Roy Cohen is a career counselor and executive coach who has worked extensively with clients from diverse industries. A longtime consultant to Goldman, Sachs, he is the author of “The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide: Success Secrets of a Career Coach.” Of course we asked him to share his success secrets with us.
“They may not sound like secrets, but many people do not know these things about work or when they’re job hunting,” he said. “First of all, have a clear idea of what you want from your work. When you are looking for a job, have a game plan. Make sure everything, such as your resume, clearly supports the goals of your game plan. Have an early warning system that can let you know if there is a possibility of falling off the wagon in a job. And, finally, know what work really means to you.”
These days many boomers have fallen off the wagon. What is the best way to cope if one is unexpectedly let go?
“I have worked with many people who have tripped up. They see it as a bad thing. I try to make them realize that it is valuable because it offers insights and information. When one is let go, the first step is to just step back. The immediate reaction often is to jump in too quickly or to just be paralyzed. Well, one needs some time to assess how much time he or she will need to really look, what resources they have and what do they really want to do. There should never be shame when this situation happens.”
What is the biggest mistake boomers make when they are interviewing for a job?
“They apologize for themselves. They don’t sell themselves. They don’t negotiate for what they are worth. Women, especially, who can negotiate effectively when they are selling a product, don’t negotiate when they are selling themselves. Remember, an interview is a performance. At an interview you are presenting a set of skills to an audience. At the moment, people want solutions. You have got to be prepared to offer them solutions. You have to offer yourself with passion and enthusiasm and make it clear you have the experience to be proactive and offer value immediately. “
How do you deal with the ageism in the job market?
“We shouldn’t deny the fact we are older. We should celebrate our experience. We should offer examples from the recent past of how we have been effective. Always focus on what they need. Remember there is always discrimination. Sometimes someone could be considered too young, too inexperienced, or too expensive. And sometimes your maturity helps. I had a client, a woman of 62, who was hired because the rest of the staff was young and so the employers wanted someone who was older, who was mature and could be a mentor. Her age helped her get the job.
Do you believe in reinventing oneself? Does that really work out?
“Women are better at it than men. Men struggle with it. Women are used to disruptions in their careers. If one wants to make a very dramatic change, it is more challenging. But you can do it if you are willing to step back and accept you will probably be paid less when you make such a change.And you can do it if you are willing to take risks. I know I have to model behavior for my clients. So I am taking a risk. I was recently cast in a TV reality show called “Wall Street Wives.” Obviously, I am willing to do a little reinventing in my career.
.How do you handle it when your boss is much younger than you?
“You acknowledge that it is an opportunity to learn. Make sure you do not treat him as a child. If you deal with him like a peer he will treat you like a peer. Don’t become a parent and don’t use the defense of being too authoritative."
What if you are near the end of your career and suddenly you have a boss who doesn’t like you and wants to get you out?
“First of all, consult an attorney and see if there is a pattern of bias or discrimination. You may have a legal case. Don’t quit. That’s a lesson I learned at Goldman, Sachs.There was a partner who was a wealthy man but he said he wanted his unemployment. He had paid for it and besides he would not let them say he chose to leave.I encourage my clients to do that in this job market. Frankly, people today would question why you left a job voluntarily.”
Do you also coach people on how to handle retirement?
“I am not a big believer in retirement.I am a big believer in redefinition. My dad stopped working at 57 and became a volunteer. It gave him a lot to do and gave him many new friends. Work doesn’t have to be paid. We need to examine our resources and keep examining what we want to do. Work should provide us with joy. We’re always involved in this delicate balance of extracting both joy and money from our work. Retirement once was an end, but it isn’t any more. It should a seamless path to keep having purpose in our lives. “
Myrna Blyth is Editor-in-Chief of ThirdAge.