Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015

Why I Wrote Mid-Life Career Rescue – the rise of the older worker

AA030453Why I Wrote Mid-Life Career Rescue 

Someone once asked me, “What was the catalyst for writing your book?” In part, it was my experience as a psychologist and career counsellor, and the  experiences of my clients. Like, those who were made redundant after 40-years of loyal service, and offered only 2 hours of support to help them rebuild their shattered lives.

Or the lady in her 50’s who told me, “My boss has offered me one hour of career counselling. She said, ‘If you can’t work it all out in that time, you’re more useless than I thought.’  Really? How could someone say that to another person? My client was so traumatised, so demoralised, so depressed, she’d lost all her self-esteem. “What say we do the skills exercises,” she said to me, ” and we find out my boss is right, I don’t have any talent.”

And, I’ll never forget my first client, who told me, all he wanted to do was die. I realised then that a career coach and career counsellor doesn’t just help people find a job, or minimise workplace stress, they help people reclaim themselves, their soul, their lives. They help people take control back and reclaim their power.

But the ‘why’ which motivated me to write was also the emails I received from people who read my newspaper columns in the New Zealand Herald and The Dominion Post, and the depth of their hopelessness and despair. Despair that stretched beyond them, affecting those who loved them. Many of them couldn’t afford to see me, or anyone else, professionally to get the help they so desperately needed.

Like the lady who emailed me, “No one will employ my husband because he was 55 and had been in the same job for 25 years until he was made redundant. He keeps being told that he has no skills employers would want.”

Career Rescue

It broke my heart every time I had to reply to emails like this with, “I’m sorry we are not taking new clients at this time.” Because I knew from experience it didn’t have to be that way. I knew what he needed to learn was how to find his passion and clarify what gave him a sense of meaning and purpose, and how to sell his age and experience as an asset.

It was the experience of this man and many others like him that resulted in my decision to write my first book Happy at Work for Mid-Lifers. And it was the success and the feedback from those that read it that that led me to release a revised and updated version as Mid-Life Career Rescue.

As a recruitment consultant, I’ve seen first-hand how employers and recruiters can be ageist when it comes to hiring decisions. In the search for employment, it’s not uncommon for mid-lifers to make over 500 unsuccessful job applications.

“It’s particularly hard being an unemployed, single  female in your late fifties, says Helen Walmsley-Johnson, a self-styled protesting middle-aged woman and the author of a new book, The Invisible Woman. ” I didn’t realise I had hit middle-age until until my wheels started to spin in the quagmire of ageism. What happens is your options narrow. If you say, ‘I’m a 60-year-old woman’ people can’t see you in front of them. Something pops into their head, which is how they envisage a 60-year-old woman. And that’s not how we are now – it’s now how I am.”

As a coach I’ve helped people overcome ageism and either get hired, or employ themselves.

But once again, I’m aware that not everyone can afford to see a professional coach. So I thought a book would be a more affordable, accessible option.

The Rise Of The Older Worker

Your life expectancy is on the rise, so if you don’t like your job at 50, change it. You don’t have to prove yourself or impress others, you’re freer now, than at any other time in your life, to be your true SELF.

Yet, so many people put self-imposed limits on what they believe is possible at their age. Even non mid-lifers do that! “Don’t you do what you love when you retire,” one 28 year-old once said to me! “I’m too old to change, “ said another man in his early thirties. I’ve helped people successfully challenge those limits.

And there’s plenty of examples, if you look for them, of golden-oldies living and working with passion. Like Artist Jacqueline Fahey, who is just about to turn 86. She says this time in her life is friendlier to being creative than the years when she was being a wife and mother.

“I don’t have to prove myself any more,” she says. ‘There are plenty of people who disapprove of my painting, writing and what I hold forth about. I don’t like or dislike it; I just don’t care.”

When one of my clients, Marion, realised that unless she made some positive changes in her life now, people would not remember her as she wanted, she refound her appetite for life.

 “I don’t want people to say ‘she was a nice lady who played it safe.’ I want to be scandalous! I want my kids to say, ‘what’s mum up to now?’” she laughed.

Marion gave up the security of her teaching career in The States, moved to New Zealand and purchased her own beauty therapy business. Lonely, following the death of her husband 15 years earlier, she also plucked up the courage to date again. “I’m using my new experiences to show older woman that they can love and live again and I’m pampering them in the process!”

Viva la Mid-Life Revolution!

As a career coach and counsellor helping mid-lifers reclaim their lives after redundancy, rebuild self-esteem after workplace bullying, and bounce back from the depression that staying in the wrong job can create, I felt strongly that people needed both practical and inspirational ways to reclaim their lives.

