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UNREALISTIC CAREER GOALS aka WHO TOLD YOU THAT?

I happened to sit down next to a table of gentlemen at lunch today who were discussing what they were going to do when they were fully vested and could take retirement. Now this was one of those groups of fellows who are in their late 50's early 60's ( and over depending on what time of day it is) that i refer to lovingly as the "brain trust" at the Donut Stop. They are up on and opinonated about: politics, religion, crime, employment, law, finance, sexuality, the internet, all wars, past present and future and all their neighbors. And by god they all agree with each other..or they wouldn't be in that particular brain trust that reinforces all their analysis.

The conversation started out as to how one was not concerned about being laid off and only had four more years until he was fully vested. Several others agreed that because they had been there a long time and had done a good job they didn't have to worry about layoff. Because..get ready for it, they had all talked with HR and HR had told them that there was always a place for good experienced people even if their current job was eliminated.

I wanted to jump up and scream, "Go back it's a trick "or at least say something in quiet tones along the lines of "listen guys, it's part of HR's job to not spook the troops so you don't bail before they are ready to cut you loose." "Think about it, what else would HR say to you if you asked them if you needed to worry about your job." Since i was eavesdropping on the career plans of this group i felt it would be inappropriate of me to interject my thoughts into their mutual reassurance based on the trust they had in HR authority so i continued to listen.

Then it came. One of the fellows leaned back and said, "Well here's my plan". In two more years i will be 66, i will be fully vested, can draw my pension and collect social security so i have talked with an advisor at the university. I am going back to school, finish my degree, get my masters and teach either at the university or the Jr. College. My advisor tells me that the university hires janitors for 1900.00 a month. I can work a full time job as a janitor, go to school part time, i can teach when i finish my masters and he says that tenured professors make 123K a year and only teach four classes . So that's my career plan for the next 20 years.

While i am always a proponent of education, even for those of us who may be considered too old to learn new tricks, i was overwhelmed with the smoke blowing the university advisor had done to this fellow. Not to mention the insider info he had gotten from HR. However, my thought was, what are you thinking about? When you do go back to school it will take you at least four years to finish your undergrad and get a masters if you take a full load assuming that all the classes you need are offered in the mornings, which they aren't. You will then be over 70. You have no teaching experience. It takes years to become a tenured professor. There are new grads with masters and teaching experience in their 20's and 30's and 40's beating a path to the universities to get teaching jobs on the university or jr. college level not to mention the group that have been adjunct profs teaching night classes for years who retire from business positions and go full time days as they have preference due to teaching night classes. There are also a few little rules about how much social security one can draw when they continue to work. And about that janitor job. It's full time which means it's 8 hours starting at 4:00 in the afternoon with a long line of college kids and even experienced janitors applying.

In the real world it's a tough slog for a much less senior person to work a night shift doing physical labor, go to school full time and study. I wanted to pick up the phone, call the university and suggest that even though they should try and keep the classes full of people who could pay the tuition it might better serve the individual not to tell a 66 year old person that if they went back to school for 4 to 6 years they could automatically have a teaching job and reach tenured status before they were dead.

It's great to have career goals and a plan. Take a step back,evaluate where you are in your life, what it will really take to be where you want to be. What is the competition to reach that spot. You are not the only person in the world who wants to be there so how realistic is it. If it's not rethink your plan. If you are getting advice from HR or a University advisor or anyone else, take a step back and evaluate if they have an agenda when they give that advice. What are they paid to do. Does that advisor have something to gain or lose by you acting on the advice they give you.

Beware the "brain trust". They get their info from Cable news , HR and university advisors.

Views: 276

Tags: advice, career

Comment by Yvonne LaRose on August 19, 2010 at 12:26pm
It's well written with a few typos (first person is with a capital "i", the noun becomes possessive when it follows a gerund). But as an advocate of diversity, I'm dismayed. What you're saying essentially defeats the ADEA. What you're saying is that once a person is over 50 (or 55 or 60), they are nearly dead and therefore have no further value in industry; therefore, they're no longer part of a viable workforce in any way and have no meaningful future except to sit on a bench, porch, or stump and wait for (as with the bus) Death to take them away.

We don't know what the 66-year-old's background is. Perhaps he's done some teaching in the past. It's entirely possible to gain experience in teaching through a number of nontraditional venues and roles. You don't specify what he plans to teach. Perhaps he'll be more than capable as a yoga instructor (as an example).

My emotions are stirred but it isn't clear to me whether it's anger i feel or abject disappointment at the lack of acceptance of diversity. The "brain trust" issues were merely parts of setting the stage for the talk.
Comment by Sandra McCartt on August 19, 2010 at 1:16pm
Yvonne,
Thank you for reading. I write with a lowercase i unless it is the first word in the sentence. A personal preference in journalistic style if you will that takes the focus off of "the big I"

I am certainly not advocating that anyone should sit on the porch after they are over 50 since i will be 69 in a few short weeks. This has nothing to do with diversity, the ADEA or anyone sitting on the porch . His background is as a production worker. He was not talking about teaching yoga, he was talking about teaching a somewhat advanced subject on the college level, then becoming a tenured professor.

The focus of this post was to be realistic about career goals and not to be led down the primrose path by your buddies in the brain trust or a college advisor whom i believe blew a lot of smoke at someone this fellows age. If he had been encouraged to return to school get a BA, in anything then teach on the K-12 level it would have been reasonable and realistic.

