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Industry Insights

There's life after a layoff when you're over 50. Here's how I did it

By ,
Edward Caldwell.
Edward Caldwell.

I'm a “public relations director” at PwC, but that says very little about what I actually do. Or the background I bring to the table.

I make my mark building relationships and demystifying complicated topics so people can tell their stories and others can understand them. The expertise I employ at PwC is more than 25 years in the making.

It's how I got this job.

It's how I survived a layoff after the age of 50.

And you can do it, too.

My previous career is a story like many in the world of journalism: I worked my way up the ranks, had great jobs and amazing experiences. I was an executive producer at Bloomberg Television and a senior producer at CNBC before that. I created financial television programs and worked with anchors and reporters to make them better at presenting their stories and shows. I had a tremendous camaraderie with like-minded and driven individuals focused on telling great stories.

Of course, I did all of this in a business that has been going through upheaval. While the media universe seems to be ever-expanding on the internet, it is actually shrinking when it comes to actual, long-term careers. After several decades of service, it was clear I’d be part of a reduction. For me, waiting out the inevitable was much worse than when the “buyout” offer actually came. Being able to face the future was liberating.

I won’t say it wasn’t hard. And I wasn’t alone.

Following the financial meltdown, a number of other colleagues went out the door with me. Around the same time, acquaintances from across the industry faced the same fate. This was 2010, and the industry was getting splintered both by economics and changing technology.

We each confronted the layoffs in our own way. No question it’s a highly emotional time that forces you, like it or not, to question your path and even your professional value. But from the moment I left the building, I resolved that this was going to be the best thing that ever happened in my career.

There I was at 52, and for the first time since going off to college this was an opportunity to take a step back, to look around, to evaluate, and ask myself, “What do you really want to do?” My career decision had been made by a 19 year old. Was he right?

With all of my experience and all the hard work I’d put forward over all that time, how did I want to leverage that for my future? I accepted that changing direction was probably not the easiest choice here but the prospect of new challenges was exhilarating. I wanted to move ahead and move on. I could see that the reward in testing myself.

I started by using my business reporting experience and working for three years in wealth management. With that under my belt, I shifted to focusing more on the public relations aspects of the financial sector. Two years ago this summer, I joined PwC in the role I’m in today.

And here’s what struck me: It wasn’t so much about changing careers, but re-inventing myself.

It’s surprising how much the skills employed telling stories in newsrooms over the years are applicable to the business environment of today. In many ways, I’ve just traded one newsroom for another. As I work today helping PwC partners and other executives tell the stories of their products and services, it’s very similar to working with the anchors and correspondents from my previous career. In the end, it’s about telling stories in accessible ways and working in a collaborative environment, building relationships and making connections.

Within PwC, I’ve found a community of highly talented individuals ready to share and learn. I work with a number of people where we have a dual-direction-mentor relationship. I’m pretty adept at social media but not a resident expert, so I will turn to my junior colleagues for some of the intricacies. And I’d like to think I’ve become a valuable mentoring resource for those same junior colleagues, as they figure out how to balance work and life and adjust and thrive within a corporate work environment. We all learn from each other.

And we’re all there for each other: When the company realized my son was acting in an off-Broadway play, a group was organized to attend, all gathering for dinner beforehand. It was remarkable.

Today, I am the sum total of my experiences and expertise as applied. I wake each day excited about the challenges my work offers me, the contributions I can make, and validated for my choices since reinventing my career.

While most people refer to themselves professionally as a noun, I like to describe myself as a verb. An action more than a thing. Execution over title. For my part, when it comes to PwC, I’m a verb probably combined with an adverb for emphasis. I love helping my colleagues tell stories about what we do here. And while I’m much further from the broadcast newsroom than I thought I’d ever be, my career at PwC is rewarding in as much as what I contribute as I get in return.

Edward Caldwell is a public relations director at PwC. In a previous work lifetime, he was a producer at both Bloomberg Television and CNBC.

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