By Giles Toole
A few years ago I found myself downsized. My initial thought was, “What am I going to do at age 59 with no job opportunities?” I had been in my job for 24 years. I found myself in a situation I never expected.
Since I wanted, and needed, to keep working, I took action right away. I updated my résumé and began my job search. I knew relocation wasn’t an option. I was approached about a position with the Florida Department of Health’s Department of Radiation Control, which I accepted. I would have happily stayed with the state, but I also wanted to see what other positions were available. State positions don’t pay as well as private industry.
After working with the state for one year, I worked for Zeiss for three years in its intraoperative division. I enjoyed it, but the position required extensive international travel. Although I wanted to keep working, I wanted to decrease the amount of non-essential travel. A directorship came open at a freestanding facility in Tallahassee, which I accepted, and I’ve been in this position for about 18 months.
When I lost my job, the hardest part was adapting to the fact I was no longer director of a center and had a secondary role. But as I soon discovered, there are opportunities out there. If you find yourself downsized like I was, start your job search immediately. You’re more mentally engaged that way. You may consider taking some time off, but I think the sooner you start looking the better. I was lucky that my unemployment was short, but it can take a while to find a new job.
And if you’re in the latter part of your career and considering testing the employment waters, don’t diminish what you’ve done and don’t be afraid to seek new opportunities. Talk to colleagues in the field who can give you tips on what to do and who to contact. You could also consider non-traditional roles. Don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith and try something new. That’s difficult, particularly as you age, but I think that you always have to be open for new opportunities.
You can use your experience even if you might find yourself reporting to someone younger than you. I’ve found that when I’ve reported to younger people—and I report to considerably younger people now—they do seek you out because of your experience with a particular field, technology, etc. You can demonstrate you’ve got expertise and willingness to help. You may not get as high a level position in your new role—for example, you might not be a vice president or a director—but you can be in a position to contribute your expertise. Part-time work is also an option.
All the jobs I’ve had in radiation oncology—and this is year 35, unbelievably—have been really wonderful, and I’ve really never had a bad job. There are pluses and minuses, of course, to everything. My current job is very good, but it’s with a huge organization, so it’s different but still enjoyable. Everyone, regardless of age or position, should have their résumé updated at all times and be ready to strike. And they should keep their network connections warm.