Career Trajectory at Fifty-Five

Let’s talk about some of old adages we use to accept as truth, but not so much any longer.

  Age before beauty
  Practice makes perfect
  Experience is the mother of wisdom

What has changed you ask? Better, what exactly am I referring to when I say these are no longer truths within our culture?

These I think are more apropos for today:

  Hype and arrogance trumps experience
  Blame the other guy or circumstances beyond your control for your failure
  Two in the bush for half as much makes perfect cents

Why do I think this, it is a fair question. Honestly, this is about career progression and how those of us who have not been fortunate in our bonus checks, must navigate the ever-increasing rough waters we find ourselves in as we age up and out of our career relevancy.

My career and educational path was not a straight line, by the time that sheepskin was in my hand, the shine was slightly tarnished and I had a few years of work behind me. What that first degree gave me was the burnish I needed to move up the ladder, be taken more seriously and yes, be paid a little more for the work I was already doing.

As a woman in the world of business, you may move up, usually more slowly than men; this will depend on your willingness to throw others under the bus in your climb to the top, including your friends and family. My rise

The difference truly men are willing to go to great lengths

through the managerial ranks was impeded only by lack of corporate / political sophistication; encumbered by my failure to identify my enemies and my belief that ethics and quality outweighed arrogance and a penis. It didn’t, not even once.

In my thirties I was handed a gift, a career opportunity that would change my trajectory and open doors that might not have opened otherwise. I walked through those doors; I also walked through University doors once again and pursued a Masters to polish my credentials, one more time. This gift didn’t come without sacrifice, including playing in an entirely new sandbox with much different, bigger and more aggressive dogs. There were pros and cons to this career gift such as:


  • Challenging work
  • Fascinating, always new experiences
  • Travel, national and international
  • Education, lots of it
  • Decent income and decent opportunity for women, myself included, initially


  • Long hours, 70 hour weeks were the norm
  • Long weeks away from home, it wasn’t unknown to be away two to three weeks at a time
  • Dog-eat-dog mentality within the industry
  • Ten years ago the industry was outsourced badly

Career Relevance and Age

I don’t think of myself as old, irrelevant or outdated. Truth be told, I think of myself as damned near in my prime. I am experienced, knowledgeable and unencumbered by many of the outside influences others might still have. I no longer want to move up the career ladder, been there done that and found I didn’t all that much enjoy some of the jobs I landed in. Now I know the jobs I enjoy and am happy when I am doing them. I love challenging work and love to produce quality results, whether for an employer or a client.

I have worked as both an employee of consulting firms and as an Independent Consultant. There are clearly pros and cons of both. The problem with independence is the market is no longer geared toward individuals and their

How it feels, stop and all

capabilities or past references. In fact it is rare to find an opportunity that isn’t through one or many off-shore farms that advertise on the boards, set the rates (low) and nine times out of ten will rarely talk to you if you are (1) a woman; (2) American.

Does the above statement sound bitter? It is not bitter; it is simply the truth of what has happened in our market today.

What is happening?

I did not think at fifty-five my future would be no-future or at least as frightening as it is. I didn’t think that all my work my 70 hour weeks, my time away from hearth and home, my investment in certifications and additional

degrees would result in nothing. Just a career that came to a screeching halt in my prime. What I thought was I would do my consulting time, I would learn my craft and prove myself (I did this in some of the most difficult

environments there are) and then I would go to work for the last fifteen or twenty years of my career in some capacity as a full-time employee. I would earn a decent living, with benefits no less. I would mentor younger members of an enthusiastic team. I would write books about my experiences. I would be a visiting lecturer at local universities about quality, ethics in business and values, how to do things right.

What I didn’t realize is at fifty-five I am old and perhaps the best I can hope for is Wal-Mart Greeter.


  1. WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

    I have been through many a job, and enjoyed moving on and moving around (though it has got me nowhere in a career sense – but that’s only because I’m not committed to working in an office being my career) – however, at my present age I so consciously see that if I chose to move, or were shoved, it wouldn’t be so easy as it was.

    Your mention of 70 hour weeks would have me kill myself – UNLESS I was doing what I love: writing.

    As usual, a very worthwhile post, Valentine.

    • Noleen I love what I do, the early days of 70 hour weeks nearly killed me though. These days I try to stop that, but even these days during certain periods it isn’t unusual to see some organizations to push the limits, they just don’t do it with people like me as they pay me by the hour.

      Thanks for stopping in.

  2. I’m almost 50 and just now starting on my career as a technical writer; years after dreaming of it. In the past, I spent too much time worrying about what others would think of me and just trying to get through each day. I finally found the right program that allowed me to return to college and earn my degree in English. On the bright side, all my previous years in corporate America has given me great fodder for future stories!

