Over 40 and considering a master’s degree? Consider this…

salute to edAre you an mature professional who is considering a return to school for a master’s degree? Going back to school for any level of higher education is a fast-growing trend; recent stats from the U.S. Department of Education confirm that adult students are now the fastest growing demographic in the educational arena.

In my business consulting work and the workshops I produce for executives in transition, the most-asked question I hear is “Should I go back to school and if so, should I pursue an MBA?” The MBA is certainly a hotly discussed degree. Many seasoned professionals leave the corporate world (by choice or not) to start new businesses, and think they have what it takes to do their own thing. Maybe, maybe not. However, it is possible that the training involved in achieving an MBA could be their best defense against some of the most common mistakes new entrepreneurs make.

By the same token, an M.S.in Education or in Psychology and Human Services may empower you to reach for better, more interesting, and higher paying jobs than those available to someone with a bachelor’s degree.

Here is a brief overview of three possible master’s degrees you may be considering:

Master of Business Administration

The MBA is the most popular advanced degree in America and is one of the most reliable paths to a successful career in business – whether your goal is to rise in a corporation, run your own business, or lead a nonprofit. An MBA program provides you with the essential general management portfolio of strategy, operations, finance and marketing, with a strong emphasis on organizational development and personal leadership training. You will upgrade your technical business decision-making skills and increase your overall organizational effectiveness and value through improved self-management – skills that will benefit other areas of your lives

A good MBA program provides you with the invaluable opportunity to learn from professors with extensive experience as well as expertise in their respective fields of strategy, operations, marketing, finance and organizational development.  Look for programs where faculty members have extensive experience in, and a passion for, mentoring, training and educating diverse professionals and helping them build fulfilling careers.

Master of Science in Psychology (or other Human Services)

Senior managers recognize that they get a better worker when you go back to school for additional training, which can lead to promotions and pay raises. If you have established yourself in a specific type of counseling career for a few years and decide you want to try something different in the field, a graduate degree will prepare you to do so.

Master of Education

A master’s degree in education gives you the latest essential skills for educators and can provide you with an advantage in the job market over candidates with a bachelor’s degree. Whether you are interested in teaching in a public school, or simply wish to expand your understanding of the education process, but do not plan to teach in a classroom setting, an M.S. in Education can increase your options.

Look for colleges that can tailor programs to meet your specific career goals, needs and interests. Learning the latest classroom trends enhances your resume and expands your employment options. Look also for programs that are affordable and accessible to over-40 individuals already working in the field.

You, the over-40 professional, know you will be living longer, and you demand more from your life. In returning to school for a master’s degree, you are DARE-ing to pursue new career ideas, create new businesses, and fulfill your lifelong dreams.

 

adult ed pic two 9 4 2013

Plant Seeds of Renewal in Your Brain this Spring!

plant-164500_640This year, it seems like there is no spring season in sight… after a hard, very long winter. If you live in the northeast, you may be waiting to plant your real garden, due to the hideous weather we’re all having (hail the size of golf balls here in Vermont the other afternoon).

But what a perfect opportunity to plant seeds of renewal in our brains. Here are 7 SEEDS of ideas to get you growing and sowing. After all, Mother Nature herself needed seven days to get the earth in BLOOM, and even SHE rested!

