How To Measure Your Personal Branding Success On LinkedIn


The power of your personal social brand impacts the effectiveness of your overall marketing, selling and social selling strategy and activity. The more visible and more acknowledged as an expert you are, then your chances that you will be successful will increase. An important start to establishing your presence and expertise is to use LinkedIn as your branding hub. Being found and extending your content and messaging is key!

Your Personal Branding Strategy

Establishing your credibility and awareness is important for you to become an earlier part of the new buyer journey. You can’t be a part of that early-funnel conversation unless you can be found and have a value-add point of view that helps a customer solve their problem vs. just sell a solution. 75% of B2B decision makers say that B2B marketers were too heavy-handed with the sales messaging in their content (Source: 2012 DemandGen Report “Content Preferences Survey), so changing the early sales-cycle approach is critical.

In a prior post, I reviewed how to keep a LinkedIn profile active and relevant to help establish and maximize one’s visibility and expert positioning. Here is how you can measure how many times that your LinkedIn profile shows up in search and the impact of your content and messaging.

Measure The Impact Of Your LinkedIn Branding Strategy

Get Your LinkedIn Profile to Show Up On Search More. The more times that your LinkedIn profile show up in search; the chances that you will be found are increased! LinkedIn reports that 40% of users profiles are not complete! Don’t be in THAT group! Keeping your profile’s headline, summary, and job experience current and refreshed with relevant key words will increase the amount of times that you will show up in search. The more you are found on search, your social selling, marketing and personal branding success rate will increase!

Increase The Potential Reach Of Your Personal Brand And LinkedIn Profile.

More daily updates and LinkedIn Group updates will increase your potential brand impressions. When you send out a LinkedIn update more than your followers see you message. 2nd-level and 3rd-level network contacts see your “smart” posts and will potentially click on your content and ask you to connect with them!

Increase The Amount Of Times Your LinkedIn Profile Is Viewed And Considered. 

Many things affect profile views, ranging from who you just met at a conference to the quality of content that you distribute on LinkedIn. When your weekly profile views increase on an ongoing basis, then you know you are likely doing something right on LinkedIn. And, if your profile views are not going up, then you should be prompted do increase the quality or your content updates, profile, and group activity.

Increase The Amount Of Expertise LinkedIn Endorsements That You Receive. 

When your network sees regular updates with great content, then you are likely to come to mind when they have the chance to give you a Skills and Expertise endorsement. Skills & Expertise endorsements are a key driver that impacts your search results, ranking you higher, in the consideration of the searcher, based on the amount of endorsements that you maintain.

Increase The Amount Of LinkedIn Invites You Receive. 

People like to associate themselves with people who will increase their knowledge and connect with them with others. Your inside-LinkedIn activity and your outside-LinkedIn activity, such as thought-leader blogging, speaking or networking, should lead to an increased amount of people who want to connect with you on LinkedIn.

Here are some other ways to improve your personal branding on LinkedIn!

1. Create the perfect LinkedIn profile

2. Run your LinkedIn profile like a PPC campaign

3. Use LinkedIn invites to deepen your relationships

4. Measure the success of your LinkedIn activity

5. Have a LinkedIn profile picture that does not scare your network away!

Follow these simple ways to see if people are finding you and if your expert positioning is valued? If you are not showing up in search, people are not reading your updates, or if you are not receiving invites or endorsements, think about adjusting your approach. Believe me … this works!

Do you have other measurable ways that you can see the impact of your personal branding strategy on LinkedIn? If so, please comment below. Or contact me directly on, on LinkedIn or on Twitter @GerryMoran.

Do you have a career identity crisis?

By Marcia LaReau

Today, entire industries are collapsing at record speed. Trusted skill sets have become obsolete and new skills are in demand. In the midst of this unparalleled scope and speed of change, our future rests in our ability to sustain a credible career identity that is flexible, adaptable and embraces an inclusive, multi-cultural and global awareness.

How many times can one person experience an identity crisis?

Yes, that’s right…there have been several. When I finished high school I knew that I would major in music. There was no question in my mind that I was a headed for a music career. After college, I landed a job teaching at a state university and for over 15 years worked my way up through the ranks. Then came the first identity crisis—the “all too real” glass ceiling.

Over time I retooled my skills and conducted a semi-professional orchestra. My job was unexpectedly terminated— identity crisis Number 2. I went back to school for a performance degree and studied with a world-class conductor and pedagogue. After graduation while applying for new positions— 9/11. My entire industry took a hit***—identity crisis Number 3. I had to scramble.

I landed a corporate position as a Quality Control Analyst, then as a Training Director, but I was laid off after 15 months. With the help of some excellent career coaching I reinvented myself as a project manager and after 8 months re-entered the corporate landscape. Did you catch identity crisis Number 4?

Five years later, after I had transitioned to Human Resources, most of my division was laid off and the human resource labor pool hit market saturation. Meet identity crisis Number 5. I started my own business a year later in 2007. This is the sixth year of operations and I realize I’m going to make it.

As odd as it seems, I have already planned my next career identity and hope to achieve it within seven years. I’m no longer a victim. I’ve taken charge.

What is Career Identity?

My definition:

Career identity is the distinction given to ourselves or by an outside entity that defines the nature of the value that we bring to the work place. For example, Project Manager, Receptionist, Customer Service Representative, and Curriculum Designer.

Are people simply ambivalent about their careers?

Dr. Judith Sherven, PhD (who has over 6,400 followers on LinkedIn!), wrote the article: Why People Are So Afraid to Own Their Careers.

The primary reasons people gave were:
  • Self-promotion is uncomfortable, 
  • Office politics are “demeaning” and, 
  • Reducing one’s career to a 90 second elevator speech is unreasonable and they didn’t know where to start. 
All these reasons are truly valid and they are all personal. The career crises in my career were a combination of individual crises and global and systemic changes that were completely out of my ability to influence.

NOTE: Dr. Sherven gives excellent tips on how to mentally process the primary reasons people gave for their personal career identity. She also brings action steps to manage those challenges. If you relate, please read the article.

New causes of a career identity crisis:

There are probably as many reasons for a career identity crisis as there are people who have experienced them. With the speed of change that is affecting commerce, I believe there are critical components that factors into the equation. Failure to do so is to be left on the side of the road.

The Great Recession, new advancements in technology, and demographic changes in our labor pool have, in my opinion, brought about identity crises for segments of the working population.

Here are a few examples:

  • In the U.S. in 2012, college grads faced a combined unemployment and underemployment rate of 52 percent. This is partially a result of the high number of Millennials entering the workforce. 
  • Tablets and other technologies have brought changes to the printing industry, especially newsprint. 
  • Global communications have, in part, laid the foundation for countless technology jobs to migrate offshore to India and beyond. 
  • With the emergence of social media, the marketing industry has changed dramatically and new skill sets have emerged as the former trusted skillsets have become obsolete.
  • These and other change-agents have brought to the fore, the need to hone the skills to be able to change career identities throughout our work-life.

Gone are the days of the gold watch!

That’s right. There was a time when a person started their career with one specific job. Perhaps they processed orders, sold products, or analyzed business needs. They expected to stay with “their” company for the duration of their career. They looked forward, “with great pride” to the day they received a gold watch.

Not anymore.

Today, we are expected to change jobs every three or four years. The very work we perform at the workplace will not likely be there in four years (so thirty-five years…?). And finally, the gold watch. It too has become a relic.

