Build a Portfolio Career

Building a Portfolio Career

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Your Midlife Mindset

Here is a story for you to ponder:

There were two woodcutters named Jim and Shaun working for a timber merchant. They both went together to the forest in the early morning to cut wood and then return by evening. They both, however, worked differently.

Jim would slog for ten hours to cut a tree and pile up the wood blocks.

Shaun would not been seen for hours and would arrive at the wood cutting area much later than Jim. But within two to three hours he had cut and collected more wood than his friend. 

Jim wondered how Shaun was able to cut so much wood in such a short time. Even working as hard and as fast as he could, Jim couldn’t match Shaun’s productivity. Jim even began to wonder if Shaun possessed any magical powers.

So one day Jim went to Shaun and asked him how he could achieve so much in such a short time.

Shaun replied, "There is nothing magical about it. I sit down and sharpen my axe for four hours and then I start cutting the wood. Because my tools are sharp, I can perform the task efficiently. But you never do that. That is why it takes you so much time to do the work with blunt tools." 

Are you a Jim or are you a Shaun? Many midlifers fall into the ‘Jim’ trap. They rely on the skills that they have used for a long time and wonder why their (younger?) colleagues perform better than them. If you are in midlife, make sure that you sharpen your skills by keeping them up to date. Learn new skills and put your self forward for training courses whenever the opportunity arises.

If you don’t do this and redundancy looms, your colleagues with better (sharper) transferable skills will find new employment before you do.

And they won’t be blaming ageism in the workplace in the same way that you will be…

Rob Horlock has established The Mid Life Opportunity (, a community for people in Midlife. Advice and Guidance is available from The Mid Life Coaching Panel. It’s free to join - click here

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Don't stand still

Spring is here (in the Northern Hemisphere, at any rate – you guys in the South have had your turn for a few months…) and The New Forest, where I live, is changing almost daily. The days are noticeably warmer now, a welcome change from winter. The most noticeable change in the Forest this month is the increased level of birdsong. 

Finches sit on top of the gorse bushes, Great Tits in the upper branches of the bare-limbed trees, Robins perch on top of the hedges, Thrushes in the distance. All singing at the tops of their voices and for a worthwhile cause – it is the start of the mating season, the annual ritual when birds look for a partner.  In the background, somewhere deep in the forest, the ‘rat a tat, tat’ of woodpeckers boring holes in trees also signals that the nesting season is beginning. To round it off, I heard the first cuckoo of Spring this morning, the annual sign the ‘Spring is here’.

The birds sing for two reasons. Firstly, the males sing to attract a mate. This is why they choose a prominent position, where they can be seen and their voices carry. ‘Look at me’, they sing, ‘Choose me. I’m big and strong and just the father for your chicks’. Males also sing to mark out their territories and to defend them against rivals.  Each species has its own recognised song and the effect of the medley of different tunes, repeated over and over again, is magical. It’s part of Spring, like the daffodils, the clocks going forward and the sound of lawnmowers being used for the first time since last Autumn.

This is the start of a process which is repeated every year. It’s similar to many annual tasks and projects that we find ourselves carrying out in our working lives. The birds, though, will start afresh with a new plan. Many species find a new mate every year; most build new nests and many build these nests in new territories. They don’t expect to come out of the winter and pick up ‘business as usual’. They have to sing (advertise) for a new mate, find a suitable nesting site and start the process of bringing up their new family.

In our working lives, how much time to do we invest in planning for annual projects, the ones that we did last year and will do again next year and the year after? Very often, we expect everything to carry on much as usual. We’ve done it before and it worked, so we’ll do it again the same way. This is especially true for people in midlife who have been in the same role for a number of years or who run their own business.

Whilst this approach is fine, do remember the birds singing in the trees. They are thinking about how they will do it this season, who they’ll do it with and where they’ll do it. Do take some time to review what happened during your main projects last year and make any necessary changes this time around. What worked, what didn’t? How has the environment around you changed? Were the right people involved at the right time last year, or did you have some last minute panics? Was everything in the right place at the right time? What has changed since last year?

Time spent up front planning your work is always time well spent, as the birds singing to attract this year’s mate will testify!

Rob Horlock has established The Mid Life Opportunity (, a community for people in Midlife. Advice and Guidance is available from The Mid Life Coaching Panel. It’s free to join - click here

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Relationship and Career Advice for over 45s

In midlife, many of us are settled into a routine. We have the same job that we’ve had for years, we live with the same partner, we buy the same brands at the supermarket every week, We’re probably quite conservative when it comes to change. This may be absolutely right for many people. It could be completely wrong for others.

