Sixty and Poised

If you are approaching sixty, want to continue working and are looking for a job--read on. 

I started writing a column entitled "Your Best Image" for a newspaper in a small Southern town when I was in my thirties. That was almost thirty years ago. I am now 67 years old and am enjoying life more than ever. I got my last job in Corporate America the year I turned 60 and stayed there until the company sold and I turned 65. Great timing.

Now I am a full-time writer and started doing resumes professionally about three years ago. Many people come to me for help when they lose their job and they are over 50 and fear that they won't find another job at their age.

Nonsense! If you are talented and have the appropriate qualifications for the job you are seeking, you have as good a chance at landing that job, assuming you are also poised, confident and ready for a new adventure. 

I will be writing some tips for being the "Best You"possible. If you still have the same hairstyle you had ten years ago--READ ON. If you are still wearing the same suits you wore ten years ago--READ ON. You can make some easy changes to your appearance, your resume and your mindset and be a contender for that job you want so badly. 

Your Wardrobe: Guidelines

Since clothes cover 90 % of our body, most of the time, it makes sense to for them to be effective. Remember, clothing is an extension of you, and your clothes start talking before you open your mouth. To determine your body type and the style of clothing you should wear, you must do a figure profile. No weighing in or taking measurements is necessary. All you want to do is determine proportions. You can hire someone to help you with this, but most salespeople in specialty department stores are very qualified to help you determine your best hem length, jacket styles/length (yes, length makes a difference for both men and women), collar shapes, suit styles, good camouflage tips, how to look slimmer, taller, shorter, etc. It is a very good, inexpensive resource for helping you coordinate your wardrobe to get that professional look.

If your clothing makes a statement about you, you will want the statement to be positive and consistent. Only a small percentage of people are proportioned perfectly. Of course, what is considered perfect in one country is different from what is considered perfect in another country. Art, throughout history, reflects the different cultural changes in beauty. The old masters deemed beauty in a woman as being voluptuous; large thighs and a rounded abdomen. You never see a Renaissance or Impressionist painter with a skinny model.

Yes, there is hope for everyone. You don't have to be ashamed of your body type. Everyone has one and 95 % or more are imperfect. Stop saying, "when I lose weight, I'll look good." Start looking good NOW. When you lose weight, you'll still have the same body type and figure flaws. Most people wish they had a different one, but they don't and never will. Accept yourself and determine to compare yourself to NO one and be the very best you can be.

Right or wrong, fortunately or unfortunately, the truth is that everyone forms judgments on people in a matter of seconds. Being rational and thoughtful human beings, we know that most split-second judgments are not accurate, but they are almost impossible to change. Since there are more people that we don't know than people we do know in the world, it is crucial to make a favorable first impression.

TIP: Don't keep a sweater or hoodie draped over your chair in the office. If you need to have a light covering because it gets so cold, make it a jacket. A jacket portrays confidence and professionalism. While many work environments are casual to super casual, I recommend that you have a nice blazer (same for men or women) to be thrown on when you have to attend meetings with senior or midlevel management. A blazer with a pair of jeans can be stylish as well as professional--if your work allows jeans. Never wear jeans to an interview, even if invited to. You can look very casual with a pair of twill pants and a blazer that you can remove if your interviewer is wearing tattered jeans or shorts. You don't want to be overdressed, but being underdressed is a killer.

If you feel you don't have money to invest in a new wardrobe, there are plenty of options that will allow you to enhance your current wardrobe and make it more professional. If you are like most people, you wear only 10 percent of your wardrobe 90 percent of the time. The probable reason is that many of your clothing items are the wrong color or style for you. The few things that are just right and make you feel good, are worn over and over again. So what about the remaining 90 percent hanging in your closet? Maybe this is the exact time to get your closet organized. Psychologists say that a messy room or closet makes one feel like a mess. This is not the time in your life to feel like a mess. So while you have some free time to exercise, stretch and get your body in shape, why not get your closet in shape too? Just as we tend to hang on to old beliefs, habits and attitudes, we also want to hang on to material belongings. Some things are certainly worth keeping; some are not. We need to carefully analyze our 'collector' habits. More on this later.

