the organization, lend your expertise to people in other departments.

With your level of experience, you'll also want to be seen as a thought leader, so stay attuned to industry news and trends, says Miriam Salpeter, a career coach and consultant in Atlanta.

2. Tap Your Connections

“Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have a larger network than most of your co-workers,” points out Atlanta-based career coach Hallie Crawford. Use your sphere of influence to benefit your organization in a variety of ways, whether finding strategic partners or recruiting new talent.

To keep your network fresh, connect with people for coffee or lunch biannually; research shows meeting face-to-face builds trust better than corresponding via email.

3. Represent

Become an ambassador for your organization by representing the firm at industry conferences. Instead of just attending these events, showcase your knowledge by getting on the speaking docket, says Crawford.

Before you take the stage, make sure you've got a presentation that will win raves, says Darlene Price, author of Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results. “Decision-makers are looking for answers, direction, solutions -- not details, process, and in-depth analysis,” she says.

Be succinct, she adds. Don’t use PowerPoint as a crutch but as a way of enhancing your verbal presentation. Slides with visuals, such as statistics, charts, and photographs, provide the most value.

4. Leverage Younger Co-workers

Don’t let generational differences inhibit your learning potential. Younger colleagues can help you stay current with new trends, social media, and technology -- lessons that increase your value to your employer.

In return for a fresh perspective, you can share knowledge you've gained through experience, like how to navigate office politics. “Mentoring is a two-way street,” says Salpeter.

If the company doesn’t have a formal mentorship program, reach out to an entry-level employee and develop an informal relationship. Alternately, ask your manager to pair you with a younger team member, suggests Crawford. That way your boss will know about your contribution and be able to steer your talents in the way that best helps the group.

5. Spell Out Your Achievements

You don't want your accomplishments overlooked, so don’t be afraid to sing your own praises. “Articulate how you personally bring value to your team, and how you plan to continue being an asset to the company,” advises Glaser.

Relay successes to your manager in real time, rather than waiting until performance reviews.

“If you have a big win, don't wait to share it,” says Salpeter. “Forward that ‘thank you’ email from a client, for example, or send an ‘FYI’ note to let your boss know what is going well.”

6. Plan Your Next Move

If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to map your long-term career plans -- and yes, you should still be thinking long term. Two-thirds of American workers 50 and older say their ideal retirement includes part-time work, according to a recent Merrill Lynch Age Wave survey.

“There’s the obvious financial component to staying in the workforce, but for many people work provides structure and gives meaning to their lives,” says Marci Alboher, author of The Encore Career Handbook: How to Make a Living and a Difference in the Second Half of Life.

Meet with the boss to discuss your goals, and formulate an action plan for how you’re going to accomplish them. You may have to make adjustments to your current job responsibilities; if you're a department head stepping down in a couple years, for example, you might need to start training their replacement.

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