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Plan now.  The future will arrive sooner than you think.

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That was an advertising tagline from some nameless financial services company hawking some retirement/investment product in the 1960s.

The thought could just as easily apply to your career.  The future — your maturity in terms of your waistline, body fat, hair color and ‘coverage’ and level of energy – are metaphors for the light of an oncoming train.

At age 25, or even 35, we don’t think much about how we will look at age 55, 65 or 70.  For most of us, our minds do not work that way.  It is analogous to the fact that when we marry the vast majority of us do not think about how our spouses will look in our senior years.  We love, so it does not matter much.  But for people who plan to work past today’s retirement age of 65, which probably will increase to 66, 68 or even 70, physical appearance, mental alertness and perceived level of energy do matter.

Just as smart people map their strategy to achieve career goals, including the jobs they would like to do, so, too, must we think seriously about another critically important element of our professional brand, how we look, how we present.

Your skills, your depth of experience are important, but when you are sitting across from some 40-something hiring executive, don’t regret that you didn’t think about this aspect of career planning. 

© 2013 John Gregory Self