Profile of a Career Pivot After 40

By Bill Wagner

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It has been a while since I have taken the time to write anything here, and there is a good reason behind it. I have been reinventing my professional career. It is a lot of work. There were so many roadblocks. I will list a few for you:

  1. I am not a millennial. I am 43. I had very little in the way of necessary talent beyond knowing the percentages of whether or not you should hit a 16 against a face card.
  2. I had no current degree. I earned my bachelor's degree in the pre-tech bubble era of 1995. That means I had fewer marketable skills than my son who is a junior in high school.
  3. I was bald and fat. While some may say skills matter most, it is the first impression that will make or break you. Being an old, fat, bald, white man was just about the worst thing I could be at this point.

It would be very easy to just say the world has passed me by. It would be very easy, and that is what some do. Some try really hard for what they think is a long time and end up feeling like they were right in the first place. I haven't reached that point yet. I have read many "experts" who give tips about how people like me can find a job. Very little of that advice meant anything to me since finding succes stories to build myself up were next to impossible.

So I decided to make my own story. I went back to school at Western Governors University and obtained a MBA. It took me two years. I had the support of my wife then entire way. I love her more now than the day I started. That loving support has resulted in $30,000 in student loans, and more hope for the future than I could imagine.

In this new era of giving without expecting a return, I knew I had to prove to people I was intelligent enough to be of value somewhere. I began to write on the LinkedIn Pulse. They have a free blogging platform that allows you to publish relevant business pieces for people to read.  You may not know what to write at first. Neither did I, but I had to attempt something new to get something new. After 28 posts, I have developed my voice into something people actually notice. My most popular post was ROI of Your Mother. I learned how to put keywords and tags into the post, and now various groups on LinkedIn pick up my stuff from time to time.

I volunteered with my local SCORE chapter. I found the chapter chair, walked up to him and said I want to help local business grow. He brought me onboard, and we have grown to become good friends. Through my SCORE mentoring sessions, I listen to many ideas on how and why people think they can be successful. Then I start asking questions about marketing, target audience, finance, and competitors in the local area. The looks I got in response told me all I needed to know in my adventure so far: My journey to understanding business has opened my eyes to what it takes to be good at it. 

I took my health and appearance seriously. Remaking my skills and image meant putting effort into my outward look as well as my inward spirit. Getting healthy meant making new choices, listening to my doctor, and not stuffing food into my face everytime I felt useless and depressed.

This process wasn't easy. I had to realize I wasn't The Smartest Person is the Room anymore. I struggled and failed. Then I got up again, figured out a new way to do it, and moved forward. I am thankful for the support of my wife the entire time.

I am far from done. It has been a long road and the end is nowhere in sight. I have a job as the vice president of a start-up. We haven't sold anything yet so the vice president title is just some words on a page right now. The good news is the members of my team believe in me and trust me. We work hard together. We support each other. We dream together. 

I still have bills like everyone else. I also have student loans coming due soon. That is motivation to make this work or move on to something that will. The take-aways from everything I have gone through so far are to just keep going. Talk to everyone you meet. Listen to their stories. Share your experience of why things work. It will resonate. Don't let failure be an option. One of my favorite quotes is from Wayne Gretsky: "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."


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