  1. To PLANT your SEEDS of accomplishment for 2015, first decide what you want to reap. Do you want to learn valuable new skills, gear up for a brand new, exciting and fulfilling career? Develop new connections, friendships and relationships? Maybe you have an even loftier goal, such as starting a multi-million dollar business. Decide what you want your full-blown PLANTS to look like!
  2. Once you determine how you want your flourishing GARDEN to look, you need a plan to make it happen. If you want to learn a new skill, why not sign up now for a finance class, a computer class, a ballroom dance class or music lessons? Why not learn a new language?
  3. If your goal is finding a new career, June is the perfect time to set up informational interviews or networking sessions where you talk with people about their jobs and figure out whether their career might be a perfect career for you. Even with all the slush and muck in the streets, people you want to know are ready to come out of hibernation for a quick lunch or espresso. [For more helpful tips on job-hunting in these challenging economic times, click here.]
  4. If you have to literally crack open your copy of What Color is Your Parachute, then don’t wait for evidence of moth larvae infestation between the pages before you buy yourself the new edition. No one writes about career reinvention, midlife crises or having a “Plan B” the way that Richard Nelson Bolles does.
  5. If you haven’t taken a career assessment test since you wore miniskirts the first decade they were in style (which would also be the decade that Cher could scowl and smirk with the lips, eyes and forehead that Mother Nature gave her), then sign up to take a Myers-Briggs personality test (www.mbticomplete.com). Even though Myers-Briggs experts say that your personality traits stay the same as you move through your life, taking the test again will reaffirm for you who you are today, and what type of job would be a good fit for your personality now. At the very least, it’s a way to PLANT new SEEDS in your own head, and then in others’ heads.
  6. Speaking of heads, two (or more) heads are sometimes better than one. If you want to develop new networks of friends or relationships, make sure you have a profile on a business social network like LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com), or update your professional profile, and make plans with people whom you haven’t seen in years. Or, how about hosting a dinner party for six friends that you think would have fun together brainstorming the next move in their lives – even if you have to order in? Or, go to a panel sponsored by your alma mater or the local YMCA, so you can be exposed to new ideas while meeting new people.
  7. Finally, this might not sound like an activity for a “day of rest” but if your daydreaming time tends to veer toward visions of having your own business, maybe this is the perfect time to PLANT the SEEDS for that. Decide what type of business you want to start that fits in with the rest of your goals in life. In entrepreneurial finance, the term “lifestyle business” is used to define a business that will also allow you to have a normal life. And, we’re all for that! Start researching the industry you’re thinking about entering, and the companies that might be your competition. Then think about what you would need to do to put together a kick-butt business plan.

    SEED that need and get yourself in full BLOOM!

 

Job Hunters Over 40: Time to get past the long, cold winter of discontent

Job Hunters: How to Spring Forward, Make Rain Happen!

men joggingAs we hope and wait for a reasonable weather pattern that actually looks as if it somehow reflects the fact that it’s March, many over-40 executives in transition between jobs, or those who are employed but job-hunting, have been feeling more overwhelmed, discouraged and listless than ever over the past two months. The postponements or outright cancellations of networking meetings, job interviews, valuable education seminars and the like, caused by one of the worst winters in recent memory, have made even the most tenacious procrastinators hope for some kind of deadline, deliverable, or other indicator that they need to be somewhere, produce something, anything, that will want them to get out of their caves (literal or figurative) without having to suit up as if they’re drilling for oil in Alaska!

So here are just a few suggestions to fire up your motivation for a renewed job hunt or career rejuvenation – with the hopes that you become your own “rainmaker” and thaw out your networking and selling skills along the way. After all, we all know we’ll soon have more reasons for sunscreen that don’t have anything to do with protecting ourselves against the glare of bright white ice crystals on a brutal afternoon jog in 18-below on frosted sidewalks!

  1. business cardSpring is a great time for new business cards, especially if you’re re-starting your networking after a few months indoors. I’m astounded at the number of job hunters who, because they’ve left a company’s employ, don’t carry their own business cards! It doesn’t matter who you were at your former company and what you did, if you don’t have a card that tells prospects who you are now, your expertise and what you’re seeking in your next position, you’re communicating that you are in a “holding pattern” with no contact information for the people you meet who actually want to keep your info handy. Always have business cards with you that demonstrate what you’re looking for next in your career.
  2. Where there’s rain, get covered – a cover letter! Many job hunters over 40 fail to realize that cover letters regarding the specific company’s market position, financial profile or other personalized insights can land them in an “A” pile that makes the resume a secondary priority. State your career objectives in cover letters, comment on specifics, detail clearly why you’re interested in the organization, and then customize your resume accordingly.
  3. The only three questions every resume needs to answer. Does your resume sell your strengths, fit and motivation to the organization you’re pitching? Not customizing your resume to serve the type of opportunity you’re seeking is like writing the same ad copy to sell food, wine or electronics. Customize your resume to the company you’re pitching.
  4. It’s spring, do you know where your mentors and sponsors are? Make sure you know the answer to that question by listing all the people you already know that could help you in your job hunt or career moves. Are they connectors, mentors or sponsors? Connectors can help you access information or introductions. Mentors guide and advise. Sponsors – the most valuable resources – are like your personal agents. Sponsors can be advocates and ambassadors for your candidacy. Identify, research and cultivate at least five sponsors. Work that list, contact them for informational interviews by phone or Skype, and persuade them to introduce you to potential hiring managers or clients.
  5. Do it full time, lose the fool time. Yeah, I know, tough love for job hunters, but if you’re really serious about the hunt, you should be working on it at least 9-to-5 every day, and not by surfing job sites, emailing people who don’t know you and, worse, who don’t care. Instead, use your evening and weekend hours to do research on your priority companies and hiring managers, customize your resume, or draft intro letters to those you want to meet. Your weekdays should be spending in meetings with connectors, influencers and hiring managers, attending the strategic networking events these important resources also attend, and getting involved in organizations (including nonprofits) that can help you fill resume gaps.