Tips on creating your career identity:

Whether you are a recent graduate trying to establish your career identity, or you already have career experience:
  • Be selective in your networking activities so there is time to establish real relationships and genuinely demonstrate your value to select members in your network. Choose carefully. 
  • Routinely and intentionally find people that you respect and can serve as accountability partners. These are people you get to know well and connect with on a regular basis. Choose thoughtfully.
  • Identify quality leaders and visionaries in your industry and follow them. Choose broadly. When an opportunity arises to connect with them, do so. 
  • Especially if you are in your early career, find mentors who will challenge you and champion you on your career path. Choose wisely. 
  • If you are in your mid or late career, select and mentor individuals who are finding their way. Choose liberally. 
  • Make a commitment to your industry, to be informed and aware of the factors that may cause a change in direction. 
  • Remain flexible, keep a global perspective, and be willing to embrace new cultures and new technologies. 
A four and eight year plan:
  1. Think about the kind of positions or roles you would like to fill in eight years. 
  2. Ask, “What kind of people are selected for these positions?” These become your target positions in four years. (Search for job postings and check out the Requirements to find the needed skills, experience, and training.) 
  3. Now ask what kind of position you need now to be ready for the next step in four years. 
  4. These are the positions you should apply for now. 
  5. Once you land a job, watch for changes in your industry and adjust your four and eight year goals to change with the future forecast. 
*** Since 9/11 an orchestra has closed its doors every week. That’s approximately 630 orchestras.

Called a Creative Thinker, Career Futurist, and a person of unusual solution, Marcia LaReau founded Forward Motion, LLC in 2007. Since that time, she has become a recognized leader in the employment industry, and Forward Motion has spread across the United States and abroad to help jobseekers find jobs that fit.


Beware false idols - especially when they are talking politics

By Neil Patrick

After Russell Brand got a lot of airtime last week with his comments about the economy in an interview with Jeremy Paxman on the BBC, it got me wondering about how other folk from the world of entertainment were commenting on society and politics.

And I didn’t have far to look. It seems that the economy is becoming the new rock and roll for a whole heap of entertainment folk.
Russell Brand

Here’s a piece from Henry Rollins where he puts forward his opinion that many of the economic problems in the US could be solved with more education and more health provision.

And it's very entertaining. But it’s nonsense.

But it’s such a shame that’s it’s nonsense. I happen to like Henry Rollins. He’s a man of many great talents. He has made some awesome music, he’s a brilliant poet and speaker and he’s a really funny guy too when he chooses to take on that persona.

But he’s not got a clue about economics or government. Sure, he’s really passionate. He’s a powerful speaker and I want to believe him, I really do. But he’s just so wrong. And this is where he ends up in the same camp as Russell Brand, who is also so fired up, he looks like he might explode at any moment.

But this is a very engaging talk as I’m sure you’ll agree:

So why do I think Henry is wrong? He’s wrong in just the same way that Russell Brand was wrong.

The US, the UK and Europe have a big set of problems right now. We all know that. We don’t need to be told that we are in a really bad place economically and socially. We don’t need to be told that our governments are failing us.

But we don’t need people who are professional entertainers telling us how to fix things. Okay, our politicians haven’t got a clue either, but a career in entertainment doesn't exactly equip you with a good set of leadership skills for a crisis situation.

Ironically, it’s politicians who have mastered oratory and argument rather than policy and leadership that got us into this mess in the first place.

What we need is people who are competent to lead. People who don’t put self interest first. People who can inspire us to support tough decisions about hard choices. And people we can trust.

The entertainers engage us. They know how to inspire us. And as masters of engagement they can put forward their views in a passionate and superficially convincing way.

But that doesn't mean they are right. And it doesn't mean they have the faintest clue what they are talking about.

So to quote The Who who knew a thing or two about rock and roll, ‘Meet the new boss…same as the old boss'.

Now there’s a cautionary lyric if ever I heard one.

Why it’s a lie that UK employment is at 'record high'

By Neil Patrick

It's spin time again folks!

UK government ministers and some parts of the press have seized upon the latest UK Office for National Statistics employment figures showing that the number of people in work in the UK has increased by 155,000 to its "highest level since records began in 1971".

Sounds good doesn't it? But sadly this isn't quite such good news as it appears. Yup, it’s a true statistic, but it’s the wrong statistic to use. In fact, it’s one of the simplest deceptions in the book of statistical trickery.

In this case, it capitalises on the fact that UK population has grown massively by over 400,000 in just the last year alone.

So when we look at the official employment rate, i.e. the percentage measure of the number of people in paid work, this is still a whopping 2% off where it was in 2008 before the recession hit, falling to 71.7% from over 73%.

Sure 2% doesn’t sound much, but in real life, it means that at least half a million more people would need to get jobs before the employment rate returns to its pre-recession peak. The number of people in work is indeed at the highest level ever - but so too is the number of people in the UK.

The absolute numbers of people in work in the UK have been pushed up by population growth and immigration. The UK's population soared by 419,900 to 63.7 million between between June 2011 and June 2012.

Martin Beck, UK economist at Capital Economics said: "The government would prefer to use employment levels rather than percentages but… the rate is still about 2% below 2008. It's mainly due to population growth and a bit of migration from the European Union."

So the ‘true’ figure, the unemployment rate, measuring the amount of people who are actively seeking work, remains at 7.7% and has not fallen below this level since mid-2009.

Graeme Leach, chief economist of the Institute for Directors, said the ‘recovery’ was "job-lite".

I’d go further; the ‘recovery’ if it can ever be called such, is currently creating mainly low paid jobs, many of which are being taken up by young immigrants to the UK.

Consequently, wage growth still remains weak - total pay for employees rose by just 0.7% in the year to August 2013. And this remained below the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rate of inflation of 2.7%, so wages are actually getting lower in real terms.

Employment minister Esther McVey apparently doesn’t agree with me, saying: "I think this is very positive news, because that's more than a million people who have got jobs since the general election." Hmmm...

So as usual, the employment figures are getting spun by the government. Once you strip away the thin fa├žade of misused statistics, there really is no UK jobs recovery, let alone any growth in incomes. And if ministers are really looking at absolute job numbers as their key progress indicator, then they are not only misleading us, they are deceiving themselves. I’m not sure which is worse.

How to Brand Your YouTube Account for Your Job Search

By Heather R. Huhman

YouTube is the largest video-sharing site on the planet, but it’s often overlooked as a platform on which to build your personal brand. Job seekers carefully craft their Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages to portray their professional selves, but often they overlook the power of the video.

If employers want to really get a sense of who you are, video is simply more effective at communicating this than words on a page. YouTube can be an excellent resource to point recruiters to you, so they can get to know you during the job search. Check out these tips for successfully branding yours.

Decide how to brand yourself. If you’ve already been branding yourself as an expert or professional in a particular field, continue with that theme on your YouTube page. Click on your username in the top right corner, and select “Settings.” From here, you can link your account to your Twitter and Facebook (ideal for video sharing), customize your URL, and manage your videos. Use this page to adjust your settings and learn the ropes when it comes to privacy, playback, and monetization.