TIP: Most people want to look taller and slimmer. Even skinny, tall people want to look taller and slimmer in the United States. Everyone can create this look to a degree through the use of illusion. Dark colors slim and elongate. Because bright and light colors attract the eye they tend to enlarge. A solid line of color from head to toe makes you look taller. Remember the color can be different shades of the same tone and still give that appearance of elongating. Everywhere you see a different color cuts your torso and makes you appear shorter. Heavy fabric adds bulk. Padded shoulders give a lift to the body--notice that men's suits have pretty much always had padded shoulders. Contrasting belts break the line of vision cutting your height. Big collars, big buttons, patterns, ruffles and pockets add heaviness. Open neck sweaters, dresses, blouses and shirts create a vertical line which is slimming. Hemlines can make or break you. One-fourth of an inch in the length of a garment can make a big difference in the proper proportion for you. Cuffed trousers cut the legs and shortens you. Shorter jackets make legs look longer (men should especially pay attention to the length of their jackets--one length jacket does not work for all.) Ribbons and scarves can be used to add vertical lines. Wide sleeves add inches at the hips.

We could go on listing tips for creating that illusion you want, but you get the idea. The correct style and details for your body type can skim inches and pounds off in appearance. The important thing is to create body balance. We can't change our body type but, instead, must strive to emphasize our best features and lines and develop a better total look through checks and balances. you need to decide what you want to highlight and what you want to draw attention away from. Learn to show one good point at a time.

TIP: Make your clothes fit perfectly. Don't try to squeeze into a smaller size nor drape yourself with a size too large (the old cover-up method). Keep in mind that undergarments are your foundation. If they are too small they create bulges that show. Forget about sizes. Rip out the size label if it offends you. Call it whatever size makes you feel good and just get a good fit.

MY TWO CENTS:  Styles come and go and it is important for you to stay up-to-date so you don't look old and stale. However, you all realize that not every trendy style is for you. That doesn't mean you can't don that flouncy, short skirt and stiletto heels or lime green trousers with a wide tie that has dogs on it to go out clubbing or meet friends for cocktails--knock yourself out. Just know that this is not really a good interview look nor a good look for future leaders. Maybe it shouldn't be that way, but you do want people to take you seriously when you are on the job. One way to do that is to dress appropriately--according to the business and industry you are in or trying to get in.  Just my two cents. 

First, You Detach

Many people buy things because they are on sale and they can't pass up a bargain. Even if it doesn't exactly fit now, you rationalize that as soon as you start this new exercise program, it will fit. Other people buy when they are depressed and shopping lifts their spirits temporarily. You have to ask yourself how good your choices are if you are depressed. Some people have spouses who shower them with gifts of clothing or simply buy clothes for them. Others, just feel more secure with closets stuffed, much like the over-eater. Whatever the reason, hoarding clothes is a waste of resources. Someone, somewhere, could be making good use of your excess.

FOR EXAMPLE: how many closets do you have clothes in? Remember the attic, garage and coat closets plus the closet in the spare bedroom. Are your clothes jammed together, piled on the floor or hanging from the shelves? Examine the articles of clothing and ask yourself if you have worn this within the last two seasons. If the answer is no, LET IT GO. Someone else could be enjoying this outfit and probably needs it worse than you do.

Yes, there is a lot to do, but it is very therapeutic. You will feel 100% better when you attend to the task of cleaning up your life—both physically and mentally. This exercise will keep you busy and motivate you at the same time. DO IT NOW.

I know what you are thinking. You will lose weight and get back into that lovely dress or beautiful knit sweater or your wide-leg jeans will be back in style eventually. Both statements are likely true, but in the meantime, you are holding up the flow. You don't have to worry about your closet staying empty. You will never be without. The Law of Vacuum will kick in to fill a hole, and soon new things will be miraculously be hanging in your closet. The joy of giving will make you feel wonderful and getting rid of all that old stuff will increase your euphoria.

Don't be overwhelmed by the task before you. Pick a time when you have several undisturbed hours and perhaps enlist the help of your spouse or a good friend who can be objective. You must trust them and their judgment, no matter how painful it is. You will start by simply dividing your clothes into three piles: 1. Clothes you haven't worn in a year (two or three seasons or more)--these are the clothes that should be given away immediately--DO IT NOW. 2. Clothes that need to be repaired or altered. Make the necessary repairs--DO IT NOW. 3. The last pile is that ten percent of your clothing that you actually wear. This is the pile you will focus on.

