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Capstone Contributions
April 24, 2015

Welcome to Business Leadership

33 1/3 To Go©

If you know the reference to 33 1/3 rpm records, you are probably there yourself—the ”third third” of your career. There are a lot of labels for those of us who are there: mature, experienced, seasoned, veteran, and senior. None of those labels seems satisfying as we sort through trying to find a descriptor that fits properly but doesn’t carry the musty scent of age.

We know we are much more than those wishy-washy, discrimination-avoiding labels. In the “third third” of our careers we can contribute to the fullness of our strengths. The question each of us must answer is, “How do I make that happen?”

If you are one of the fortunate folks who have alignment with your strengths, your current career and enjoyment, please share the story of what you did to create that alignment. Our stories help others. Many people are successful in creating fulfilling capstones to their careers. Often this entails giving back through mentorship, serving one’s professional community or teaching.

If you are in transition by choice or by chance with 33 1/3 to go, recreating alignment may have its challenges. Colleagues in transition have shared the following frustrations:



  • “I’m tired of auditioning. My career should speak for itself. I’ve already proven myself.”
  • “These strengths you’re talking about are easy for me. How could something that easy be a selling point for an employer?”
  • “Yes, I’ve got strengths to offer but I’m looking for a new expression. Doing the same old thing, even when I do it well, just doesn’t have the same joy.”
  • “It’s just who I am. I don’t see what I’ve accomplished as all that special.”
Moving forward again and creating the career alignment that makes you happy may take some effort. Three tips that may help you are:

1. Go back to the basics
2. Be specific
3. Reframe your internal conversation

Go Back to Basics

Marcus Buckingham noted that people are rarely good at talking about their strengths but those who have taken a strengths instrument do a better job of it. If you haven’t taken a strengths assessment, it’s a good idea. Strengths instruments give you language to express your strengths for yourself and to others.

Whether you are seeking a job or starting a business, communicating what you have to offer is critical. When starting a business, exploring strengths may help give form to not only the type of business you start but also to the specific way that structure and run it.

Be Specific

Assessments are only part of the answer. Take each strength and write out specifically how that strength expresses itself in your career. For example, if one of your strengths is communication, answer the following:

  • “To whom do I enjoy communicating? Who are my preferred audiences?
  • “Under what circumstances do I enjoy communicating?
  • “What content do I love to communicate?
  • “What purpose drives what I love communicating?
  • “What have been the results others experience because I communicated?


If you are looking for a position, these specifics will help you communicate your contributions to hiring managers. Likewise, potential clients will more clearly understand what is special about your business. For people in a business who have lost their enthusiasm for the work, these specifics may give you the information you need to re-align and negotiate or voluntarily take on more work that gives you joy.

Reframe the Internal Conversation

Yes, it is frustrating to be one of two finalists for a position and not be chosen—again and again and possibly again. You might be told you have too much experience or you’re overqualified. If you are marketing your own business, you might be put off by potential clients who treat you like just another pesky vendor.

When that happens, and it will, think through your internal messages. If you’ve been telling yourself that you’re tired of auditioning, then that frustration may leak into your conversations with hiring managers or potential clients. Stop and reframe.

  • “Auditions mean I’ve been invited to show my strengths. Hooray for auditions!”
  • “This audience doesn’t know me. If I tell them strong stories of past contributions, they will know what I can bring.”
  • “This is like customer service. I may have answered these interview questions five times today but this is the first time this person has asked.”


If your internal perspective is strong and positive, it will shine through.

While many of these ideas are good for anyone, our legacy becomes increasingly important with 33 1/3 to go. We feel more urgency to do the good work we were meant to do, whether it is the work we are currently doing or a new contribution. We can do amazing things when we finish strong.

Clare Novak Certified Coach

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