How to manage the second half of your career

  @Money February 20, 2013: 10:07 AM ET
career sec

Successfully managing your career after 50 lets you retire later with an improved financial outlook.

NEW YORK (Money Magazine)

This story is part of Money magazine's retirement special Dream big, act now: Six secrets of retirement, which lays out the key drivers of retirement happiness -- including your investments, health, career, family, midlife changes and debt -- and what you can do about them.

PART 3: CAREER

The secret: Success at 50 means a whole a new skill set.

Nearly half of workers in their fifties expect to retire after 65, according to a survey by Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. Smart plan.

"You can't finance a 30-year retirement with a 40-year career," says Martha Deevy of the Stanford Center's financial security division.

The reality, though, is that many careers don't make it to 65. (The median retirement age is 62.)

Being pushed out early isn't the only risk; losing a job in middle age can leave a hole in your savings even after you get back to work.

You may not always be able to avoid a layoff, but "you can't afford to become complacent," says Geoff Hoffmann of recruiting firm DHR International.

Related: Best Jobs in America

The rules of managing your career in its second half are different from those that worked when you were younger. You need a fresh strategy to get you up the ladder when there are fewer rungs to climb, with stiffer competition for jobs at your level.

TAKE ACTION

Go beyond mentors. Find champions. Early in your career you may have had a mentor who showed you the ropes of your job. Later on, though, you'll need higher-level contacts who can sing your praises when it comes time for raises, promotions, or job cuts, and who can connect you to decision-makers in other departments or firms. "You want credible people who can advocate for you," says Hoffmann.

Related: 5 retirement choices: Get 'em right, live well

They may not be in the next cubicle over or people you're likely to see every day. Put yourself in positions to interact with senior-level people in a meaningful way: Seek out cross-departmental assignments or get actively involved in industry associations.

People are more likely to champion you if they feel that you've been a champion for them too. In your networking, give at least as much as you hope to get.

Show knowledge, not credentials. After 45, pricey degrees may not be worth the investment. You simply have less career time to make the cost pay off. Employers do like to see, though, that you're still learning, says Scott Kane, founder of the job-placement service Gray Hair Management.

A six-figure job with gender equality

Sign up for short courses that teach skills that apply to your industry. (Online providers Coursera and Udacity now offer many for free.) Or take on projects at work that force you to master a new technology.

Focus on transferable skills. Think about the things you've done that could be valuable to a wide variety of employers -- for example, the time you overhauled a training program or spearheaded a cost-cutting team.

Keep track of these accomplishments by regularly updating your résumé and LinkedIn profile.

More secrets to a dream retirement:

Investments

Health

Family

Midlife changes

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