07/30/2013 02:06 pm ET Updated Sep 29, 2013

On the Back Nine, Part Three: Careers


Does one's golf game get better with age or worse? More experience could mean more patience and better strategy borne from repetition and trial and error. Physical limitations, however, could cut into strength and flexibility enough to affect your game. It's similar in the game of career.

Experience makes you nimble or it makes you stubborn. You trust your instincts, but you may be out of touch with trends and technology that could affect or even erase the relevance of your job. In this age of rapid change, we have to keep adjusting and letting go of the past. If we dig our heels in, insisting on following tradition, we will be left behind. No one is waiting for you to catch up.

It took me three or four years to buy an e-reader because as a traditional paper author, I could not accept what was happening to the art of the tangible page. Did anybody care? Did anybody hold my hand as I peeled off a layer of my identity to join the electronic age? No!

With that said, technology is not the only challenge of the back nine of careers.

I coach people day and in and day out to be the one to beat the odds and get what they want at any age and yet, hitting 50 has put ageism in my face. I no longer write for a certain woman's magazine. I was collateral damage of a regime change but before the coup, the editor-in-chief almost choked on her salad when I told her my age over lunch. I was older than her and older than the magazine's demographic. I saw the writing on the wall.

I'm not alone. A 55-year-old looking to land a new job is considered 'old' and certainly, expensive. The longer we are living in our modern day and age, the more urgent it is becoming that 'old' be defined by something other than a number.

The hard truth is that we cannot wait for the culture to catch up nor can we wait for anyone to solve this for us. The back nine of career requires some personal ingenuity and the ambition of a younger person to create work for yourself that will last into the years that would be retirement for another generation. (Not ours!)

The longer you take to accept this, the longer you will suffer. This is a call to be nimble, flexible, creative and inventive. It's a call to listen to longings of your soul, the intuitive messages and the ideas that seem crazy to your status-quo -loving side.

I'm not suggesting that we all need to be self-employed, but even inside a company, the back-niner has to put aside complacency and stay as nimble and quick as a boxer's footwork. Read up on trends, talk to younger folks, be open to new ways of doing things and take quiet time to dream up new ideas on how things can get done. You may have earned your spot, but that is not enough anymore. You have to become indispensable.

Tall order. I know. If your inner machinations of denial are kicking up, here's a test to determine if this applies to you: Are you calling younger people, 'honey,' 'youngster,' or hear yourself saying: "When I was..." Or maybe finding yourself giving unsolicited advice to younger people?

Yeah, I thought so. This applies to you. Get on it. Now!