Separate your clothes into categories: blouses, shirts, pants, trousers, skirts, dresses and jackets. Try everything on to make sure the fit is correct and the style is pleasing and professional . Don't let your self start to rationalize or make bargains. It you don't love how it looks on your body--get rid of it. DO IT NOW.

TIP: There are all kinds of space-saving gadgets to make the most of your closet space. There is everything from belt and jewelry racks, skirt and trouser hangers to cubicles for shoes. Learn to keep everything off the closet floor. It's a small thing but you will feel better about yourself.

Discipline yourself to hang up things the second you take them off. Don't be tempted to throw them on a chair or drop them on the floor until later. It only takes a couple of seconds and it's done. Just DO IT NOW

De-cluttering your closet and recycling your clothing can be very satisfying and the beginning of a new you. The satisfaction and peace you will experience as you get this part of your life centered, will make it all worthwhile. Now keep it that way!

MY TWO CENTS: If we had lots of money and could spend hours each day on improving our body and wardrobe, we could look as fit as movie stars. Most of us don't have that luxury. We have to learn to improve ourselves by bits and pieces. A bit of information here, and a piece of advice there, will soon build up a storehouse of valuable knowledge. Because we are all unique, no pat set of rules will always work. Help for one area of our body may contradict the rules for another proportion problem. As with all advice, you have to digest things a while to see if you can use it effectively. Don't get discouraged, every step you take now has a dual purpose--keeps you busy and gets your organized, so when you get that big job, this is one thing you will not have to worry about.

Then, Invest in Yourself 

In reading the articles I wrote 30 years ago, I am amazed that the same principles still apply-- no matter what age you are. Of course, our bodies have changed, our hair could be white or grey, if we allowed it, and our sense of style has altered. It's interesting that I notice the same people who were happy and productive in their thirties, are still happy and productive in their senior years. Others that were grumpy back then, are the ones that give senior citizens a bad rap as being grumpy old people. It doesn't have to be that way. Much of the advice I was giving back in the 80's is still applicable today. Especially for those of us still working because we want to stay productive or quite simply, we need to keep working. 

Have you ever wondered what makes one person succeed or get promoted when there are others equally or better qualified? Experts say that hard work and skill are only part of the answer. People in positions of power have developed something called "image" or "finesse". It's the extra something that makes a difference between winning or losing, being professional or amateurish, going places or being stuck in insignificant positions.

A trend toward the informal started in the 60's. The "do your own thing" generation expressed themselves in a form of unstyle. Even attitudes, morals and ideals became more relaxed. At the same time, women began to emerge in businesses and compete with men for job positions. The shift in roles brought much confusion for both males and females. Women felt that to compete in a man's world, you must dress like men. They presented a one-dimensional image in their man-tailored suites.

Instead of emerging, women simply blended into the crowd. Those who didn't choose to wear the suit uniform but, instead, concentrated on hard work and long hours, still made little progress. They found that their talent, background and communication skills accounted for only a percentage of the impression they wanted to make. The other part was about how they looked--yes even physical attributes made a difference. However, smart women quickly realized that their appearance made a statement about them. People respond to you by the way you're dressed. A wrinkled shirt or blouse, run-down or scuffed shoes, garish makeup or inappropriate clothing like sweatpants can reflect a low self-esteem instead of your own eclectic style. It is true that many employees in 2015 accept casual work attire in an effort to attract and retain young people. Good grooming and learning to dress well is not as critical today, as it once was, but still might be more crucial to your professional life than you think. MY TWO CENTS: We still have a long way to go to gain equality in the workplace for women but that is a topic for another day.

There are many highly qualified people competing for jobs, so you must do all you can to create a good impression. It doesn't matter that you have a graduate degree and are very talented, you need that good image or extra finesse to land the job. If you are sure you look good, it affects how you act and relate to others. You can handle yourself better. If you don't think you look good, you may unconsciously try to avoid attention or hide yourself. A teacher once told me that a small safety pin holding up some part of your garments can erode your self-confidence. I have never forgotten that even though have had to resort to that little tool from time to time.