umbrellaSo, although it seems we’ve had the worst winter on record, and the polar vortex has all but swallowed up our action plans, it’s time to plant new seeds, get the right gear in place, get out there and do more than pray for rain.

Spring forward, Make rain happen!

 

 

 

 

Job-Hunting as a Mature Professional? FLEX YOUR SPECS! There are more ways IN than you think!

northeaster us mapIn the last few years I enjoyed leading a rewarding series of workshops for executives in transition, who very much want to land their next full-time job.

It was such a pleasure to meet and work with talented, educated, highly skilled executives, most of them in transition not of their own volition, and all too many of them in a serious state of shock, denial, anger.  On top of all that there’s the engulfing sense of shame and fear about their future job prospects, as well as the financial burdens.   Here are some of their challenges, how to deal with the most pressing roadblocks, and a few good books that will help.

The Challenges:

1)    Shock and Denial:  Many executives are determined to land a full-time position in a “reasonable amount of time” that is the same as or very similar to the position they left.  This time frame usually coincides with that of their severance package.  But if the reason their jobs are gone is that they were combined with or absorbed by talent that is often younger, less expensive and more flexible, this determination to “replace” the lost job and its perks often leads to even greater disappointment.

2)    Reluctance to network: This stems from lethargy or confidence challenges regarding its benefits.  The workshops prove that support from peers in a similar situation is invaluable!  Peers or mentors can become avid sponsors – I’ve seen it happen many times over the past few months with women I know who landed great jobs because they got outside of their own cocoon.  Sometimes this was due to someone much younger who was in a position of influence and wanted to help.  That’s hard for a lot of mid-career executives to accept. But it’s the reality.

3)    Shame: Many of these execs have been breadwinners, and are now suffering from shame.  Shame definitely becomes a firewall for some women and men who can’t see the value in joining professional organizations.  However, joining – and becoming active and visible in – networking groups, professional associations or a cause they care about would help them see there are other accomplished people out there who have risen past any notion of shame. They proudly announce they’re “in transition” and explain what they’re looking for as their “Big Next.”  Joining helps them to see there are myriad ways to contribute and expand their experience and expertise, and to meet mentors, sponsors and hiring managers.

4)    Inflexibility to pursue what could be valuable options outside their current experience and expertise – i.e., franchising, consulting/freelancing, starting their own business, etc.  The research that led to my book unearthed all sorts of women and men whose names (or the organizations they started) are now so well-known that few recognize their drive and subsequent success came after a huge adversity punch to their souls in mid-career.

5)    Fear: This is a big one; many attendees of my workshops report being “paralyzed with fear.”  Fear of networking, fear of failure, fear of making the wrong next move.  The reluctance and/or apathy I so often see with regard to their willingness to take advantage of tools for personal evaluation could be more about fear.  Professionals in transition sometimes fear these tests since they point out more deficits or deficiencies than they want to acknowledge.  Instead I encourage them to see the assays as an opportunity to benefit from a fresh look at their strengths and how to optimize them.

DEALING with these challenges:

For visionary, intelligent and motivated executives to combat these challenges, here are the three main areas of focus:

1)    linked in buttonMaximize LinkedIn:  there are more articles on the web regarding the benefits of using LinkedIn than I can possibly cite here, but the most critical reason to be there with a good profile to attract the work you really want to do and are good at (I rewrite mine once a year or more) is that almost every corporate hiring manager checks LinkedIn for profiles before looking anywhere else.   On top of that, if a hiring manager receives your resume and you’re not on LinkedIn, with a strong network and good skills profile that matches their needs, they often put your resume aside.