I also believe that people need fewer check boxes and career assessment inventories and more creative, out-of-the box thinking to help them succeed. My views resonated with many – and I was interviewed on television and on the radio about this very thing. You can check these out on my media page here >>

I have also presented my unique Passion Driven Model of career design at conferences around the world. I’m not saying these things to boast – but to reassure you that, if you purchase Mid-Life Career Rescue from Amazon, or download Happy At Work For Mid-Lifers from my website, you’re in safe hands.

When I attended an international symposium of career practitioners in Venice, Italy, we were warned of the crisis an ageing workforce presented and were told that the greatest skill career coaches needed was – wait for it…

to help people have an imagination!

As an artist and creative soul myself, that was like candy to a child. And since then, I’ve proven over and over again, with the successes I’ve gained for clients that thinking differently and creatively, as well as rationally, while also harnessing the power of intuition, and applying the principles of manifestation, really works. In my books I’ll show you why and how.

A large part of my philosophy, and the reason behind my success in my own life and with clients, is my fervent belief that to achieve anything worthy in life you need to follow your passion. And I’m in good company.

As Oprah Winfrey said, “Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” Without passion, you don’t have energy, and without energy you have nothing. You have to let desire, not fear, propel you forward. Yet worryingly, research suggests that less than 10% of people are following their passion. Perhaps that is why there is so much unhappiness at work.

Setting You Up For Success

“Aren’t you setting people up for failure?” a disillusioned career coach once challenged me when I told her my focus was not on helping people find any job, but finding one that gave them joy. I couldn’t help but wonder if she needed a career change.

Twenty-five years cumulative professional experience as a career coach and counsellor, helping people work with passion and still pay the bills, answers that question. I’m setting people up for success. I’m not saying it will happen instantly, but if you follow the advice in Mid-Life Career Rescue or Happy at Work For Mid-Lifers, it will happen. I promise.

Your Life Is Waiting

“I’ve spent 40 years looking out of the window wishing I was somewhere else,” one of my clients told me. That’s not only depressing but also such a huge waste of talent and precious time. Life’s too short to spend days, weeks and years in a job that robs you of energy, zest and enthusiasm.

We spend over 3,000 hours a year at work, and when we’re not at work we’re thinking about it. Work-related issues are major sources of stress and career unhappiness. Left unresolved they can spill over into other areas of your life, infecting your relationships with colleagues, family and loved ones.

Don’t waste another day feeling trapped. Don’t be the person who spends a life of regret, or waits until they retire before they follow their passions. Don’t be the person too afraid to make a change for the better, or who wishes they could lead a significant life. Make the change now. Before it’s too late.

Your story can be like Mandy’s, who in her 50’s, after reading my first book Happy at Work for Mid-lifers  wrote to me and told me how the book had changed her life:

“To be honest, I couldn’t put the book down – it was as though Cassandra had got inside my head and written it specifically for me! It helped me process the what/where questions I was asking myself and discussed all the aspects that had been tumbling around in my head like a washing machine for many months.  It helped me process my thoughts, clarify my thinking, formulate a real plan and prepare myself for my new life.”

And what a new life it was. Mandy packed up her old life as a disillusioned consultant and unhappy wife in New Zealand and moved to outback Australia after successfully applying for a new role. She landed a three-year contract as an Infrastructure and Assets Manager, overseeing the construction of the Art Centre and new houses, as well as the commercialisation of the airport and the development of major roads.

“I wanted a new adventure and I’ve found one!” she wrote to me. “I’m excited and terrified.” Others saw Mandy as an inspiration, paving the way for other mid-lifers to make courageous life and career changes.

My clients, and readers like Mandy, tell me they value the fact that my advice is gained from both my personal and professional experiences and is both practical and inspirational.

Keith was 55 when his position was made redundant after 38 years of loyal service. “The biggest thing I am dealing with is a hit to my self-worth,” he wrote to me.

“I am a proponent of the law of attraction and have proved this law many times but that does not stop me having serious doubts about my ability to pull above the ‘mind chatter.’ Your book is a great resource for boosting my energy and confidence.

“Honestly, your book is a treasure. I have found it very useful in terms of the information provided and tools available for self-awareness and future planning.  This is an awesome book and one I would recommend to anyone looking to change their career, not just mid-lifers.