A professional image is more than being well-dressed. Good posture, physical fitness, a positive attitude and enthusiasm coupled with appropriate clothing styles will create a sense of confidence that gives you an edge over the competition. Your years of experience will add to that best image. 

Taking steps to keep your appearance from making you look older than you are, is crucial. Regular exercise and stretching will keep you from being stiff and shuffling around as some older people do. Adding a cheerful attitude will make you appear fit and youthful and more acceptable as a job candidate. 

Many people decide to let their hair go grey or white and that is your choice; however, there is no simple way to put this, but it does age you. Only you can make the decision as to whether it will adversely affect you if you are searching for a job. This fact is true for men and women. 

Image is the total sum of the parts an individual presents to the world. How you present yourself to the world tells what you think of yourself and what you think of others. When you care about yourself and others you want to look and be your best. Your appearance is the outward expression of yourself; the part the world can see. Clothing, posture and attitude make a statement about you. It's important that the statement says what you want it to say. Experts say that one of the secrets of making it to the top is looking the part. We know that is not 100 percent true because we have seen the casually dressed CEO's of tech companies and start-up companies that wear shorts and baseball caps to work. If you fit into those categories then my advice is probably not for you. 

Many people blindly follow others in establishing their style of appearance. A shoe salesman I know, who is 65 years old, always wears suits to work even though the dress code at his company is casual. You can even wear jeans to work. Guess who sells the most shoes? His suit seems to inspire and draw people to him. He looks successful and he is successful. His hair is grey but cropped short--no comb-overs, no ponytail, no outdated hair styles. He projects a youthful appearance because he is in shape, flexible and healthy. 

Choose to invest in yourself by adding some good, basic pieces to your wardrobe that are classic and of good quality. You don't have to pay top dollar for these items, but you must make sure they fit properly and are not trendy. A classic suit will last you for years (assuming you follow the fitness plan outlined above) and knock the socks off your interviewers as well as your competitors.

Your clothing, hair and body are not the only message of who you are. Your attitude helps to create the real you. Are you eager to look for the positive side of things, always ready to smile, laugh with others, willing to help others, ready to accept those that are different? Last, are you constantly learning something new? It's all important to presenting Your Best Image.

We must learn to view ourselves realistically and to appreciate our bodies the were created especially for each of us. The things that need to be change and can be changed--should be changed. Some things are not meant to be changed. Our bone structure and body type cannot be altered, but we can create a different look by working with our body type and using appropriate clothing styles. All of this leads to you developing You Best Image.

Keep Moving

Nothing ages you more than shuffling around with slumped shoulders.  Instead, walk briskly with shoulders pulled back and head high. This can be difficult to do if you wait until you are sixty to start exercising and getting in shape. Hopefully, you started a good exercise plan when you were younger and all you need to do is keep up the good work.  Unfortunately, I see many people who haven't planned well in this area of their life. This just means you have to work harder. Do stretches to keep your youthful flexability and walking or running and biking to keep your youthful stamina.

Many things change as we age that we cannot do anything about, but keeping fit is something you can and must do. My motto is “change the things you can change and handle the thing you cannot change”. It’s all about managing your life so you can live life to the fullest and stay in the workforce as long as you desire.

Those old sport injuries will start to show up as you age and cause you difficulties if you have not taken care of them along the way. Stiff shoulders and knees are created as we favor one side or the other due to pain and discomfort. Physical therapy is needed to correct some of these issues; others may require surgery. Regardless, dealing with this when you are young is ideal but if you haven’t, DO IT NOW

Yoga and meditation are touted frequently and many think these exercises are not for them, but they can be helpful. Learning to relax your body can make a big difference over time. We did not arrive at sixty in the shape we are in overnight. We are a product of what we have been doing for the past twenty years. Conversely, we have the opportunity to be fit and flexible at eighty—if we start now. Everything counts when you want to stay in the workforce as long as possible.