2)    Personal branding: I’ve written on this quite a bit, and there are dozens on books on it.  Pick the two or three that resonate with your strengths, motivation and where you want to land, and work the exercises.  There’s no substitute for the intrapersonal work you need to do before you can do the interpersonal connecting.  If not now, then when?

3)    Networking in generalto paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt, one of the most inspirational women of all time, who also happened to be one of the great networkers well before the word became the 21st century catchphrase for connecting every possible interest, “You must do that thing you think you cannot do.”  Join and become very active in your industry’s professional organizations.  Comment selectively on business blogs and your industry organizations’ websites.  Participate in local philanthropic events where hiring managers in your industry also contribute.  You don’t have to have a lot of money to do this, but you do have to spend your time wisely.  Know how and when to cultivate contacts – and remember, you have to give to get.  It sure beats sitting in front of your laptop all day sending mass emails to black holes scanned by computer software that doesn’t care a bit about you and your potential.

A FEW GOOD BOOKS:

1)    Career Distinction, William Arruda and Kirsten Dixson, Wiley, 2007

This is an invaluable “how to” manual instruction manual and branding bible for building a satisfying and successful career.

2)    The Start-up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career, Reid Hoffman, Crown Business, 2012.   A great book to inspire you to entrepreneurial endeavors!

3)    Linchpin: Are You Indispensible?, Seth Godin, Portfolio Trade, 2011.

One of my favorite books; here is quintessential advice from a master on marketing, emotional investment in careers and work, on taking the initiative, on being a leader, an artist!

4)    How to Become a Rainmaker, Jeffrey J Fox, Hyperion, 2000.

An introduction or refresher course in the power of selling.

5)    What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Marshall Goldsmith, Hyperion, 2007.

Executive Coach Marshall explores why some people succeed in their careers, and others stall. He offers myriad pieces of advice and guidance, bad habits to break, plus gives powerful examples to drive home his points. Great book you will return to again and again.

 ~   ~   ~   ~   ~ 

© The DARE-Force Corporation, 2015. 

Check out Liz Weinmann’s book, Get DARE from Here™! – 12 Principles and Practices for Women Over 40 to Take Stock, Take Action and Take Charge of the Rest of Their Lives, by Liz DiMarco Weinmann, MBA. All rights reserved.  

All of the content on this website and in the other content-driven products and services of The DARE-Force Corporation are based on sound business principles and practices of strategy, operations, leadership and marketing, and on current and emerging trends in those referenced business principles and practices.  None of the content on this website, nor in the other content-driven products and services of The DARE-Force Corporation, are intended to be, nor should they be, perceived as, practiced as, or applied as, counsel, diagnosis, or treatment for any implicit or explicit mental, emotional or physical health challenges.  

 

 

 

$1,750 or $175,000-Plus – Questions to consider for your own reinvention in 2014

cap and diplomaAs so many of us think about new year’s resolutions to make, many mature professionals consider going back to school to get professional training or expand areas of their intellects that intrigue them. I’m all for that, if you have the time and money to pursue something that will benefit you – financially, emotionally, physically, whatever your motivation.

It so happens that in my business consulting work and the workshops I produce for executives in transition, the most-asked question I get is should I go back and if so, should I pursue an MBA. I’m asked that one a lot because I earned my MBA in mid-career, and over the age of 50. I had a specific goal and plan in mind, and it worked for me.

mba biz cardThe MBA is a hotly discussed degree, for anyone over 21 and up. However, the dollar amounts above, in the title, are not salaries or billable-hour rates but rather tuition ranges for one course – for example, a marketing course at NYU, and the going rate for a two-year Executive MBA program at a top school. So, considering that the costs of earning an MBA today are climbing steadily, executives over 40 need to consider whether the investment in an MBA will be worth it in the long run.

Add to that question, the increasing number of MBAs who are jobless, “aged-out” of the workforce, or under-employed, and the question of whether an MBA is necessary for entrepreneurs is the new twist on what has become the business world’s favorite conundrum: good investment or waste of precious time and money?

Following is a NY Times article that is one of the best I’ve seen on the topic. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t get into Stanford or Harvard. Read the piece and decide for yourself, and share your thoughts.

Click here to read NYTimes.com: Assessing Whether Entrepreneurs Should Get M.B.A.’s

 

 

 

Power Station: It’s Time to Rewire, Reboot and Resurge!