“I feel energised every time I pick it up and I go back and re-read sections I have already read. I thank you for your foresight in writing this book and the energy and enthusiasm you pass on through the book.” (put feedback link into the web page for this book)

Reach For Your Dreams

Passion, happiness, joy, fulfilment, love – call it what you will but my deepest desire is that this book encourages you to reach for your dreams, to never settle, to believe in the highest aspirations you have for yourself. You have so many gifts, so many talents that the world so desperately needs. We need people like you who care about what they do, who want to live and work with passion and purpose.


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Friday, February 14th, 2014

Love thy self this Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s day is a day of love. Whether you are with a partner or on your own it matters not. What matters is love. Love of self. So many people struggle with this – looking for love in all the wrong places; looking for love in all the wrong faces. If you are with someone who loves and accepts you for who you are – warts and all – wonderful. That person is a keeper. If not…leave. As Richard Bach, author of ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’, and ‘Bridge Across Forever’ once wrote, “So often half of a couple is trying to go up, the other half is dragging down. One walks forward, the other makes sure that for every two steps ahead they take three steps back. Better to learn happiness alone, I thought, love my friends and my cat, better wait for a soul mate who never comes than to make that dull compromise.”

I can’t think of a better love affair than to have a love affair with your self – your passions, your talents, your unique essence.

Sounds easy? No – so many people struggle to love themselves. So much seems to tear them down. People find it easier to hurl a criticism than to flourish a compliment. But we can take control back. We can do this for ourselves. Here are a few ways to cultivate self-love this Valentine’s day and beyond:

 1. Do what you are good at
It doesn’t matter where your talent may lie, whether it’s in chess, drama, or butterfly collecting, when you do something you like doing and have talent for it’s exhilarating. It’s a form of self-expression and it boosts self-esteem.’ ~ The Principal, Mackenzie College, NZ

 What activities and/or special talents do you have that give you the most satisfaction?


2. Write down 10 things you are most proud of

 Celebrate the goals you have already achieved. You are probably so busy focusing on the thing you have to achieve next that you can forget to give yourself an encouraging pat on the back for the things you have already accomplished:


3. Define life success

One of the most empowering things you can do for yourself is to define your criteria for life success. This requires reflecting on what the key elements are and the experiences you wish to have. What is success to you? For me success is being truly happy, authentic, free.


4. Choose to be happy

 ‘Are you happy? Are you doing, this moment, exactly what you most want to do in the world?’

Happiness is a state of mind. The Dalai Lama says that the very purpose of life is to seek happiness. He believes that if you train the mind to be happy, you will be. Likewise, you can train yourself for higher self-esteem. Some people affirm for what they want by writing in a journal how they want to feel for the day. Others work out the things that lead them to feel sad and find ways to remove these things – such as not watching the news. Others make a conscious effort to do something everyday that makes them feel happy.

List at least 10 things that make you feel happy. What are some steps you can help yourself to feel happier?

‘A human being is not one in pursuit of happiness but rather in search of a reason to be happy.’ ~Viktor Frankl, Psychologist


5. Set challenging goals

How much you like yourself is often reflected in the level of goals you will set for yourself. Generally, people who like themselves and feel valuable set higher and more challenging life goals. What would you do if you knew you could not fail? How could you make this goal a reality? If this feels daunting try setting mini-goals.


6. Honour your core values

When you live by a clear set of values, it is easier to align your life with what is most important to you. When you honour your core values, (those things you would fight for), you honour your true self.

What are you doing now that is not congruent with your values? What steps could you take to “live” and “be” your values?


7. Enhance your energy

People with high self-esteem seem to have a reservoir of energy, and seldom get sick or let life’s set-backs keep them down. Their energy and enthusiasm for life encourages them to take care of their body, mind, and spirit.

What five things could you do this week that would make a positive difference to your energy levels? I know if I go for a walk, turn off technology, meditate, read something inspiring and eat healthily my energy soars – more so if I do something I am passionate about. Staying away from negative media and people also boosts my energy!


8. Maintain a positive attitude

Attitude determines your altitude. The more positive your thinking, the more positive your feelings, the more positive the outcome. There is nothing more powerful and creative than your thoughts, so you may as well make them positive and uplifting.

How can you stay positive?


9. Be passionate

Passion takes hold of you and feels like “fire in the belly”. It is a source of power that enables you to get fired about life and make a difference. The more passion and zest you feel, the more alive and brightly lit you are. Enjoy a daily tonic and make passion a regular event.  Do you regularly spend time doing things you enjoy? Can you do something every day to help keep your passion alive?  Only 15 or 30 minutes a day devoted to activities you love and that move you closer to your dreams can make a big difference to your health and happiness. If finding time or lacking energy is preventing you from doing more of the things you are passionate about develop a strategy to restore the balance.
What things can you do to experience more passion in your life?


