Louis Business Journal
Many people are starting new careers after age fifty
By Anna Navarro
- Retirement used to be the end of the career road. But not
Today many would-be retirees are
using retirement as a launching pad for new careers that allow
them to do what they really want, sometimes for the first
time in their work lives.
Americans have added 20-30 years
in life expectancy over prior generations. For many who are
in good health, this represents a "second middle age", a time
when they still have abundant energy and ambition.
many mentally and physically active people in their 50's and
60's are burned out on their first careers. Some never found
work they enjoyed, but disciplined themselves to stay with
what they were doing because of the needs of their growing
families. Others enjoyed their work, but stayed in careers
past the time when their enthusiasm waned.
Freed of pragmatic considerations
like getting their kids through college and gathering their
nest egg for retirement, they are poised for change. They
are seeking new careers as well as new lifestyles.
While these "second middle lifers"
often need to do something dramatically different, they will
sometimes pick up on an aspect of their work or hobbies that
has lain dormant for years. The new career is frequently more
"from the heart" than their prior work. It frequently contains
elements of passion or service to humanity that were missing
(and yearned for) in their earlier work.
A high-ranking executive in a Fortune
50 company had been coaching people informally for years.
It was the part of her job she loved the most. She went into
training to become a career strategist while still working
in the corporate world. Then she "retired" and in 1996 opened
the first Work Transitions office in Chicago.
Besides making a dramatic change
in career, she also made some lifestyle changes. She bought
a three-acre farm with a stable and rides her horse in a nearby
forest preserve often. She also is deeply involved with several
charities and church activities.
Her story reflects another major
trend I have observed in 50-60 year old career changers: Very
frequently they start their own businesses. If this is the
path they pursue, we work with them to insure these new businesses
don't present a risk to their hard won nest eggs.
Some people in this group opt for
work that draws heavily on their prior experience and knowledge
of an industry or professional field, but gets them out of
the grind they were in earlier.
A physician who had extensive experience
with organizational change and is an excellent public speaker
became the vice president of a medical consulting firm, advising
hospitals on change management.
His job is to close the sale on
consulting contracts, then do the keynote address when new
projects are launched. He works three days a week on average
- and spends the other four at his new home in Florida, indulging
his passion for golf. He's made good use of his extensive
medical experience - but moved away totally from daily patient
These are not isolated instances
of super-energetic individuals who are highly unusual for
their generation. A recent Louis Harris poll revealed that
80% of those approaching retirement hope to work after they
pass that milestone.
I strongly recommend that anyone
wanting to make these kind of changes start planning well
in advance. The career and lifestyle evolution can take several
years to think through and turn into reality. And long term
financial planning is critical.
The first step in the career/lifestyle
transition is to identify elements an individual wants in
an ideal work situation, including skills, working conditions,
passions, money, etc., as well as items like time for hobbies
or living in a warm climate. The second step is conceptualizing
solutions and reality testing them. And the third is implementing
the vision. This all requires time for reflection, sifting
alternatives and making choices.
It is one of the miracles of my
own work life to observe clients in this age group transform
themselves from bored, sometimes disenchanted individuals
to excited, focused human beings with a sense of purpose.
The change can lead to a spurt of late-life productivity and
work satisfaction that is the envy of many a younger person!
is the founder of Work Transitions, a nationwide career consulting
firm that trains independent career strategists and consults
with individual clients.
was originally published by the St. Louis Business Journal.
The actual title of the column and date in which it appeared
in the Business Journal may be slightly different from what
appears on WorkTransitions.com.