If that’s your urge, then take time, take stock and take care. Then, take action.

Are you energized about learning and doing something new and exciting with every coming year since you’ve begun your career?

Whether your response is a yelping “Yes!” a tentative “Well, maybe” or an anxious “Not really, but I know I have to, in some way at some point in the second half of your life, you will experience the natural desire or face a compelling need to rewire, reboot and resurge. The economic realities of this century have eliminated the option of “No way” for most of us, because we will be working for longer than we ever thought. For most people that alone is “new and different.”

It’s not as impossible or untenable as it might seem. Whatever “camp” you’re in, I have good news for you: a rewire, reboot and resurge will absolutely power your life for the better. Just who am I to talk? In my early fifties, I was firmly in the “Yes!” camp of doing something new and different than my long career in marketing, only to embark on a series of soul-wrenching and workaholic career moves that challenged my overall physical, emotional and financial health. The experiences almost led me to believe that I couldn’t overcome even minor setbacks, let alone deal with bona fide crises. Making those career moves taught me a lot about resilience.

My resurge began in 2007, when I enrolled at New York University’s Stern School of Business to earn an MBA at age 55, graduating two years later, on my 57th birthday. Armed with extensive research I conducted while in business school, I started writing a book on how visionary, intelligent and motivated individuals over 40 drive and advance successful organizations, their careers, and their own personal development – despite the fact that many stereotypes cast midlife professionals as “over the hill” or “landing on a short runway.” Business school taught me how effective leaders get the right things done, not just by doing things better, but doing better things. Not coincidentally, I expanded my consulting practice to help other motivated individuals rewire, reboot and resurge. In the process, I’ve met and learned even more from other bold, brave people who are accomplishing more in the second half of their lives than they thought possible – even after great adversity.

Rebooting and resurging in midlife is necessary regardless of your calling, goals, stages, challenges, or roles – past or present. Whether managers or machinists; teachers or technicians; surgeons or salespersons; the fact is that all of us are CEOs – managers of our own lives. In carrying out our own mission and vision, we have much to learn from adapting sound business principles of good strategy (being effective), disciplined operations (being efficient with resources, especially time) and inspired leadership (managing ourselves and motivating others). We are all CEOs – with the “E” standing for enlightened, enriched and empowered.

Feeling the urge to rewire, reboot and resurge? Thinking “maybe”? Still in the “no way” camp?

Here are three Power Lines to get you going!

1. ) Whether your response is “Yesssss,” “maybe,” or “not really, but I know I have to,” you very well may experience a desire to do something different in the second half of your life. It requires taking the time to be thoughtful in figuring out what you really want; taking stock, so you lead with your strengths; and taking care, so you don’t compromise any aspects of your health. Then, develop an action plan to accomplish concrete goals and execute within a sensible timetable.

2. ) Figure out which “station” you’re in before you set a destination or route (i.e. your “strategy” for getting there). Here’s how:

If you answered “yes” and are looking forward to a new career, hobby, relocation, etc., but are not exactly sure what or how, then you’re ready for a first-class ticket on the rewired-not-expired express. You’re in good company: millions of people are determined to mash the myths, slam the stereotypes and bash the biases that older people are “winding down.” Yay, you!

Your route/strategy: Focus on what you really want, figure out what or who is keeping you from getting there, and whether it’s your own diversions, distractions, or other time management issues that are stalling you. Then write down all the things you want to do – in the next five years, one year, six months, all the way down to the current month, week, day and even hours. It doesn’t mean you become a robotic efficiency slave; but, without plans and to-lists, the unimportant “dandruff” in your life (emails, Facebook, Internet overload) will consume you, and you’ll have no time or energy left for what will get you ahead. Focus on “a-head” and get the “dandruff” under control!

road closedIf your replies were more tentative “maybes,” today there’s an abundance of “maps” – reputable information, sound research, and credible advice about why it’s beneficial to start something new and different, and how to deal with roadblocks. Many people who can’t or won’t get going on something new and different focus too much on their weaknesses and external obstacles. Laser in on your strengths – what you do well that you actually like to do. Strengths help you maximize opportunities.