Customize it. Click your username and select “My Channel” from the drop-down list. Select “Channel Settings,” where you can customize your bio and layout. Include a professional avatar and customize your page to make it consistent with your other social networking sites by uploading your own background image. Under the “Info and Settings” tab, give your channel a title, add a description, and include tags with keywords so others can find you, such as “marketing,” “finance,” or any other words to suit your personal brand.

Create quality videos. The most difficult part of creating a YouTube page may be coming up with the content, but chances are you already have a breadth of knowledge you could turn into an interesting and helpful YouTube video. Consider taping an introduction, offering advice in your field, or interviewing a fellow professional. Autoshare your videos on Twitter and Facebook, and link to them on your blog or website. Spend time promoting your videos, but also peruse YouTube for accounts similar to yours, and add relevant videos to your “likes” or “favorites.”

YouTube can be an excellent resource for beefing up your professional online brand, and can allow employers to catch a glimpse of the person behind the website, Facebook, or Twitter. For more information on creating your personal YouTube brand, check out YouTube’s tips here.

How have you worked with YouTube to enhance your personal brand? Share your tips below.

Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for organizations with products that target job seekers and/or employers. She is also the author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011), #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.

Why it’s good to be promiscuous

By Neil Patrick

Last week I sent out a link to my LinkedIn profile via Twitter. It was accompanied with an open invitation to connect for anyone who wished to.

I had an unexpected reply tweet.

The exact words escape me now, but the essence was ‘ Why do this…surely you don’t want to connect with just anyone?’

My reply was unequivocal. Sure I do. Why would I not? I can always say 'No' (but I rarely do).

I had a similar conversation with a professional friend a couple of weeks ago. He has been a (very) late comer to Linkedin and only has about a dozen connections. He recognises the importance of building his network, but he was paranoid that if any of his connections were with anyone that wasn’t an absolute superstar, this might harm his reputation. But of course the people he wanted to connect with that didn’t know him or have any connection with him would be unlikely to accept an invitation from a stranger with only a dozen connections.

Catch 22.

Now if I think for a moment about all the work I am engaged on right now, I have about half a dozen professional projects on the go. How did these come to be? Well every single one bar just one, came about from relationships I have developed with other professionals through social media. That’s right about 83% of them.

And did I carefully target these people? Nope. They came about naturally through them choosing to work with me because they felt I was the right person that could help them out. And they made this choice of their own free will, not because I had targeted them as a ‘prospect’.

Sure I have had plenty of other approaches which I have turned down, but not because they were necessarily a waste of my time or unattractive, more because I have to prioritise and I’m in the fortunate position of being able to choose which proposals I take up and which I politely turn down.

But I have absolutely no way of knowing which connections I make through social media will turn into business relationships and which will not. And more importantly, if I wasted my time trying to second guess this, I suspect I’d nearly always get it wrong.

So I network freely and openly. And despite this ‘promiscuity’ I have not once had a problem with any of my social media connections.

Quite the contrary in fact. I am constantly amazed and humbled at how many people in my network help me out of sheer kindness and generosity of spirit.

All this social media interaction drives more attention. It’s like power to an electronic magnet. The more power, the stronger the attraction field becomes.

Exactly the same principles apply when you are looking to find a new job. If your attraction field is weak, you’ll get found by fewer prospective opportunities.

This principal and much more which it seems is counter-instinctive to many professional people is talked about here by the ever excellent Jill Konrath, who it seems is just as promiscuous as I am!

How to never lose your job (a reprise)

By Neil Patrick

In January 2009, Grant Cardone put up an article in the Huffington Post with this title.

To put that date in perspective, this was about one year after the start of the global financial crisis and 8 months after the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

I agree with some of his observations, but we now have the benefit of hindsight on events which have seen the unfolding of the worst financial and economic crisis since the 1930’s.

And this has shown that Grant’s viewpoint fell way short of the mark. Even in 2009, it should have been apparent that we were dealing with something other than a cyclical recession. We were (and are still) dealing with a systemic collapse.

So let’s take a look at what he proposed. He said:

There are two groups of people that will never be without work;

1) those working for companies and in industries that are selling enough product to keep them profitable.

2) Those people within those companies that contribute to the selling, yes the selling, of the products and services of that company.

Those that are able to drive revenue through the selling of the products and services of the company are the most needed and valuable people in that company. Warning: Assist the company you work for in bringing in revenue (selling products and services) or you are at risk of losing your job!

Fair enough, but to say such people will never be without a job is a massive over-generalization. And he hinted at this when he continued:

The question is, who will lose their jobs and who will not? If you notice the people that are losing their jobs today are attached to companies that are failing! Note - if the company doesn't do well, make profits, jobs are lost! (my emphasis). The next level will not be from failing companies but from those companies that don't want to fail! (sorry Grant, but I never came across any company that wanted to fail).

What he missed was the fact that (and I don’t care about the labels that economists apply here) we are not dealing with a recession, when everything gets tough for a while and then bounces back. In a recession, companies make less profit and have to scale back some of their expenditure, whilst trying to lift revenue.

Today is different. We are dealing with a systemic collapse. And in a systemic collapse, companies don’t just struggle, they die. In large numbers. And people's jobs die with them.

And whilst companies are failing every day, that’s a symptom not the cause of the problem. The root of the problem is massive over borrowing by western governments. Plus endless QE programmes by central banks that continue to deflate the value of our wealth and earnings. Plus much needed, but unaffordable healthcare programmes. Plus an ageing population. Plus soaring food and utility costs. Plus rising house prices at least in some regions thanks to misguided government interventions (yes, that’s you David Cameron).

Compared to this, the problems faced by businesses are miniscule.

The massive and naive gamble of western governments is that while contracting government spending, they can simultaneously boost the growth of private sector businesses. And it’s just not happening. Because governments are useless at this. They launch expensive initiative after expensive initiative. Every one sounds great with all the spin at launch. And then a year or two later they are quietly shelved when surprise, surprise they didn’t work.

So we are trapped in a Catch 22.

Western governments cannot spend their way out of recession. Their currencies are losing value and their assets are dwindling whilst expenditures continue to soar. Government bonds (misleadingly also called gilts) are showing diminishing yields as investors place less and less faith in the security of such instruments.

You only have to look at the situation faced by Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain to see what happens when a government’s borrowing options dry up.

But back to Grant:

Those that will never lose their jobs are those that go beyond the normal expected responsibilities and the duties of their post. Those that creatively extend themselves and take responsibility for assisting the company in revenue creation will never be let go. The job of selling the products and services of the company you work, will no longer be left to the sales force but become the responsibility of everyone that desires to continue to work for that company.

Sorry Grant, this may be true in a recession, but it’s just wishful thinking in a systemic collapse. It is of course also completely irrelevant if you work in the public sector where revenue generation is completely disconnected from the success or otherwise of your employer.

What happened to all those top selling people at Lehmans, at Bear Sterns, at MF Global, at Northern Rock? That’s right they lost their jobs with everyone else. And the subsequent devastation of the whole financial sector meant that only a minority could expect to find another similar job with another employer. And if you think that banking is not typical of the world of real jobs, what about all those folk employed by Detroit City who lost their jobs and/or pension rights? What about all those staff at Woolworths, Borders, Aquascutum, Comet and countless other retailers that have gone bankrupt?

So if no-one’s employment can be assured anymore, what are we to do?