If you aren’t happy in your job, why do you stay? Why are you wasting so many hours of your life?  Steve Preston, one of the career coaches on The Mid Life Opportunity Coaching Panel, calls this the Velvet Rut.

If you’re relationship is rocky, why do you stay together? Think who might be out there waiting for you!
The answer to these questions depends on your attitude to Risk and your fear of Failure.

To illustrate this, how do you feel about jumping over a 4 foot ditch? Easy? Take a run up, take off, land on the other side with both feet on the ground. No problem. Now let's try the same exercise, jumping across a 4 foot gap, but this time you are standing on top of a tower block, jumping from one block to the next. There's a 100 foot drop to the ground.  Not so easy now? It's the same distance, the same effort. You know that you can do it because you've jumped across the ditch. But you don't feel quite so confident now do you?
Why is this? The difference, of course, is the fear of failure. If you fail to jump across the ditch, you might get a wet foot. No big deal. If you fail to jump across the gap between the tower blocks you will fall to your death.

If you have a low fear of failure and you are willing to take a risk, you will attempt the high level jump and almost certainly succeed.

If you fear failure and are less willing to take risks you will not attempt the high level jump, but you are very likely to jump the low level ditch – and succeed without getting your feet wet.

Most people who remain unfulfilled in life – those who remain in jobs they detest or who continue in relationships which have all but collapsed – have a high fear of failure. They’d rather carry on with ‘the devil they know’ than strike out and try something new.

People in midlife who are made redundant or who find themselves at the wrong end of a relationship breakdown don’t have the luxury of making the choice between the status quo or starting something new. They have to start again, regardless of their attitude to risk. And do you know what? Many of them succeed in the new direction that they choose. Many midlifers find that they can take a risk and succeed. They can change direction and make a new life for themselves.

What is your attitude to risk? Would you try the high level jump or are you strictly a ditch jumper?

Rob Horlock has established The Mid Life Opportunity (, a community for people in Midlife. Advice and Guidance is available from The Mid Life Coaching Panel. It’s free to join - click here

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Ospreys of The Loch of Lowes

Readers of this blog may remember that, last year, I posted about 'Lady', the 26 year old osprey who almost died, then miraculously recovered to raise her chicks and migrate off to Africa for the winter. There was some doubt as to whether she would survive to return to Scotland for another breeding season. But survive she has and she returned to her nest on the loch side a few days ago.

Would her mate, 7Y, return or would he fall prey to one of the hazards of the natural world (or a human hazard)?

There was great emotion, both among the rangers and Lady, when 7Y appeared this morning! The ospreys immediately recognised each other and paired up again for the summer. If Lady successfully rears her chicks this year she will have raised at least 50 chicks during her lifetime, a fantastic achievement for a species that, 20 years ago, was a rare sight in Britain.

A fabulous story which you can follow here:

Osprey blog:


If you can afford a small donation to help the scheme to ring the osprey chicks and follow their migration to Africa in the autumn, your gift would be warmly received.

Rob Horlock has established The Mid Life Opportunity (, a community for people in Midlife. Advice and Guidance is available from The Mid Life Coaching Panel. It’s free to join - click here

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Customer Perceptions

The windows of most homes in cooler climates have double glazing. It is one of the best investments that a homeowner can make – a significant percentage of a house’s heat loss goes out through single glazed windows. Twenty years ago, the majority of houses had single glazing and upgrading to double glazing was big business.

So double glazing was a great product, providing a genuine benefit that was in high demand. A dream job for a double glazing salesman, you might think.

Why, then, did double glazing salesmen have such a dreadful reputation? (for those of you who aren’t familiar with this, in the past two decades the reputation of the average double glazing salesman has been significantly below the position in which bankers and politicians find themselves today.)
Not great.

The reputation of the double glazing salesmen highlights everything that is wrong with selling:
  • Not listening to the customer
  • Not understanding the customer’s requirements
  • Knowing better than the customer
  • Annoying the customer
  • People didn’t want double glazing salesmen in their house because they were concerned that they’d never get rid of them unless they signed a contract.

Why am I highlighting this? Because we all need to learn the lessons of the double glazing salesman. Whether you are employed by an organisation or self employed you have customers (internal and external). In order to succeed, you must listen to your customers, understand their needs and attempt to satisfy them. Not think that you know best and carry on regardless. Your perception of the solution and your customer’s perception of the solution may be poles apart.

Sounds obvious? Yes, of course. But like many of the topics that I write about it’s obvious to all of us but do we actually practise what we preach? 
Rob Horlock has established The Mid Life Opportunity (, a community for people in Midlife. Advice and Guidance is available from The Mid Life Coaching Panel. It’s free to join - click here