This is Claire McCaskill's No. 1 piece of advice for career re-launchers

McCaskill knows about reinvention. The Democrat started a new career at age 65 as a political commentator after losing her bid to return to the Senate for a third term in 2018. Here's what she learned.
Know Your Value founder Mika Brzezinski and former Sen. Claire McCaskill on the set of "Morning Joe."
Know Your Value founder Mika Brzezinski and former Sen. Claire McCaskill on the set of "Morning Joe."Anthony Scutro

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By Ginny Brzezinski

Women who want to reinvent their career at midlife (or beyond!) have so much to offer. Yet oftentimes, they get in their own way.

“Don’t go at it with the attitude that ‘I’m not sure I can pull this off,’” former Missouri senator said on Wednesday’s “Morning Joe” when asked her best advice for women over 50 who are looking to restart their career. “You’ve got to have the attitude that ‘I have value.’”

She continued, “[You’ve got to] know your value and come in with a lot of confidence that what you have done, including your time away, has given you the perspective that you can be an incredible, valuable member of the team.”

McCaskill would know. The Democrat started a new career at age 65 as a political commentator on MSNBC after losing her bid to return to the Senate for a third term in 2018. It was a rough ending to a decades-long career in public service.

McCaskill told Mika Brzezinski and I in our new book, “Comeback Careers: Rethink, Reinvent Your Success — At 40, 50, and Beyond” that when her career suddenly ended election night, it was like she “was confronted by the abyss.” But, she said, there was no way she was retiring. Instead, she decided it was time to reinvent.

Her decades in politics had honed her speaking skills and her knowledge of the ins and outs of Washington D.C. Television presented a natural transition.

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No doubt, starting or reinventing a career at midlife is daunting, and you can find your insecurities bubbling up. Here are some additional tips, which we also talk about in “Comeback Careers,” if you’re thinking about a big change:

Get relevant. Relevancy trumps age every time.

Make sure your skills and knowledge are relevant. It does not matter how old you are or whether you’ve taken a career break if you are up to date on everything else.

Know where you need to upskill.

Surf LinkedIn for a few hours and check out profiles of those who are in jobs you might like to be in. You’ll get insight into where you might need to brush up. Then go take a free (or very cheap) online class. Try udemy.com or coursera.org.

Educate yourself!

Subscribe to industry email newsletters and stay up to date with industry news. Follow thought leaders on social media. Get conversant in your field. This will also build your confidence, and as iRelaunch’s Carol Fishman Cohen likes to say, this is the “antidote to ageism”.

Don’t be a troglodyte.

Be familiar with office productivity suites like Google’s G Suite or Microsoft 365 and learn project office management tools, like Slack, Basecamp, Teamwork and Hive. Remember, you can Google or YouTube anything.

As McCaskill told us in our book, "I feel an extraordinary pressure to always keep up with everything that’s going on, because I just don’t want to be another pretty old face.”

Own your story.

Don’t apologize for a career break, for a lay off or for your age. Remember, people now have multiple careers in their lives — this is not unusual. Zig zag or non-linear careers are common. Own yours!

That also means owning your value. Know what you excel at and don’t be afraid to talk about it. McCaskill, for example, knew she had the skills and knowledge to work in TV as a political expert.

“Once you own what you’re good at, then the only other step that’s left is for you to market yourself,” McCaskill told us in “Comeback Careers.”