The first fact to get a grip on is that there is no such thing as a secure job anymore. It makes not a bit of difference how good you are or how hard you work, your future is never assured. So despite Grant’s opinion, my belief is that not even the best sales people in the world can count on anything anymore.

Second, if you accept this first fact, you need to be preparing right now for the day when you lose your job. That means getting your borrowings down as much as you can and building enough reserves to ensure you can survive for at least 6-12 months with no income. At least then you are giving yourself enough time to hopefully find another job somehow.

But what is a job? Essentially it’s the means by which you earn the money to live and hopefully enjoy your life. And being employed by an organisation is only one of the ways you can do this. The numbers of entrepreneurs in their middle and later years are soaring right now. And whilst many report that they don’t earn as much as they used to, almost all report that they are happier and more fulfilled than when they had a ‘normal’ job.

All this means preparing yourself for the possibility especially if you are over 50 years old that you may never get another job again. But that’s not necessarily as catastrophic as it sounds. It might just be the greatest opportunity of your life. And this is how you can make sure you never lose your job, because you will own your job and your vision for your life goals. Not someone else’s. But you should be thinking about it right now and doing what you can to start developing your ideas and plans, because when the hammer falls, your clock will be ticking…

RICHARD BRANSON: Hiring older workers is the right thing to do

Here's a interview with Richard Branson last year, in which he gives his views on the value of older workers. Given the association of the Virgin brand with youthful vigor, not to mention Branson's penchant for adrenaline stoked adventures, I think his views on this subject are worth repeating here. Apparently he plans to work until he is 90...

Q: What is your approach to hiring older workers? If you were looking for a position, how would you look to overcome the ageism barrier?

A: Thank you for your question! It is an appropriate time for me to address the issues of age and the workforce, as I turned 60 in July.

This year I ran my first marathon in just over five hours and tried to set a record as the oldest person to kite-surf across the English Channel (high winds forced me to abandon the attempt) - both tasks usually associated with younger people. And I'm not alone. These days, people are living much longer, active lives - so retiring at a young age is no longer necessary. If a person looks after himself with regular exercise and a good diet, there is no reason why he should not keep going well past 60.

I plan to work until I feel I'm no longer making a real contribution to Virgin. I see a good 30 years of work ahead. It's true that at 60 there are some tasks that suit me better than others, but I see few real limitations in my current role.

Richard Branson
In the UK, the government has recommended extending the age of retirement to 67, and many countries in the rest of Europe are contemplating similar legislation. It is not just governments, but company boards around the world that are facing the challenges of serving ageing populations.

So while it is true that some employers may have negative preconceptions about hiring older workers, they are only doing themselves a disservice. Entrepreneurs and managers who hope to succeed are taking a close look at older applicants.

There are real advantages to hiring these employees. Studies have shown that older workers may lower time-keeping and absentee issues ; they also tend to have higher levels of commitment to their jobs and loyalty to their employers, which reduces staff churn and helps reduce recruitment costs.

And there is a strong business case for companies to diversify the age groups they employ. In all our ventures, we put a real emphasis on offering great service, and to succeed, we must truly understand our customers and see our service through their eyes. As our and others' customer bases get older, managers will need staffers who themselves reflect the changing demographics.

This is a challenge for Virgin since we have tended to be quite young at heart. The average age in the group is still fairly young, with more than a third of staff under the age of 35 and only around 3% over 55.

This is largely determined by a few factors, including the sectors we operate in and the newcomer status of some of the businesses. For example, Virgin Active, our health club chain, attracts a younger workforce due to the physical nature of the work. As the challengers to established brands, our airlines - Virgin America, Atlantic and Blue - have tended to be magnets for younger cabin crews and ground staff, which affects the group's average age.

Even our finance business has younger staff - again, people interested in the company's challenger status and in new product development. But as we prepare for the future, this is a factor that clearly needs to change.

How? Well, many businesses retire their experienced staffers, both to cut costs when times get tough and as a matter of course. But those employers can lose a lot of key skills when workers with a wealth of knowledge and experience leave.

One answer is to become more accommodating in work arrangements. Offering part- time jobs, job shares, flexi-time and full-time jobs with longer holidays may attract older workers. This would enable everyone - not just older employees - to strike a better work-life balance and allow companies to retain their skills and experience.

I hope that with this approach, our group will continue to maintain a very open policy of recruitment and that ageism will not be an issue. Hiring older workers isn't just the right thing to do; it also makes good business sense.

Branson blogs on branson/blog. You can follow him on Twitter at richardbranson.

This post originally appeared here:;jsessionid=27C5CBE518983FFEF9FD83338E88121E.present1.bdfm

Baby boomers fueling wave of entrepreneurship

By Matt Sedensky

In a mix of boomer individualism and economic necessity, older Americans have fueled a wave of entrepreneurship. The result is a slew of enterprises such as Crash Boom Bam, the vintage drum company that 64-year-old Glay began running from a spare bedroom in his apartment in 2009.

The business hasn’t made him rich, but Glay credits it with keeping him afloat when no one would hire him.

"You would send out a stack of 50 resumes and not hear anything," said Glay, who had been laid off from a sales job. "This has saved me."

The annual entrepreneurial activity report published in April by the Kansas City, Mo.-based Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation found the share of new entrepreneurs ages 55 to 64 grew from 14.3 percent in 1996 to 23.4 percent last year. Entrepreneurship among 45- to 54-year-olds saw a slight bump, while activity among younger age groups fell.

The foundation doesn’t track start-ups by those 65 and older, but Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that group has a higher rate of self-employment than any other age group.

Part of the growth is the result of the overall aging of America. But experts say older people are flocking to self-employment both because of a frustrating job market and the growing ease and falling cost of starting a business.

"It’s become easier technologically and geographically to do this at older ages," said Dane Stangler, the research and policy director at Kauffman. "We’ll see continued higher rates of entrepreneurship because of these demographic trends."

Paul Giannone’s later-life move to start a business was fuelled not by losing a job, but by a desire for change.

After nearly 35 years in information technology, he embraced his love of pizza and opened a Brooklyn, N.Y., restaurant, Paulie Gee’s, in 2010. Giannone, 60, had to take a second mortgage on his home, but he said the risk was worth it: The restaurant is thriving and a second location is in the works.

"I wanted to do something that I could be proud of," he said. "I am the only one who makes decisions and I love that. I haven’t worked in 3 ½ years, that’s how it feels."

Some opt for a more gradual transition.

Al Wilson, 58, of Manassas, Va., has kept his day job as a program analyst at the National Science Foundation while he tries to attract business for Rowdock, the snug calf protector he created to ward off injuries rowers call "track bites."

Though orders come in weekly from around the world, they’re not enough yet for Wilson to quit his job.

"At this stage in my life, when I’m looking at in the near future retiring, to step out and take a risk and start a business, there was some apprehension," Wilson said. "But it’s kind of rejuvenated me."

Mary Furlong, who teaches entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University and holds business startup seminars for boomers, says older adults are uniquely positioned for the move because they are often natural risk-takers who are passionate about challenges and driven by creativity.

There can be hurdles.

Though most older entrepreneurs opt to create at-home businesses where they are the only employee, even startup costs of a couple thousand dollars can be prohibitive for some. Also, generating business in an online economy is tougher if the person has fewer technological skills.

Furlong said many who start businesses later in life do so as a follow-up to a successful career from which they fear a layoff or have endured one.

