Story of a PMET: Staying Employable in My 40s and Beyond

Switching careers to stay employable in your 40s can be a challenge. Here’s how one Singaporean PMET has made it work.

Changing roles and even industries is one way to increase your skills and grow your career. PMET Wendy Ho, 36, has done both — for future career growth. Wendy worked in sales and business development with various service-oriented SMEs (small and medium enterprises) for 10 years — her last job was in sales in a media company — before she decided to grow her career by switching to a reporting analytics role with a multinational manufacturing company.

What motivated you to change roles and industries?

My dream is to eventually set up a consultancy and work with smaller companies to create lean, aligned teams. It will bring me great satisfaction to help steer small businesses with growth potential in the right direction.

In order to do that I needed to first develop a more balanced perspective of work which is why I chose to move from the front end of business (my previous sales roles) which I had been working in for some time, to back end business operations and reporting, something totally new to me.

What challenges have you faced by making this change?

With the exception of the time I was running my own clothing label when I was in my early twenties, my previous job roles were with business providers. My new role is in a product manufacturer so one of the challenges I face is familiarity with both the industry and its jargon. I address this by putting in extra hours and effort to get things done right.

Another challenge is getting used to a complete shift in job scope and KPI. In sales I used to be measured by revenue targets, and this line also takes a driven personality to achieve results. My current role requires patience, meticulousness and careful attention to detail to perform well — something that has taken me time getting used to.

Is it harder to stay relevant in the workplace as you get older?

I think it depends on your profession. Typically, sales roles require more energy compared to jobs in consultancy or analysis. Whatever your age, as long as you have grit, self-motivation and resilience, it’s just a matter of putting in the necessary effort and familiarising yourself with the product.

A consultant, on the other hand, is expected to have accumulated the necessary experience; it’s a role that is suited more to experienced people compared to those who are younger and inexperienced.

In your new job, you are one of the younger team members whereas in your former roles, you were one of the older ones. Has this been a difficult transition?

Previously, I led and trained my own young team. Now I’m with a multinational, and I’m the youngest in the team. This gives me room to grow and learn. It is also a bit of a relief not to be responsible for leading a team but to be part of one, led by an experienced manager.

Many of the staff have children in their mid to late teens whereas my previous colleagues were in their early twenties. This makes for a different company culture and a fresh perspective.

What are you doing to stay relevant in the work force?

I’m studying or an MBA in Business Administration while working full-time — a personal choice as I work towards setting up my own business consultancy in my mid-50s. It’s a long-term plan for me.

It’s important to continually keep your skills and knowledge up to date. On my MBA course, we learn about industry leaders that have fallen off the grid because they were unable to change with the times. This applies to individuals as well — you have to keep improving yourself to stay ahead.

How do you feel 40+ PMETs can make sure they don’t get left behind?

It’s important to continually keep your skills and knowledge up to date. On my MBA course, we learn about industry leaders that have fallen off the grid because they were unable to change with the times. This applies to individuals as well — you have to keep improving yourself to stay ahead.

Do you feel that PMETs should be constantly studying to grow their career?

I have always enjoyed learning. However, coming from an SME background, I was always told that it’s experience that matters. Now that I am in a multinational, I have noticed that most in management in this company have MBAs, so I think it does makes a difference for career growth.

That said, I’m not sure if paper qualifications are as relevant as having an openness to continuously learn. Some of those on my MBA course are not as interested in the studying as they are in receiving the qualification. Studying while working full-time is a challenging commitment requiring a lot of time, money and effort. This is even more so for working adults with children.

What are your tips to stay relevant in your career as you head towards your 40?s

  1. Stay abreast of relevant news, especially what’s happening in your industry.
  2. Follow interesting technology trends — crowdsourcing sites such as kickstarter are an easy and fun way to monitor these.
  3. Be forward-looking and creative in your job, so you don’t stagnate.
  4. Don’t be intimidated if you don’t have the knowledge, many new tech trends are quite easy to pick up.

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