Your route/strategy: Think about whether the pursuits you’re engaged in now are holdovers from the first half of your life. If you’ve already accomplished those earlier goals, then you really need to consider new pursuits. Either you regenerate, or you stagnate! Whether your new pursuits focus on personal goals, career transition, hobbies or community service, always be developing new ways to utilize your brain and maintain your physical health. The more you do physically, the better your brain performs, and a positive mindset accelerates exercise benefits, leading to more energy and more power over your choices.

If your reaction to rewiring, rebooting and resurging veer into the “no way but I really have no choice” zone, for you I have a special affinity and empathy. In this economy, financial and health challenges seem insurmountable. In fact, if you have to go back to work for the first time in many years, or you need to start work in a new career, new industry or new city, then it’s understandable that you’re stressing out. If you’re dealing with divorce, the death or prolonged illness of a spouse or partner, or your own illness, and the financial challenges of all these stressors, then you’re definitely overloaded. You may be too over-committed to sort out all the things you feel you have to do, let alone pursue new and different things you’d like to do.

Your route/strategy: You are the very person who needs not to rush into anything without first making a concerted commitment to build in private time to take care of yourself, so you also figure out what you really need and want, and what resources you need to help you. You have to make the time and effort to eat right and fit in exercise, even if it’s a short walk. You have to pay careful attention to your finances. Carve out quiet time, to journal, read, jot notes on index cards or on your smart-phone, meditate, pray, get a massage, a manicure or some other respite from your stress. You owe it to yourself and others who rely on you, to take that time. These are all coping mechanisms – for you they may be exactly the new and different things you need the most.

3. ) Dare to “arrive” at your final destination: create your own “Power Structure” and “Bottom Line” for the second half of your life. We all know that “power structure” usually refers to hierarchy in an organization. Your life has a hierarchy too – the Before, the Now and the Future. The Now and the Future should rule your own bottom line. Here’s an exercise I use in my workshops. Using one sheet of 8½ X 11 sheet of paper and a pen (computers and pencils make you think too hard and edit too much), write the following:

— a. Top half: Write ONE (1) sentence about what you dreamed, desired and were good at as a child (ages 10-18);

— b. In the same half: write ONE more sentence: what you dreamed, desired, achieved and were good between the ages of 20 and 40;

— c. In the bottom half and back of the page, write as much as you want on: 1) Your vision of the “perfect life” – when you look back in your 80s and 90s; 2) What you’re dealing with now that is keeping you from that perfect vision; 3) What you think you need to power up in your life – i.e., to rewire and reboot – so you can resurge and drive that vision to reality.

That exercise alone can help you see the many strengths you have and appreciate the opportunities before you, so you get going on your action plan.

Rewiring, rebooting and resurging help us to explore, examine and expand – creating new ideas, new insights, new solutions and new horizons. What energizes me is that the alternate route – to assume that I’ve “had a good run but now I’m ‘done'” – is so demoralizing I can’t even think about stopping now. Most likely, neither can you.

Yes? Maybe? No? Here’s what you need to believe: The power is yours. Use it or lose it. You are your own power station, in control of your own power structure. You are the only one who can take stock, take action and take charge of the rest of your life. You are the only one who can take care of your health, by making time to think, pray, read for inspiration, meditate, exercise and eat right. And, you are the only one who can take concerted action to make a plan, set concrete goals, get rid of the distracting “dandruff” that’s holding you back, access the right resources, stick to a schedule, and advance that plan to make the second half of your life even more powerful than the first.

Think ahead!

Over 40? Go Back to School!

classroom picGoing back to school to get my MBA from NYU was truly one of the best things I ever did. With the global demand for higher levels of skills and education, adults are re-enrolling in college campuses across the nation and online. The stats are convincing:[1] studies are showing that 75% of future jobs will most likely need some type of certification or licensure, and those professions that demand a BS or BA will grow 50% faster than the national average. So a college degree looks more and more a necessity and a good investment.

You think, go back to school- not at my age! But by going back, you’d be one of huge numbers: recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Education[2] are revealing that adult students are now the fastest growing demographic in the educational arena, with those numbers increasing steadily.

Baby Boomers know they will be living longer, and demand more from their lives. They want fulfillment, not just a job. More women aged 55 to 79 are deciding what they want to do in their next years. A report from The American Council on Education, entitled, Framing New Terrain: Older Adults & Higher Education, shows that with older adults returning to college in record numbers, they are pursuing new career ideas, found new businesses, and create their lifelong dreams.