"The boomers are looking to entrepreneurship as a Plan B," she said."

Antoinette Little would agree.

She spent 20 years at a law firm, starting as a legal secretary and working her way up to manage the entire office. The stress of working 80 hours or 90 hours a week and always being on call started taking a toll.

After being diagnosed with an enlarged heart, she said, "The doctor told me either quit or you’re going to die."

Little took a series of culinary classes and found a new passion, opening Antoinette Chocolatier in Phillipsburg, N.J. She misses her previous career and, though the store is now in the black, the profits aren’t robust. Still, she says she is having fun making chocolate, particularly when children press their noses against the glass doors to the store’s kitchen.

"I’m my own boss and you get to eat your mistakes," she said. "How bad could it be?"

Most boomer businesses are not brick-and-mortar establishments like those of Little and Giannone.

Jeff Williams, who runs BizStarters, which has helped Glay and thousands of other boomers start businesses, says most older entrepreneurs want to make a minimal investment, typically less than $10,000, to get off the ground.

He classifies about 40 percent of his clientele as "reluctant entrepreneurs" who are turning to their own business because they can’t find any other work.

Williams said owning a business also gives older adults the flexibility they desire and a sense of control while remaining active.

"To suddenly leave the corporate world and to be sitting around the house all day long? This is an alien concept to boomers," he said.

Glay says he needed the paycheck, but starting his business was also about keeping his mind engaged. He had worked for the same record company for 23 years when he was told to meet his boss at an airport hotel, where the bad news was delivered.

Though Crash Boom Bam hasn’t come close to replacing an annual income that crept into six figures, Glay says he’s busier than ever now, between the business, regular drumming gigs, and part-time work at a bookstore and a wine-tasting event company. Sitting among shelves full of drums and their shimmering chrome, he is reflective thinking about what his business means.

"The satisfaction of doing what I’m doing now is much greater, but the money is less," he said. "Even if it’s not making me a millionaire, I know what it’s doing for my head. There’s no price you could put on that."

Matt Sedensky, an AP writer on leave, is studying aging and workforce issues as part of a one-year fellowship at the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, which joins NORC’s independent research and AP journalism. The fellowship is funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and supported by APME, an association of AP member newspapers and broadcast stations.

This post originally appeared here:

The spurious historical origins of how we think about retirement

By Neil Patrick

My father retired 25 years ago. He wasn’t an especially high earner. He taught at a University, but he was offered a big financial incentive to retire early. He took the money and settled into a life of golf, gardening, tennis and socialising. A quarter of a century more or less doing what he felt like and more or less worry-free.

That sort of outcome seems a remote possibility for most of my generation.

An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll released this week found unsurprisingly that the majority of older workers are delaying their retirement plans. They also report that reaching 65 won’t necessarily mean they exit from the workforce.

Some 82% of workers aged 50 and older say it is likely they will work for pay in retirement. And 47% of them now expect to retire later than they previously thought - on average nearly three years beyond their estimate when they were 40.

At first I envied my father. All that time. Endless days to spend doing whatever he wanted. But then I thought again. As he became more and more removed from the world of work, I saw how he also became more and more disconnected from how the world was evolving. The biggest change that passed him by was the endless rise of technology and digital media.

He knows how to browse the web with his iPad, but he still cannot send an email. He finds it extremely difficult to interact with web pages to do even simple things like getting his groceries delivered.

And keeping in touch with friends and family is becoming harder too since he refuses to dial a mobile phone number because he’s paranoid about the risk of being charged more for the call than he would be on a landline.

The world is slowly but steadily becoming a more and more alien place for him. And so I’m not so sure anymore that my father’s experience was such a dream ticket after all.

In the beginning, there was no retirement. Because there were no old people. In the Stone Age, everyone was fully employed until age 20, by which time nearly everyone was dead, usually of unnatural causes. An early man who lived long enough to turn grey was either worshiped or eaten as a sign of respect.

By Biblical times, when a fair number of people made it into old age, retirement still had not been invented and respect for old people remained high. In those days, it was customary to carry on until you dropped, regardless of your age group. When a patriarch could no longer farm, herd cattle or pitch a tent, he opted for more specialized, less labor-intensive work, like prophesying and handing down commandments. Or he moved in with his kids.

As the centuries passed, the elderly population increased. By early medieval times, their numbers had reached critical mass. It was no longer just a matter of respecting the occasional white-bearded patriarch. Old people were everywhere, giving advice, repeating themselves, complaining about rheumatism, trying to help, getting in the way and making younger people feel guilty.

To the annoyance of their offspring, they also tended to hang on to their wealth and property. This made them very unpopular with their middle-aged sons, who were driven to earn their inheritances the old-fashioned way, by committing patricide. Even as late as the mid-18th century, there was a spate of such killings in France.

Clearly aging and what to do about it was a becoming a problem.

Otto Von Bismarck
In 1883, Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck of Germany inadvertently created a solution. Marxists were threatening to take control of Europe. To help his countrymen resist this threat, Bismarck announced that he would pay a pension to any nonworking German over age 65. Bismarck was no dummy. Hardly anyone lived to be 65 at the time, given that penicillin would not be available for another half century. Bismarck not only co-opted the Marxists, he set the arbitrary world standard for the exact year at which old age begins and established the precedent that government should pay people for growing old.

It was the physician William Osler who put forward the ‘scientific’ argument that, when combined with a compelling economic rationale, would eventually make retirement seem to be acceptable. In his 1905 valedictory address at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, Osler said it was a matter of ‘fact’ that the years between 25 and 40 in a worker's career are the ''15 golden years of plenty.'' He called that span ''the anabolic or constructive period.'' Workers between ages 40 and 60 were merely uncreative and therefore tolerable. He hated to say it, because he was getting on, but after age 60 the average worker was in his view ''useless'' and should be put out to pasture.

Retirement came in very handy in the United States, where large numbers of aging factory workers were wandering around the Industrial Revolution, slowing down assembly lines, taking too many personal days and usurping the places of younger, more productive men with families to support. It was one thing when an occasional superannuated farmer leaned on his hoe in an agrarian culture -- a few bales of hay more or less didn't matter. But it was quite another when lots of old people caused great unemployment among younger workers by refusing to retire.

The Great Depression made the situation even worse. Retirement was a necessary adaptation and everybody knew it, but the old guys were not going quietly. The toughest among them refused to quit, even when plant managers turned up the conveyor belts to Chaplinesque speeds.

Francis Townsend (right)
By 1935, it became evident that the only way to get old people to stop working for pay was to pay them enough to stop working. A Californian, Francis Townsend, initiated a popular movement by proposing mandatory retirement at age 60. In exchange, the Government would pay pensions of up to $200 a month, an amount equivalent at the time to a full salary for a middle-income worker. Horrified at the prospect of Townsend's radical generosity, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed the Social Security Act of 1935, which made workers pay for their own old-age insurance.

So these ideas about how and when we participate in work have clear historical origins. But are these rationales still valid today, when life expectancy and health care continues to advance and the world has a whole new set of economic and social challenges at both the macro and micro levels?

Should we accept the norms that have become accepted even though they came about more or less by chance and expediency and are founded on pseudoscientific arguments from the 19th and early 20th centuries?

Personally, I am choosing to adjust my life plan to one that isn’t headed towards a shutdown when I reach 65. Assuming my health permits, I intend to work for the whole of my life.