10. Live by vision and work with purpose

When you know your life vision and purpose, life has more meaning and direction. Vision and purpose provide a sense that you matter, that you have a part to play, and that you truly belong here. What is your life purpose?


11. Take action

Underlying every procrastinator is a thought that they can’t handle or manage the task in front of them. Fear, laziness or self-doubt – all the hallmarks of low self-esteem – are often present. Whip procrastination into shape by listing all the things you are putting off and developing an action plan to take them off your “to do” list:


12. Reward success

Set yourself up for success by breaking big goals into daily action steps and take time to acknowledge and celebrate the small successes. This will feed your need for recognition and provides the extra push to keep you moving forward.

What are some ways you can reward yourself?


13. Make smart life decisions

When you care about yourself, you make smarter decisions. You take care to choose the right mate, occupation, and lifestyle that support you.

In the space below, or in your passion journal, list your decision-making criteria. What are all the things that are truly important to you given who you are, who you choose to be, and what you want to achieve and contribute to the world? Rank you list in order of priority. This list is your life map – keep it visible to help guide your decisions:


14. Break free of the comfort zone!

Humans are pre-wired to grow and develop. From the moment we are born we are set on an irreversible path of growth and exploration. Our fingernails keep growing, our skin heals when it is damaged – yet somewhere along the way some people tell themselves it is not okay to try new things. Trying to stifle this growth is a sure-fire way to limit your potential. How do you know what you are capable of until you try.

How could you break free of the comfort rut?


15. Recognise and celebrate your positive qualities

Circle 10 (or more) of your strongest positive qualities, or write in your own at the bottom! Post this in a prominent place where you live. Begin each day by reading your list and affirming all of your positive attributes. You may want to get a photo of yourself and write down all the things that are good about you beside it.

Able Accepting Accurate Adaptable
Adventurous Affectionate Alert Ambitious
Artistic Assertive Broad-minded Calm
Capable Candid Careful Caring
Cautious Charming Cheerful Childlike
Clear-thinking Clever Compassionate Competent
Confident Conscientious Considerate Cooperative
Courageous Creative Curious Dependable
Determined Dynamic Eager Easy-going
Efficient Empathic Energetic Enterprising
Enthusiastic Fair-minded Faithful Fit
Free Friendly Fulfilled Funny
Generous Gentle Glad Good-natured
Growing Happy Healthy Helpful
Honest Hopeful Humorous Idealistic
Imaginative Independent Individualistic Industrious
Informal Ingenious Intelligent Inventive
Kind Learning Leisurely Light-hearted
Likable Logical Lovable Loving
Mature Merry Mild Moderate
Modest Natural Neat Non-judgmental
Nurturing Open-minded Optimistic Organized
Original Outgoing Patient Peaceful
Persevering Persistent Pleasant Polite
Positive Practical Precise Progressive
Punctual Quiet Rational Realistic
Reasonable Reflective Relaxed Reliable
Reserved Resourceful Responsible Robust
Sexy Sincere Sociable Special
Spontaneous Spunky Stable Strong
Tactful Talented Tenacious Thankful
Thorough Tolerant Trusting Trustworthy
Understanding Uninhibited Unique Versatile
Warm Whole Witty Zany


16.  Embrace your flaws

Healing, growth and self-love come from embracing our flaws – those parts of our personalities that we may be told by others are our weakest links. The truth (sometimes) is that our greatest weakness can be our greatest strength (and vice versa).

Growing up I was told my sensitivity made me weak – now my empathy and intuitiveness are valued by others as amongst my greatest strengths. Similarly I have been told my creativity is one of my greatest assets. During most of my childhood I was actively steered away from this. Go figure!

What are you weaknesses? How could your weakness be a strength? How can you embrace it, cultivate it, own it – do something to help others with it? What is your Achilles heel – your spot of vulnerability that if you were to strengthen it could make you greater still?

Positive Self-Talk

Everyone has had negative experiences that cause self-doubt.  But faith in our ability to accomplish our goals can be re-enforced through affirmations.  Repeating affirming statements is simply an acknowledgement of what you may already believe but may have come to doubt because of a bad experience.

Think about a situation that might make you feel uncomfortable, hesitant, or even fearful.  Maybe it’s making a phone call to a prospective employer to see if they have any vacancies or going for an interview.  Whatever it might be, imagine yourself experiencing that same difficult situation in a way that you never have before – as your ideal self – confident, self-assured, at ease, etc.

How do look in this fantasy?  Describe yourself as you might look and feel.


The greatest thing you will ever learn, is to love and to be loved in return.

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