Go back to school!

1- http://www.luminafoundation.org/publications/focus_archive/Focus_Fall_2009.pdf

2- http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2006/adulted/index.asp
 

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What’s the Big Idea? – Inspiration and Cautionary Lessons for Entrepreneurs of All Ages and Motivations from NYU’s Business Plan Competition (Part 1)

nyu sternRecently, I served as a judge in a semi-final event for the 2014 NYU Berkeley Center for Entrepreneurship Business Plan competition, dubbed “The Entrepreneur’s Challenge.” The final event was held last Friday at NYU, capping nine months of preparation by hundreds of aspiring entrepreneurs. Comprised of several dozen teams, it was ultimately winnowed down to winners in three categories: Technology ($75,000), Social Enterprise ($50,000) and New Venture in Any Category ($75,000).

Each of the winning ventures had one very compelling characteristic in common. (More about that in a minute.)Some of the young students and seasoned entrepreneurs sitting with me at the event were surprised at the winning selections, but I wasn’t. Having produced, pitched, taught and evaluated business plans and marketing campaigns my whole career, working with fast-talking money-changing Mad Men types, I picked the same winners the official judges did.

So, what exactly does it take to launch, differentiate, compete and scale a business idea into a profitable enterprise that attracts loyal customers, secures investors and thrives until such time as the entrepreneur decides to sell, expand or merge? From the official website of the NYU Entrepreneurs’ Challenge, the following are just some of the criteria, quoted verbatim, italics inserted for emphasis:

“…Not any old ideas. What we’re interested in are disruptive ideas, ideas with the power for great impact and influence. Ideas that challenge assumed boundaries and inspire a sense of what’s possible.

“The $200K Entrepreneurs Challenge provides you with the framework and motivation you’ll need to think and do what no one else is doing…”

Here’s my view of what the judges saw in this year’s winners:

1) Conscious competence – and the commitment, confidence and drive to turn an incipient idea into a viable company, i.e., to “scale.” By the time competitors get to the finals, they have lived, breathed, dreamed and agonized over their business ideas, making dozens of revisions. All of this has helped them further establish and demonstrate their competence, confidence and drive to differentiate, solve true marketplace needs and aspire to be the best solution to those needs.

2) Forget “analysis is paralysis.” In a competitive arena where millions (let alone thousands) of investment dollars and/or sales to consumers are in play, research is king, queen, and master of the universe. The winners demonstrated they had performed painstaking research into and testing of the differentiating strategies, operational levers and financial models that would turn their concept into a business offering worthy of at least initial investment beyond their friends and family. They considered every possible method for launching successfully, accelerating awareness, building positive perceptions and securing attractive customer bases, while also demonstrating they could manage unnecessary costs, fix weaknesses and address threats efficiently and effectively.

3) Practice, practice, practice, and be willing to take and apply what may seem like excruciating advice. The most motivated among the NYU competitors participate in energizing but grueling boot camps and multiple preliminary competitions, representing thousands of collective hours of sweat equity and brainpower expended. If it’s true that to become truly competent, one needs to have engaged in an activity some 10,000 hours, then I suspect the winners did that and more. If you consider yourself an expert already and resist the notion of all but the most essential business advisors, chances are you won’t sustain your business for long or you’ll struggle at some impasse where you absolutely need fresh thinking.

4) A truly differentiated product or service that answers a compelling marketplace need that the new firm can meet better, cheaper or faster than existing products or services. As good as all the finalists were in stating the need for their services and their differentiating competitive advantage, the judges rejected all but the three winners for the following reasons:

a) Unfocused or incorrect strategy: business models that were too complicated or too simplistic to make money and scale sufficiently.

b) Risky operations: underestimating logistical constraints and the inherent costs involved (among them, inventory costs, privacy issues and insurance liabilities); the team’s lack of industry experience; inability to address serious technological challenges.

c) Weak branding and/or lack of a marketing expertise: either too little or too much investment estimated for target audience segmentation, other market research and marketing itself to acquire initial customers, let alone build a brand that would scale, be sustainable and yield ROI in a reasonable amount of time.