Even if that doesn’t suit the government.

Some parts of this post have been adapted from an original article by Mary-Lou Weisman form the New York Times March 21, 1999:

Employers: choose your words carefully - or face the consequences

By David Hunt PE

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: A capital walks into a bar, and… Wait, you’ve never heard of a capital walking around? OK. A talent walks into a …. You’ve not heard of a talent walking either? A resource? No? Of course not! People walk into bars.

And this is a terrible secret in today’s workforce. We have Human Resources discussing Talent Acquisition and reading articles about Human Capital retention; these terms obfuscate that there are people involved. On a visceral level the use of such dehumanizing euphemisms has an extremely corrosive effect on multiple facets of the relationship between company and employee.

Take-away 1: The words we choose define our thought processes.

Choosing to refer to people by terms more typically associated with things disconnects managers from the fact that people are being discussed. Companies employ people; they should have Personnel departments. They hire and seek to retain people, so they should search for and keep people, not “talents,” “resources,” or “capitals.”

Nowhere is this more evident than in the hiring process itself. Companies no longer look for talented people with capacity for growth; rather, they seek persons with specific skill sets, often to the point of writing job descriptions so razor-sharp in specificity that, seemingly, the only person who could get the job is the person who just left the job. My favorite example reads:

“Wanted: Urinary Catheter Design Engineer. Must have at least five years of experience designing urinary catheters.”

Needless to say, this is frustrating to job seekers who, based on the overall job description, believe they are up to the challenge and are eager for the chance to grow.

So what drives this? There are several causes working together. First, today’s companies run so lean that there is no time for a traditional learning curve, either in the company’s projects’ timelines or on the hiring manager’s calendar. Indeed, the catchphrase of modern hiring managers is “hit the ground running.” Never mind that this is impossible; even subject matter experts need weeks just to learn the company’s systems – a process lengthened considerably by most companies not having formal new-hire integration processes, let alone a mentor with the time to take hew hires “under their wing.”

At one employer, over 500 man-hours went into installing each new piece of equipment; my own “installation” consisted of a 20-minute orientation and being handed assorted manuals to read.

Take-away 2: No-one can possibly be the best unless you invest

The best way to have someone “hit the ground running” is to proactively implement a formal process of integrating someone into the company under the auspices of a mentor, most effectively a joint task between Personnel and the hiring manager. Anything less wastes the potential of the new hire.

Second is the risk-aversion in today’s corporate world. If a “perfect fit” hire does not appear, hiring managers can always blame the candidate pool for not spontaneously producing a superhero. But should a hiring manager hire someone who did not fit every bullet point, they expose themselves to blame should the new hire not work out. It’s easy to blame the “shortage of talent” when the pain of understaffing is diffused over the organization, but far riskier personally to take a chance if not hiring a Superman. However, that diffuse pain of not hiring anyone has costs as well: unhappy customers and stressed employees. These should prompt company executives with perspective to act to protect the company as a whole.

Last, and most significant, is the mental thought pattern created by the dehumanization of corporate terminology. Employees are no longer people, they are “assets.” Companies don’t hire people, they “acquire talent.”

By describing people with the same language as equipment, hiring managers combine project pressures, risk-avoidance, and dehumanization to create job descriptions resembling machine specs. The slightest deviation from the requirements is grounds to rule out candidates, as many seeking jobs complain. A few years ago I experienced this first-hand when I easily met every listed criterion but one: I didn’t know the right CAD package. It didn’t matter that I had been doing CAD work for longer than they required and could easily learn a new software program. I didn’t meet the spec, so I was off the list.

Whether consciously or not, hiring managers act as though there are vendors somewhere cranking out people with precisely defined skill sets. In the real world, though, most careers are the product of changes in path imposed from the outside, especially given today’s layoff-willing world.

In my career I’ve only voluntarily changed positions twice. The specific skills that I’ve developed are, for the most part, not part of a deliberately planned progression but pure necessity in having to survive involuntary changes and the need for an income.

Take-away 3: No job description should have more than 3-5 “must have” requirements.

All points, whether needs or wants, must be made as generic as possible (e.g., think “thought process of the person” rather than “specific software package”). Software can be learned – the ability to think is the real requirement.

Another consequence of using these dehumanizing terms is the treatment of candidates during the job search process. It is now typical for companies to use automated resume submission systems; but some automated systems don’t even acknowledge receipt or completion of the application. Companies such as this are referred to as “black holes,” and they are plentiful. The fact that companies don’t specify an automated response from an automated system is a clear indicator of how much these companies truly value a candidate’s interest in them.

Of course, nobody expects a hand-written reply to a resume. But in my last job search I learned that companies do not reply after interviews – never mind resumes!

My experience is not atypical. Indeed, most companies seem to treat applicants as supplicants, begging for scraps from the master’s table. While that seems melodramatic, it’s born out by experience. A company VP I knew through networking invited me to interview for an open position before it was publicized: The Holy Grail of networking! Yet after an interview visit in which every discussion ran long (a very good sign according to “conventional job search wisdom”), and their adding to my schedule (another very good sign), I heard nothing. Only three months later, when I managed to catch my contact on the phone, did I learn they had a hiring freeze. Neither my contact nor anyone else was bothered to spend two minutes to contact me.

Abraham Lincoln said that if you want to test a person’s character, give them power. By that standard, many companies are lacking. Not responding to resumes, let alone interviews, is the norm; but this can backfire. How companies treat persons applying for work is a common topic in every networking group I’ve ever been in, including the one I run, and doubtless affects decisions to pursue specific companies.

The foundation of this new attitude towards candidates lies in the subconscious reaction to the use of dehumanizing terms and its logical extension that people are interchangeable units and thus instantaneously replaceable. The less we refer to or view people as people, but rather as things, the less likely we are to consider them as worthy of respect or courtesy. Such terminology creates an emotional distance between manager vs. subordinate, as well as company vs. employee and candidate, and is akin – though not as extreme – as the infamous “Prisoners vs. Guards” experiment done at Stanford University.

My argument is not that there is no need for authority, but rather that authority and power are magnified by the emotional distance created by dehumanizing terms, and can lead to the very behaviors too-often seen in today’s workplace.

Take-away 4: How you treat candidates will enhance or hurt your image in the marketplace.

If your company is not communicating with candidates in a timely way, bank on the fact that they are telling other potential candidates about your company. Remember that there are far more people that you reject than you hire, and imagine how many other job seekers they meet!

There is a final consequence to the subconscious corrosive effects of using such terms: how managers view and interact with rank-and-file employees, and the resulting effects on employee trust, performance, and retention.

No less a person than GE’s Jack Welch admitted in his book, Winning, that corporate handbooks and other materials discussing a company’s respect for “work life balance” are mostly marketing tools to get potential candidates’ attention. Yet handbooks don’t spring from the ether – they are written by people, and more importantly approved by people in top management. By approving a handbook where what is said clearly differs from what is done, dishonesty is codified as tacitly approved by the upper echelons. And people take note of this, with rank-and-file trust in management decreasing with the level of the manager. (1)

Take-away 5: If you communicate it, mean it.

No matter how well disguised, deception and hypocrisy will come out. And once out, the genie will never go back into the bottle. The situation is not symmetric: it can take months to build a reputation as trustworthy, but a single comment to destroy that trust.

