What was your career plan when you were graduating from college? You probably didn't leave college equipped with the skills to make a career change midlife. So if you're considering a second career, a career change at 50 or a career change at 60, our guest today has valuable information you'll want to hear. If you have family members, colleagues, or neighbors who ask you for career advice, you'll find this conversation very helpful.
Mark Herschberg is the author of The Career Toolkit, Essential Skills for Success That No One Taught You. From tracking criminals and terrorists on the dark web to creating marketplaces and new authentication systems, Mark has spent his career launching and developing new ventures at startups and Fortune 500s and in academia. He helped to start the Undergraduate Practice Opportunities Program, dubbed MIT's "career success accelerator," where he teaches annually. At MIT, he received a B.S. in physics, a B.S. in electrical engineering & computer science, and a M.Eng. in electrical engineering & computer science, focusing on cryptography. At Harvard Business School, Mark helped create a platform used to teach finance at prominent business schools. He also works with many non-profits, including Techie Youth and Plant A Million Corals. He was one of the top-ranked ballroom dancers in the country and now lives in New York City, where he is known for his social gatherings, including his annual Halloween party, as well as his diverse cufflink collection.
On Career Changes Midlife
"This is my third recession and I'm only mid-career. So I, I very much see and understand what they're going through. In fact, during the great recession, I helped teach at a program sponsored by New York's Economic Development Council, in which we were taking people who lost not simply their job, but their career. Their entire career was getting displaced and not coming back post-recession. And New York said to us: We can't have them sitting on the sidelines. These are capable people. How do we get them back to work? We looked at where the jobs were being created and the nature of those jobs, typically the people being displaced were coming from large corporations. So certainly coming out of 2008, 2009, lots of financial services, lots of big companies where you had multiple layers of bureaucracy. The jobs being created were in tiny companies in startups, in companies, less than 50 people, sometimes less than 20 people. The biggest change was trying to get people to see those jobs and feel comfortable in those jobs. It wasn't so much a domain skill challenge. It's not that. If you've been at big corporations, your whole life, look at these small companies and then recognize that cultural difference.
So if you're in a big company of 30,000 people, you're used to having the pre-meeting to plan the meeting, to coordinate the meeting for the meeting to discuss something. So at six months later, decisions made when you're at these tiny 20 person startups, and you say, Hey, I have an idea. So you turn around in your chair and you're talking to the boss, who's sitting three feet from you in another chair because there are no offices here. And the boss says, okay, that sounds great. Well, that was the meeting. Those were the six months condensed to a six-minute conversation and understanding these cultural differences, how the businesses operate, that you can move fast and break things, which is very different from these big traditional corporations. That was the biggest challenge. And so to people who are saying, I need to find something different. It's not just the same job with a different company. Look at different types of companies and understand it's not just going to be the mechanics of the role, but understand the cultural differences.