Ask Marcus Buckingham: How Do I Find Work During Tough Times
Q: At the age of 58, I have been downsized after working in banking for 19.5 years as a manager, six years as a training manager and three and a half as a human resources manager. I am now trying to find what I want/can do with my background. I am now at a loss for myself, trying to find my passion/my gift. I took the test twice, and each time it said I was a Teacher. I would like to have a job that I look forward to each day and at the end of the day I feel good about myself.
At this age, I thought I would have a successful career and feel good about myself. I have to wonder what is it I didn't do. If you can provide me with direction of how to find and use my gift, I would greatly appreciate it.
A: Emma, the good news is that few of us pick an entirely unsuitable path for our strengths, and from the details you give, it seems that you're no exception. Your Strong Life Test has revealed that your lead role is that of a Teacher, and you describe almost 30 years of managing—which, by definition, means mentoring others. It seems that you may be feeling a bit lost right now (understandably, after the blow of being downsized), but one of the wonderful qualities of most Teachers is that they never give up on anybody and believe that each person is capable of learning and growing. Take this same generous attitude that you offer to others and apply it to yourself.
One piece of advice that I give to Teachers is to make the time to continue your own learning. You have the opportunity to do this now, in two important ways:
1. Gain new skills and knowledge. You seem concerned, as so many experienced career women are, that the skills you've already built won't be enough for your future. First, know that you have wisdom, experience and strengths that younger applicants can only dream of. Practice framing your experience as an advantage. But, beyond that, take the opportunity to add to your skills and knowledge by taking courses—any courses that interest you. Learning new things will invigorate the Teacher in you and will also help you to address any concern you think a potential employer may have that you're not willing to adapt and keep up-to-date.
2. Learn about yourself. You're feeling a loss of direction, but the clues to which path you should follow lie in paying attention to your own strong-moments. Reflect on your experiences over the years and consider which activities left you feeling most rewarded and invigorated. Those feelings are signs of the types of things you should be looking to do in your future career.