For example, filed under how-stupid-do-you-think-we-are, several years ago a senior executive casually made a comment to a Q&A meeting I attended – a comment that brazenly contradicted earlier official statements by the company’s management and gave lie to those earlier statements to boot. By his offhand comment, it appeared he didn’t conceive we could fact-check his statements against those previous official statements. His unwitting admission of official mendacity displayed management’s contempt for us rank-and-file people, and sparked a smoldering grass fire in the plant eating away at our already-low morale.

Trust is one of the most important commodities managers have, with tremendous leverage over their ability to lead people successfully. (2) A liar once exposed cannot be trusted; in one impending layoff situation I was in, the department manager swore that he did not know who was to be let go. But he knew and we all knew he knew. Had he announced that he “could not discuss it, I’m sure you all understand,” that would have sufficed. The fact that he lied to our faces destroyed his credibility and his ability to lead. We later found out that he had been ordered to lie “or else” – thus placing him in an impossible situation – and the twin revelations of the order itself plus what should have been its predictable effect on his leadership position also demolished the credibility of those above him. As a direct consequence the bleeding of people to competitors accelerated.

Take-away 6: Just because someone isn’t a senior manager doesn’t mean they can’t check what you say against other information.

Count on the fact that they will, especially if they are nervous. Remember that many of them are just as shrewd as you were in your early career, perhaps even more so.

The words we choose directly shape our perception of what is being discussed. Using terms like “resource,” “talent,” and “capital” to describe people subconsciously transforms people into things. The effect is corrosive in multiple areas – from interviewing and hiring, to trust and the ability to lead, the dehumanization of people in corporate vocabulary has multiple negative effects on how people are viewed and treated. Those attitudes and treatments are predictably reflected back by rampant cynicism, low retention, and poor organizational performance.

Take-away 7: What goes around, comes around.

If you treat people as expendable assets, don’t be surprised that they treat you as a stepping-stone to be exploited in their individual career growth goals. They will prioritize themselves over the organization they’re in, performing their jobs until they wring all they can from your company to aid in their jumping to another stone that looks better.

[1] “Many employees don’t trust their boss,” Machine Design, September 13, 2007
[2] “The High Cost of Lost Trust”; Harvard Business Review, September 2002

(c) 2013, David Hunt, PE

This re-edited article was originally posted by David Hunt on his old blog,, and recently was reposted on

David Hunt is a Mechanical Design Engineer in southern New Hampshire looking for his "next opportunity" that allows him to design new products and shepherd them to stable production. His LinkedIn profile is:; he blogs at and tweets at @davidhuntpe.

The good news is we’re living longer. The bad news is we can’t afford it.

Here's a recent article from the Kansas City Star. It describes perfectly why I set up this blog. Baby boomers are facing the toughest test of their lives. And because all our hopes and expectations were set in an era when our futures looked entirely different, our education, aspirations and attitudes were founded on a whole set of assumptions which have failed to materialize

My question is what are we going to do about it? I sure as hell won't put my faith in the idea that anyone in government will come up with effective solutions, so we have to look after ourselves.
What do you think?

By Scott Canon and Steve Kraske

From the age of 23, when she was the first female steelworker at Butler Manufacturing, Diana Arends labored to carve out a solid middle-class existence.

Elbow grease and grit moved her steadily up a union hierarchy until, as a tool-and-die maker at age 59, she sat atop the union pay scale at Ball Corp.’s beverage-can plant in Kansas City.

Then came the crash of ’08, the closing of the plant and the start of hard times that look to define the remaining decades of her life - and tens of millions of baby boomers like her.

She’s worked just one year of the five since trouble gut-punched a generation just as a decent retirement seemed within reach. Her 401(k), the tax-sheltered account she’d been stocking all those years, was suddenly cut in half by the stock market dive and it hasn’t rebounded to where it should. By age 62, she was forced to tap into Social Security early. That meant that forevermore, her monthly check would be $600 lighter.

Now 64, she still looks for work that puts her skills to use and strikes out, concluding that bosses have little interest in a leftover from a manufacturing age. She lives with her daughter and granddaughter in a Lee’s Summit home that no longer has cable TV or a landline phone, that chills in the winter and toasts in August. The three will mine this newspaper heavily for coupons.

“I expected to be able to retire, take a camping trip now and then,” Arends said. “I didn’t expect to still be job hunting to supplement my income.”

A generation once warned not to trust anyone over 30, and that now has kids with kids, wonders if it can believe in its own old age. An implied bargain that promised security after decades in the workaday world looks, if not busted, mighty rickety.

Look now, five years after the fall, and the landscape looks uneasy and unfamiliar.

“There’s a whole new world out there,” said Ralph Monaco, a Kansas Citian and baby boomer.

Too many nest eggs got dashed in the 2008 cratering of stocks and home equity. Sure, things have bounced back … slowly. But half a decade of what should have marked prime, late-career earning years - from both investments and wages - all but evaporated.

Baby boomers were more likely to hang onto their jobs through the Great Recession than younger workers. Still, for those older workers who got laid off, the pink slips were especially devastating - forcing early and painful dips into retirement funds.

The still-employed also got whacked. Many saw company contributions to pensions, or matches to retirement accounts, evaporate. Wages stagnated or shrunk - at just the time in their careers that folks might expect to finally make top dollar.

And the lousy job market for young workers meant Junior’s inability to rise above barista extended his reliance on Mom and Dad deeper into his 20s - and their dotage.

“If you look at people 46 to 64, it used to be that that was the prime of your life, not only in terms of contentment and satisfaction, but also in income,” said Teresa Ghilarducci, director of the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis at the New School for Social Research.

But not this generation.

“The boomers,” she said, “will be the first generation to do worse in their old age than their parents or grandparents.”

Shaky footing

Even before the crash, signs crept up that retirement years might not be so golden, or even reachable. Pensions increasingly lacked the full funding needed to guarantee the promised monthly checks. Although the federal government promises to backstop many of those pension funds, you didn’t need to be Chicken Little to imagine more collapsing accounts than Uncle Sam could field.

Meanwhile, fewer employers felt a need to tempt workers with the promise of a pension. And the Pepsi Generation that never tasted the bitterness of the Great Depression did relatively little to save for the rainy days of retirement.

In the still go-go days of 2007, the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College calculated that 44 percent of Americans nearing retirement were at risk of falling significantly short of their current lifestyles if they tried retiring at age 65.

Then in 2008, ordinary Americans began hearing about mortgage derivatives and other financial gymnastics. Suddenly, their home equity morphed into mortgage debt, their boss stopped pension contributions and 401(k) matches, or maybe their services weren’t even needed anymore.

In an eye blink, a generation’s retirement prospects turned from sketchy to crummy. By 2010, the number at risk of being unable to retire at age 65 had jerked up to 53 percent.

“The boomers are going into retirement in terrible shape,” said David Cay Johnston, author of “The Fine Print: How Big Companies use ‘Plain English’ to Rob You Blind.”

He’s studied pensions and America’s retirement systems for decades and concluded the Great Recession not only buckled boomers’ knees, it widened the chasm between the country’s haves and have-nots.

The laid-off and desperate found themselves forced to dip into stock-based savings when their values were particularly low. They were forced to cash out at the worst possible time. Those buying up those bargains — the wealthy — were the only people who had cash to spare. And it’s the rich who’ve profited from the subsequent rebound.