So, what was the secret ingredient, the winning factor that distinguished the prize winners? Venture capitalists and other financiers ask a lot of questions regarding the marketplace need for a new offering, and the questions all boil down to this: is your business offering a vitamin or a painkiller? In a similar vein, is your business a pain to use?

nyu stern awardsThe ultimate winners of the NYU competition crafted and made compelling business cases for offerings that addressed marketplace pain. Take a look and see what you might be missing in your own business offering.

 

Radio Interview on The Takeaway: Shunning Retirement for Start Ups

“Shunning Retirement for Start Ups,” Monday, January 20, 2014

Check out the interview I did today on The Takeaway Radio Show.

“Older Americans are increasingly shunning retirement to start companies. Liz DiMarco Weinmann is 61-years-old and started Dare Force Corporation, which helps women over 40 to start new careers. Susan Price is 54-years-old and was laid off in 2008. Losing her job prompted her to go back to school for an MBA. She now works full-time and has also started her own side-business as a career coach. Together these two women explain how they made their career transitions and what the process was really like.”

LISTEN to The Takeaway Radio Show.

Education and Professional Development Options: Several Courses of Action to Consider!

In my business consulting work and the workshops I produce for executives in transition, the most-asked question I hear is should I go back to school and if so, should I pursue an MBA. While I have no regrets about my MBA, especially since I had the opportunity to choose the dual concentration of Finance and Leadership, I know it may not be the ideal investment for most professionals, especially those over 50. Take into consideration your own specific financial situation and current knowledge, strengths and aptitudes, of course, but here’s what I’ve observed are, in fact, good investments for professionals over 40, and the reasons why:

MEDIA BISTRO1) Digital Media Marketing – There are so many course offerings, at every type of institution or training facility, from community colleges to major universities, to companies like Media Bistro. Here’s why:

a) Learning digital media is very attractive to almost any professionals over 40 who are worried that their counterparts in their twenties and thirties are far more nimble, facile and advanced in digital media.

b)Younger professionals who are born into the “digital river” are earning promotions much faster, while older professionals are being passed over or worse – downsized.

c) In almost any industry, in any sector, being skilled in social media and its applications to business at large, especially those undergoing structural chaos, such as media, and to marketing in particular is an important differentiating advantage.

2) successBusiness Administration refresher courses or earning a Bachelor’s in Business – Many professionals over 40 leave the corporate world (by choice or not) to start their own businesses, and think they have what it takes to do their own thing. Maybe, maybe not. Here’s why:

a) Courses in business administration, whether a certificate or Bachelor’s, could be their best defense against some of the most common mistakes and disillusions that plague even the hippest hoodie-clad start-up CEO. Launching a business seems easy; running one day to day is far from easy.

b) A well-rounded education in business administration gives the budding entrepreneur (at any age) grounding in operations (one of the most tedious aspects of the business that a lot of so-called visionaries can’t manage), accounting (try writing a business plan without that!), and the more right-brain and crucial courses of strategy, marketing, brand management and leadership.

c) If the time comes to sell, be merged/acquired or seek investors, then you had better know something about corporate finance or you won’t be able to even read a deal memo, let alone write or negotiate one that won’t leave you disappointed and feeling as if you wasted the sweat equity you built up in your business.

3) gold capCareer Management and Talent Development – This field has almost no barriers to entry, which is good for seasoned business professionals but also makes it very attractive to all sorts of nefarious imposters. Here’s what to look for and why:

a) Forgive my snobbery, but when I was considering a different career path, I consulted a Master’s-level counselor, not a so-called coach whose sole credentials were a 4-week teleseminar certificate!

b) Smart professionals who seek career coaching likewise want someone who’s well trained and exudes trust, not someone who’s following a commercial enterprise’s notion of “counseling.” Opt to put in the time, do the good work and earn a recognized Master’s degree in a discipline that has a reputable body of knowledge. Whether your Master’s is in psychology, social work, organizational development, counseling or any other mental health profession, the degree distinguishes you (to some extent) from those reading from a telemarketing pro’s psychobabble-ridden bromides.

c) In the same vein, anyone who takes advice from a business coach that can’t demonstrate his/her extensive experience and expertise in having actually run a business, or at least having earned an MBA, is gambling with their money. Again, if business coaching is your area of interest and you can afford the time and money for training, then earning an MBA can give you a leg up on business coaches that do not have an MBA.

 

Next: Franchising for Over 40 Executives