Keeping Retirement Within Reach

You breathe a sigh of relief. You have successfully navigated mid- to late-career and can almost touch the retirement rainbow. That is, until 2020 stormed us with unprecedented layoffs and economic uncertainty. The last thing you want is to fall prey to corporate restructuring at this point in your career. Have you thought about how you will keep your position? If we know anything, it is that change happens. So how do you sprint rather than hobble into the finish line if economic headwinds blow at hurricane force?

Are your skills antiquated? As we become entrenched in the responsibilities of our job, we often turn on the auto pilot switch. Unfortunately, our skills may not keep up with the needs of our industry or profession. Would an employer want to pay for your skills if you were forced to look for a new position? Luckily, there is a massive amount of online free material to make us better at our jobs and enhance our skill set. In addition, consider getting a professional certification, advanced degree, or taking work related classes to set yourself apart from your peers. There are many ways to satisfy your intellectual curiosity while showing your employer you have value to add that will drive business and results. Your initiative will ultimately make you more marketable to the organization. Learning is a journey.

How are you viewed by your team and the organization? How is your attitude at work? Do you consistently voice your displeasure and complain to peers? You may not even notice it, but others do — especially your boss. Take stock of what you like about your job, focus on the positive, and be adaptable. Remember that perfection is hard to capture and sustain! Think about how you can address a less than ideal situation instead of lament it. Set forth ideas and recommendations to target areas that need improvement vs. a complaint. Introduce these ideas to your boss in the spirit of problem solving and teamwork. Also consider mentoring a less experienced team member. You have plenty of knowledge, so take the lead and coach a co-worker to success. It is incredibly valuable and pivotal to shaping their career.

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Are you coasting? Are you simply going through the motions? Are you completely reactive instead of a proactive change agent? Not only could that be stifling to your career, it won’t get you recognized by your employer in the way you’d like. Consider volunteering for special projects and teams as well as new initiatives and tasks. Stretch yourself to take on new workplace challenges. In addition, look around you for opportunities to drive business and innovate. Is there a department that is struggling? Could a new business idea help overall production and results? If you have a recommendation for your company, produce the framework for that idea and create a workable model. Your boss will recognize and appreciate the pioneer spirit, and you may be reinvigorated in your job!

Are you in the bottom 20%? Some companies are diligent about reviews and others don’t excel at formal feedback. Do you think you are the top ranked performer? Your supervisor may think differently. We have all encountered peers who think they are doing a great job, but the company views them with a different lens. Request a formal review with your management if you have not had one. Ask for candid feedback. How can you improve and excel? How do you rank among others in your team? Asking for a ranking will crystallize your performance — the bottom 20% is not where you want to land! Address problems now and implement actions to improve every day. Set a future follow up with your supervisor to track your progress, and don’t make assumptions about performance.

Where is your professional network? What if the unthinkable happened, and you had to find a new role? Many people don’t foster their professional network. We have all experienced a former coworker extend the “let’s stay in touch” platitude as they leave only to contact you years later when they need a job. It happens often, and many of us are guilty as charged. Take a sincere interest in your network of current and former colleagues and get together formally at professional association events and informally at social events. It will pay dividends to everyone as we help each other navigate our career challenges. Even if you never need to find a new job, your network of associates can help you in your current role and vice versa. It takes commitment, but make it a goal to contact a specific number of people monthly. Even a hello on LinkedIn is great!


Kim Henderson

Kim Henderson
Kim Henderson is managing director of Cobalt Compass Solutions, which provides consulting and training services for the staffing and professional services industry. She can be reached at kh (at) cobaltcompasssolutions (dot) com.

Kim Henderson

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