More work, if any

Meanwhile, a transforming economy of mergers and new-found efficiencies meant more workers got tossed to the side. That can prove daunting enough at any point in a career, but it’s especially tough for older workers.

“At this point in your life, you’re beyond the mountain climbing, beyond the time to make a name for yourself,” said Janice Lambert of Overland Park.

She’s 59 and laid off. Her employer merged with another company, was sold again and sold a third time - at which point it no longer had room for her.

She talks about feeling like a puppet, with distant financial forces tugging the strings that toss her future this way and that. To her, it feels like the puppet masters responsible for the 2008 financial crisis only got richer.

“It wasn’t supposed to be this way,” she said.

If she finds a decent job, she’ll likely stay in the workforce untold extra years to make up for lost time.

Baby boomers - a diverse demographic of nearly 80 million born between roughly 1946 and 1962 - peer into a time after work and see, well, more work. Assuming the workplace has room for folks who once thought of technology as a slide rule (look it up, kids).

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that between 2008 and 2018, the number of middle-aged folks in the American workforce will jump by 33 percent. The number of workers 65 and older is expected to grow by almost 80 percent.

Little in reserve

Making it all sting a little more is that, as a generation, it’s not been a particularly frugal bunch.

Relative to their salaries and their lives filled with SUVs, 200-channel TV, beach vacations, boats and Botox, they’ve saved very little. On average, baby boomers waited until they reached age 35 before they even started setting aside money for retirement. By one estimate, even if they transform all their savings into annuities and max out reverse home mortgages, half the generation will see a marked drop in standard of living during retirement.

“We’ve lived beyond our means. We’ve used the equity in our homes for the last decade as cash machines,” said Daryl Eckman, a 59-year-old certified financial planner in Prairie Village. “We feel we have to live a certain way. … We feel we have to drive a certain car, put up appearances.”

If a friend his age has money, chances are Eckman is managing it. Their ledger, he said, usually reflects that even those with six-figure incomes live on the edge.

“The floor drops out on them very quickly,” he said. “They look to the government. They look to whatever the system will allow.”

Monaco is a 57-year-old Kansas City lawyer who feels he has little margin for error in his finances. He has diabetes and high blood pressure. He’s raised two daughters, and his retirement account won’t allow him to stop working anytime soon. He’ll keep working, he figures, as long as he’s able. If he’s able.

“I don’t see an opportunity for me to ever get out of the workforce,” Monaco said.

That necessity is, he said, partly the result of his own choices. He indulged his two daughters in childhood and insisted on paying for their educations to dodge student debt. He’s lived more comfortably, and less frugally, than his parents’ generation - a group sobered by the hard lessons of the Great Depression.

“I’ve got to pay for keeping up with the Joneses,” Monaco said. “We all seem to have to keep a profile, which is unnatural and unreasonable.”

If you’re not among the gilded 1 percent, it seems, there’s little reason to quit your job just because you’ve celebrated a 65th or 67th or 70th birthday.

Most Americans now calculate they’ll need a paycheck - either part-time or full-time - beyond the time when they can expect full Social Security retirement. (Depending on the year they were born, that falls between 65 and 10 months and 67.) A third will work to stay active. The rest will chase a buck out of necessity.

Longer lives, smaller funds

The good news is we’re living longer. The bad news is we can’t afford it.

This is where history reminds us that Social Security’s original retirement age was set when barely half of those who reached adulthood could expect to live to 65. Now, more than three-fourths cross that line. In 1950, a working man lived an average of seven years after retiring. A half-century later, a similar guy could expect twice as many years of elderly leisure.

In 1995, the average expected retirement age was 60. By 2011, it had been pushed back to 67. But life expectancy isn’t growing that fast. The difference in life expectancy between 1995 and 2011 is less than three years, not the full seven years that retirement got put off.

A Senate study in 2012 identified a $6.6 trillion retirement deficit - the difference between what people should have saved to maintain their lifestyles and the far smaller amount they actually set aside.

The fault is not entirely their own. They've seen the stock market cave in with some regularity - 1987, 2001, 2008, each time more painfully close to baby boomer retirement with less time to make up the losses. And each time making work harder to come by for the gray-haired workers.

“Our parents had mostly paid off their homes, had some pension or defined benefit. And Medicare covered most of their health care costs. None of those are true today,” said Dean Baker, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

“People still have pensions, but they’re fewer and dwindling rapidly,” he said. “Health care expenses … have exploded.”

His think-tank recently calculated the median wealth - savings, home equity, the works - of people between the ages of 55 and 64 at $170,000. That was about the same as the median home value.

“They literally have nothing left beyond the value of their homes. That means the only thing they have to support them is Social Security,” Baker said. “You’d like to think that people who spent their lives working would have some comfort in retirement.

“That’s going to be a questionable proposition.”

In that way, the Great Recession undercut so many boomers’ sense that they’d be rewarded for long years of work with a decade or more of secure retirement.

“A lot of baby boomers like me thought ... if we worked hard, got our homes paid off, have a little nest egg, we’d probably be doing more travel and enjoying it and spending more time doing community service,” said Tim Pickell, a 60-year-old attorney in Prairie Village.

Like a lot of people, he thought wrong. Much of a family inheritance was wiped out - the stock market tumble took a chunk, so did a need to make up for a slowed-down income stream from his law practice. That set off serious recalculations.

“The reality is,” Pickell said, “I have a lot of hard work to do.”

Arends, the once-successful steelworker, dreads as much as anything the anxiety of endlessly pinching pennies.

Her pension and badly depleted retirement savings must keep a household of three afloat. Indefinitely. She’d like to go to the movies, but rents videos from Redbox instead. She’d like to eat out, but scours a discount grocery for sales. She’d like to spoil her granddaughter, but rarely can.

“I worked hard. I’d like to work more,” she said. “But this is where I am.”

Read more here:

My Twitter Lists - please take advantage of them!

By Neil Patrick

As I have been developing this blog, I have built in some useful features which I thought I’d just take a little time to remind you about.

One of these is my Twitter lists.

I've set these up so they can be as useful to others as I can make them.Whether you are networking, job hunting, or building your own Twitter following, one of the things you need to do is find the right people. Like recruiters, hiring companies, resume writers, coaches or even just good people to connect with on Twitter.

As you may have discovered, simple Twitter searches are not too helpful in this respect. Because of this fact and to help me keep track of the ever growing number of people I am connected with through Twitter, I use Twitter lists.

I am surprised that so few people on Twitter do this. But these are a great tool which will help you no end if you are trying to get more out of Twitter.

So whilst I’d recommend that you make use of this method to organise your own Twitter followers, I’m also offering you mine.

It’s really easy to do, in just a couple of clicks!

1.Go to the lists section on my Twitter profile page and click on it. 

This will bring up my lists which I've tried to organise so that you can easily find the right people for your individual needs. I have organised recruiters by region for example. There are also coaches, resume writers, my favourite followers etc. 

2.Click to subscribe to any list you think is relevant or may be useful to you and it will be imported straight into your own lists. That’s it! 

These lists are updated daily, so as I continue to build these lists, you’ll get my updates automatically too! You can then connect easily with anyone that you like the look of on that list just by following them.

Hope this helps and let me know if it’s useful!

Oh and if you do set up your own Twitter lists, I’ll be happy if you include me!