In the past few months, I’ve been flooded with clients in their 50’s and 60’s who are taking a step back from whatever they’ve been doing for decades and saying, “What do I want to do with the next chapter of my career?” You’re coming to see me for a variety of reasons—some of you have been laid off, others are going back to work after raising a family, and others have hit a natural crossroad. As a “Chapter Two” Worker, you come from all industries and economic circumstances, but share some striking commonalities that go well beyond the question of how to get a job after 50. Understanding these commonalities helps you express the added value you bring to the table that your younger, less experienced colleagues have yet to develop.
There is a sense of sheer joy in Chapter Two Workers. You’re in a phase of integration, synthesizing several decades of experience into the jobs you’re doing today. This means that you’re able to draw on your past successes and failures to identify problems, generate solutions, and mentor your colleagues. Done well, this builds capabilities and depth in an organization. Many Chapter Two workers simply love this role and are able to play it without the awful “But I’ve always done it this way” mantra. Nope—you’re energized and ready to keep learning while offering coaching and guidance along the way. It’s a cool dynamic and can certainly benefit workplaces everywhere.
Chapter Two Workers have refreshing priorities. Without exception, as clients you’re looking for the opportunity to do something that you’ve always wanted to do. Many of you were caught up—for years—in money making ventures that dominated your attention during the financially rewarding years that preceded the Great Recession. Many have used the impact of the recent economic downturn to realize that you had inadvertently taken roles that weren’t fulfilling. Some need to make small tweaks such as moving from a large corporation into something smaller where you have more impact, potentially taking a pay cut but gaining flexibility or an improved culture. Others want to make major career shifts such as going back to school to re-train for a second career as a pastor, nurse, or pilot. Regardless of the level of change, the priorities behind these career shifts typically come after a period of serious consideration of what really matters. If you can clearly identify your priorities, you can filter your opportunities to make sure they line up—otherwise you’ll find yourself right back where you were before.
Chapter Two Workers often struggle with Millennials and this is a real challenge because frequently you two sit side-by-side. The ability to create strong relationships with your colleagues is extremely important in organizations where the number of Millennials will steadily increase over the next decade. I hear it from almost every one of you that I see and, I’ll admit, I struggle with this dynamic myself. Both Chapter Two Workers and Millennials have generated stereotypes that probably don’t help, so I’ll resist advancing those stereotypes here. The best solution to these challenges is figuring out how to successfully work with Millennials—if you can crack their “code” you can really add value to your organization.
Today’s workforce arrangements can be ideal for certain Chapter Two Workers. Many of you are dealing with very ill parents and boomerang children, so flexibility is often very important to you. Consider consulting arrangements, short-term projects, remote workforces, and use technology to make it possible for you to contribute in meaningful ways while still attending to personal responsibilities. Being able to work while you’re dealing with difficult family situations is a huge relief and your gratefulness for out-of-the-box opportunities will be appreciated.
Although the weeks and months leading up to a career change are often very tumultuous, once you’re on a new path, you’ll face your Chapter Two career with energy, commitment, and enthusiasm. If you can clearly communicate how you’ll add value to an organization, opportunities will present themselves in ways you probably never imagined. Brace yourself—your next great adventure is around the corner!
This blog is written in support of Job Action Day 2015.
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