Don't upset yourself by making something about diversity when it's not.
Comment by Phil McCutchen on August 19, 2010 at 2:15pm
Great article, Sandra. All of us truly do have to be realistic in our career goals. It doesn't matter whether you are a fresh 20-something or a mature 60-something. It is one thing to aim high -- a very good thing -- it is something else to aim at something so high that you cannot hit it without the right tools.

Getting the right tools, such as education and experience, are just one part of what it takes to reach whatever goal you set for yourself. Good information and a great attitude are necessary as well.

Oh, and a note on "diversity" -- it's all well and good to desire that -- but it is pretty plain that discrimination, especially against older workers, is alive and well. The EEOC reports that age-related claims are up 17% over 2009 (so far). And that is probably the tip of the iceberg.

http://www.employment-lawyer-blog.com/2010/03/age-discrimination-cl...
Comment by Sandra McCartt on August 19, 2010 at 3:54pm
Thanks for the read and comments Phil. You are correct that realistic has to be applied at any age. I have a real beef with college advisors in a lot of cases. I just had a kid in my office, very bright, degree in nuclear engineering. There is one place in this part of the world where he even has a faint possibility of being employed. He interned there and has applied for a job for two years. Nada, ziltch, nothing.

When i asked him why he had not applied to places outside the Texas panhandle he indicated that his family farms in the area, he is the only son, his father is getting older so he is needed to help with the farming operation. I asked him if he had discussed that situation with his college advisor when he elected this very specific major. He had but had been told that he never knew when his personal situation would change and he might want to move someplace else. Are you kidding me.
Why not advise this kid to go mechanical or industrial or petroleum or god knows how many other engineering concentrations that would have ensured him employment in this area and the ability to maintain a family farm that has been in his family for four generations.

Being a somewhat well preserved, senior citizen myself i certainly take issue with age discrimination but i also believe that we as senior citizens have to be realistic about where we are in our lives. Physically what limitations do we have. The EEOC and those of us who get a discount at IHop might take a look at the reality of the actuarial tables before we launch forth toward something that probability says we have a better chance of winnin the lottery than to attain.

I toyed with the idea of going back to school (for the third time) taking the few classes i need to finish a degree in animal science and going to vet school.

In the real world when i gave it more thought. What are my chances of being accepted to vet school at age 62. Uh, not many. There are lots of bright gals and guys in their very early 20's applying who do not get in. If i did get in, finish and start my own vet practice at age 65 or 66. Do i really want to and will i be able to spend eight hours a day on my feet picking up the back leg of a 1000 pound horse. (that is the easy part of a large animal practice). Are my reflexes still quick enough to dodge a kick or a bite from a hurt animal. Am i really willing to anwer a pager call from a horse owner in the middle of a snow storm with a horse down from colic, drive 30 miles and stay up all night trying to save a sick or dying animal, then be back in the clinic at 7:30 to see the scheduled patients for the day.

Well, hell no, it's unrealistic all the way around at my age and stage of the game. And maybe even more importantly would i be able to deliver the kind of treatment that an owner wants and expects. Realistically, probably not. I would take my own animals to a younger vet with several years experience and the strength to get that horse on it's feet. What the hell am i thinking about? As much as i would love it ,maybe if i decide to do something else i better consider taking the few classes i need to finish an accounting degree. It's inside, i can sit down and accountants hardly ever get pager calls in the middle of the night. However, realistically, accountants right out of school don't make as much money as recruiters with over 30 years experience. So maybe i better do what i know how to do. Which leads me to the advice i would have given this gentleman if i had been his college advisor.

Consider this John. You have 40 years experience as a production supervisor in manufacturing in a union environment. Suppose we take a look at what you bring to the table if you want to teach when you retire. We have a great trade school associated with our Jr. college as well as several other accredited trade schools. They are always looking for teachers. They are not concerned about a degree they want real world experience. They start at 50K a year, classes are in the mornings as most students work full time while going to school. If you want to go back to school, that's great, enroll in a few classes that are offered in the afternoon. Your pension will provide you with 50K a year, trade school teachers make about 50K. That hits 100K ,NOW, not six or seven years down the road if you make it through that amount of time while working 8 hours a day as a janitor with the hope that you might get hired to teach on the college level. If you are earning 50K a year teaching now that is 350K that you can stick in the bank in the same time frame that it will take you to get a masters. You can continue to teach at the trade school without a degree until you fall over dead or decide you want to go fishing or sit on the porch.

And by the way, did you ask that advisor how many tenured professors they have on staff who are in their late 70's or early 80's who started teaching when they were 72. How many new grad teachers have you hired who were 72 when they completed their masters.

Let's keep it real! I believe that anybody can do almost anything they want to do if they want it badly enough ,but...there are realistic limits and some of them really do have to do with age and stage of the game.
Comment by Phil McCutchen on August 19, 2010 at 5:05pm
Sandra, you are SO right! :-)

You can learn more at any age. I'm back at school myself finishing a B.S. in Marketing that my "real world" experience doesn't cover. Fun stuff!
Comment by Sandra McCartt on August 19, 2010 at 6:54pm
Good for you Phil. I love going to school. I have already mastered the core classes in journalism, philosphy, accounting and animal science. I have enough college hours for a PhD if they granted one in "returning student". I think my next venture is computer science, (my 12 hours in that one were so long ago that we called it data processing and one had to wear rubber soled shoes in the computer room), at least i may learn enough to build my own web site. I may be the poster child for diversity if it has anything to do with diverse interests that have done a lot to further my recruiting career.

If anyone asks me about my educational background i tell them i have a classical education. I am a classic example that one can go to school all of their life and never want to take those blow off classes to get an undergrad degree.

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