Career 2.0: Mid-Career Transition for the Over-50 Executive

June 8, 2023
Borderless Leadership - article

In this episode of Borderless Executive Live, our host Andrew Kris, founding partner of Borderless, is joined by Anthony Harling, founding partner of Harlschon Consulting. With his consulting business, Anthony advises and coaches executives looking to transition to a new role in the later stages of their career.

Tune in or read on to learn more about the challenges executives face, particularly those in their 50s, when embarking on a new career path, and how Harlschlon helps them (re-)discover their passion and purpose. 

Navigating the challenges of mid-career transition after 50

As an experienced headhunter and consultant in the executive search sector, Andrew has seen the recruitment landscape significantly transform over the years and present several challenges for those entering the job market in the latter stage of their career.

A recent survey conducted by Harlschon showed that 74% of respondents believed employers discriminate on the basis of age in their recruitment processes.

In addition to strongly perceived ageism, senior executive recruitment processes are now mainly being conducted by companies and executive search firms, with platforms such as LinkedIn playing a key role.

“There are something like 870 million profiles on LinkedIn,” Anthony explains. “The mentality that you just need your CV and you’ll be alright is no longer valid. And I think a lot of people are still under the illusion that if they get their CV right, they can just copy-paste it into LinkedIn, and everything will be hunky dory. Of course, that’s not how it works.”

Stepping out of a security mindset

It’s not just external factors that make the transition to career 2.0 difficult for senior executives. Often, entrenched habits form an obstacle to discovering unchartered career paths.

“I think people get addicted to a particular way of working,” Anthony explains. “They’ve always done it this way, so they have to carry on doing it this way.” This mindset is further reinforced by our constant concern about economic needs, such as feeding a family or paying a mortgage. When you’ve earned a stable income for a long time, moving away from the security that brings can be challenging.

To Anthony, what’s key to kickstarting the process is understanding how needs and our definition of happiness have changed as we grow. “What you’re really after is happiness. Most of us, when we get to a certain stage in life, we’ve got a car. We’ve got somewhere to live. Are they still essential? What’s really going to make you happy? And it turns out that happiness can be derived in many ways.”

“What we’re trying to do is we’re trying to unwrap the present, because there’s something fantastic inside there. It’s an iterative process that we go through with people.”

Re-discover, re-set, re-engage 

To effectively guide executives through that iterative process, Anthony implements three key pillars: re-discover, re-set and re-engage.

The re-discovery phase is as Anthony explained, a search for happiness. By means of assessment tools, several sessions are dedicated to deep-diving into executives’ motivation and what they are really about. “Let’s leave aside what you’ve been doing for the last 30 years,” Anthony explains. “What’s your true purpose? What do you want from life? Which little piece of your career have you found most enjoyable or rewarding? And then, we reshape the map.”

Once that foundation has been laid, it’s time to re-set. “We then focus on helping people identify their personal brand,” Anthony continues. “What is their brand? How are they going to describe themselves in networking conversations or meetings with a prospective employer? How are they going to present that brand on online profiles such as LinkedIn or a personal website? It’s about who they are and what they are.”

And then the final step: re-engaging and getting back in the field. Together with Harlschon, executives map out and execute a comprehensive strategy to (re-)connect with relevant people in their own professional networks, as well as the executive search sector.

Embracing the success of career 2.0

Since the start of his consulting business, Anthony has seen great results that confirm the value of kickstarting a career 2.0, regardless of age.

Take Lucy Kellaway, for example, who went from a 31-year-long career as an FT journalist to becoming a Math teacher. Or the editor-in-chief Anthony worked with recently, who went from a long and successful career in the publishing industry to founding his own consulting firm on digital transformation and leadership coaching.

“There is a huge appetite from the UK and other governments to inspire and motivate the over 50s into active engagement with the economy,” Anthony believes. “It’s important from an economic point of view to re-engage. But I think it’s much more important for those individuals to be doing something which is rewarding, inspiring and making good use of the fantastic skills that you’ve developed over the previous 30 years.”

Anthony Harling, Partner, Harlschon Consulting

Andrew Kris, Founding Partner, Borderless

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