Longevity in the Workplace

One mistake that people make, especially those who have been with a company for many years, is thinking their experience and longevity makes them more valuable than others in the company. That type of thinking sets you up for disappointment. Some people with longevity in a company have a visceral feeling about the loss of their job. They give everything to their work, even sacrificing time with family and relocating to accommodate the workforce, only to find that they are cut loose. Some feel they gave up their best years to the company, all their strength and knowledge and creativity, to make the company grow. Now as they move toward retirement they lose their job, which has been their sustenance and lifeline for most of their life. It is a rude awakening—one that can be very traumatic unless you have the right attitude.

I have known people who literally went through the stages of grief over the loss of a job that took years to get over. Others that kept their jobs have had survivor’s guilt and were adversely affected for months after their colleagues lost their jobs. Dealing with grief is a heartfelt process and can be very incapacitating and render one helpless to seek another job effectively. Better to get an appropriate mindset now and be prepared if the time comes when you no longer can stay with your current company.

First of all, you are marketable and valuable. Your present company has paid you a salary, hopefully a good one, over the years and they do not owe you a lifelong job. Business leaders have to make business decisions and they cannot do that by looking at people, but rather at numbers. Business leaders are in the position they are in because they can do the hard stuff. That means letting go of long-tenured employees when they have to even if they don’t want to. Keep in mind some of these leaders are the same ones that will experience survivor’s guilt because this is not an easy thing to do. One should not take this personally but, instead, be prepared.

The news will hit you hard if you learn that your job has been eliminated or that the company does not have a place for you any longer. It is a blow that not only affects your ego but your security. You, initially, go into shock. Your mind goes crazy with all the thoughts about survival for you and your family. You cannot believe that someone will not reach out to you and save your from elimination. Betrayal, bitterness, sadness and sense of loss are only some of the emotions that flood your senses. It is a process that you need to acknowledge and move through—not repress. However, at some point you will have to accept that these business leaders that were your friends, colleagues and mentors, do not owe you a lifetime of security—that is up to you.

Having a good sense of self-worth and belief in yourself will go a long way toward helping you move on when the time comes. Understanding how your past experience will enable you to target jobs that interest you and allow you to keep growing in the work field goes a long way to settle your anxiety. Grasping how to identify your transferrable skills, expertise and knowledge will empower you and make you more confident.

Everyone should keep their resume up-to-date, but let’s face it—if you continually get promotions and good bonus in your current job, many people get lax about their resume. When people hear about a reorganization, they start to panic and think about that dormant resume. In today’s work environment, reorganization, acquisitions and divestures create a situation where you need to be prepared. DO IT NOW.

Technology and You

Don’t even think of saying that you are not a technology geek. You don’t have to be a geek, but you do have to embrace the newest technology. It is the price of entry to the job market and the price to keep your current job. If you have not kept up with technology changes, then you need to take some basic computer classes and get up-to-speed quickly. DO IT NOW.

At a minimum, you need to be proficient in Microsoft Word and Excel. You need to know how to use email, attach and send documents through email, use various search engines like Google, Yahoo and more. Get familiar with Google Drive, YouTube and Dropbox. These are only a few of the tools that businesses use today.

There are other tools that are unique to your industry. Make sure you have a working knowledge of them or a familiarity with them so that you can speak to them in an interview. You do not have to be an expert in all of these areas, but you do need to be aware of them. Most importantly, you need to NOT be afraid to speak about these tools intelligently.

Next, you need to listen to some webinars about Social Media and get on board with that. You need to have your resume on LinkedIn and be connected with as many people as possible. It is how you will stay connected with others as they move around from job to job. These connections can become very valuable to you as your network grows.

You need to be part of groups in your industry. LinkedIn is a valuable resource for this as well as any user groups that you are involved with.

How do you tell when someone is over 40? They are wearing a watch. How do you tell when someone is over 50? They are on Facebook. These are some exaggerations, but if you look around, it is somewhat true. Young people don’t wear watches because they are attached to their phone. Young people are not on Facebook because their parents and grandparents are there.

There is another old saying: Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water”. So don’t give up your watch or get off of Facebook. You enjoy both of those things. Just recognize that you need to know what else is out there and be able to enter into a conversation with someone who might be as much as 30-40 years younger than you. You might be their manager or guess what—they might be your manager.

It’s all about being relevant.