    • Fodder isn’t bad, not bad at all. The issues in technology, especially as a woman are many. Between outsourcing and the on-going expansion of the H1B program in this sector it is difficult anyway, but the inherent bias against women combined with ageism is simply making it tougher.

      Congrats on moving into the career path you want. Technical writing can be extremely interesting and rewarding. Though I have found the best source is to stay independent.

    • WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

      Wow. Alejandro YOU are inspiring. Just starting what you always dreamed of – kudos to you. HUGE.

  3. Val,
    whatever you decide to do, you will do well and with passion.
    I hope you decide to write a book & use your powerful words ❤

    Love love Love. x

    • Thanks my friend. You and Red are voting for the book. I may sit down and start that, I suspect the words are sitting in the back of my head waiting, tapping at my brain and waiting.

      I will get there, my problem truly is I do still enjoy what I do. It isn’t just that I have to work (I still need to) but that I really do enjoy it. I could likely do something else, but I enjoy the work, just not what my industry is turning into.

      We shall see though. It is vicious and ugly right now and perhaps the stories of how our industry has changed is the first book.

      XX Val

  4. I was hit with the same kind of wake up call in my last job. Being the idealist that I was, I simply could not believe that what was happening to me was possible in this day and age. It really made me question myself and my faculties! It became a matter of self-preservation. I walked out of a full time job with benefits at the age of 60 knowing that I would not be able to get another comparable job. Even though I always thought I would work past retirement age, I find myself looking eagerly toward turning 62 in order to draw social security and 65 in order to get medicare. This is not at all what I expected. 😉

    • I continue to believe there is a different answer! That we are viable and valuable for our experience and what we bring to the table is worth something. One of the reasons I went independent was because of the issues of working for someone else, but realistically working for someone else for the last 15 years of my career would be kinder on my body (travel simply hurts me these days). I can afford less money for the trade off of better conditions. But this is brutal, I am shocked by what I am seeing. I guess I knew in the back of my head, just didn’t realize how bad it had really become.

      I am considering reaching out to others, other women and others in my industry to gather stories of how it has changed to put together a book.

  5. I am all for your writing the books and selling millions of copies. I am ready and willing to promote and get it out there. I still think you are a prime candidate for university teaching. But not sure if you want to be dealing with other people’s children at this juncture.

    You and Elyse both have the capacity to make blogging work for you. We will discuss this more, of that I am certain. I feel your pain. It is a part of the reason I retired when I did…at 36.

    Much love and support, my dear sister.

    • I don’t have the capacity to retire, love work to much. As for teaching, I want to teach young adults I want to mold them and debate them and have fun with them. I am starting to look at this again, it is one of the reasons I so badly want to work here in Dallas rather than travel.

      We will talk more about both.

      Your support remains one of my greatest bulwarks against some of my storms these days. I love you.


      • I love you, too. And not just for our love of similar graphics to illustrate the inane, insane and the testosterone poisoned, even when are subjects are all three. ❤

  6. seems to me, that might be the best option – write a tell-it-like-it-is book, self publish and start (if you haven’t already cutting back… how could we have all been fooled for so long!?!?!?

    good luck and nice to meetcha…


    • Cut back started years ago where it was feasible and sensible. Didn’t make sense in some cases though and in others, well I simply refuse to live with nothing. The tell it like it is, I suspect I might have to do this as this industry and the model of it is so destructive to our nation, if we continue to accept it we will continue to destroy ourselves. This simply makes no sense to me at all. I think it is a poverty of innovation and thought. Does that make sense?

      Nice to meet you as well!


  7. It is so tough in the job market in many areas now. I am trying to create my own work and it is an uphill battle. May things get a little easier for you with each day xx

    • It is indeed a tough market. What so many of us didn’t expect though was we would continue be so complete shoved out and the market would be so completely overtaken. Even when there is no shortfall, the temporary visa program continues with gates wide open and we, that is American Women, seem to be the last to be considered. It is so frustrating, this isn’t where I saw myself.

      Thanks Christy!

  8. Oh dear.

    This struck a bit too close to home, this month especially. I head a department in my small company that kept everyone working throughout the really slow 2008-11 times. Suddenly, my department has almost no work. Cash flow is strapped, one person has already been let go. I too am 55. Looking for a job does not sound at all appealing. It was hard enough 10 years ago!

    Oh well… Maybe blogging will start paying dividends for both of us!

    • I tell you, it strikes me regularly and with great affect. My ego is taking horrific beatings. You think to yourself, I am great at what I do and add great value. You have great references and even published works. The problem? You are old….but I am not and neither are you.

      It simply pisses me off. It also pisses me off that 90% of who I speak to every single day are not calling within the borders of the US and treat me with as if I should be begging for consideration. You would not believe some of the things that have been said to me. One of these days I will post a blog of just some of these highly unusual, all to often rude and frequently bordering on the illegal conversations.


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