Category Archives: 50+ Careers

Second Annual Positive Aging Conference

Here’s some very good news. Positive aging — a discipline that focuses on mature creativity, adult development, lifelong learning, and the opportunities available to older people — is fast becoming a movement, with its own conferences, speakers, books, and experts. Last year, the first Positive Aging Conference was held at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, FL, and drew over 200 professionals in the field of aging. This year, we got word from author Richard Leider (his Something to Live For: Finding Your Way in the Second Half of Life is just out), one of the conference organizers and speakers, that the second annual Positive Aging Conference will welcome both professionals and members of the public.

You might want to take advantage of ithis important shift if you live in or near Minneapolis where the conference is being held, November 12, at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Spirituality and Healing. For those of you not in the area, check with the organizers about simulcasts that will be taking place around the country at various host sites. For information about a simulcast in South Florida, contact me: and/or watch this space for more information as plans firm up.

Prune That Resume!

One of advantages of being an older worker (lots of experience), can also play havoc with a resume, especially in a field that typically skews to younger people.  The good news: recruiters tend to prefer older workers over younger for their stability (average length of stay for younger worker is 26 months).  Here are a few tips from an IT specialist on how to create a resume that brings out your best for the job you’re after in any field.  

  • Prune that resume down to the essentials!  If you’re 50 or better, it probably reads more like a book than a document designed to get you that interview.  You’re likely competing with younger folks, so let the points be crisp and compelling.      
  •  Focus on 3-4 core skills that are directly relevant to the job you’re seeking.  Think of your resume as a work in progress and be prepared to customize it quickly.  Obvious point: check grammar and proof for typos every time you change and reprint it.
  • Skip any certifications, expertise or accomplishments that ‘date’ you.  After you get a feel for the work at hand, you can always bring them up during the interview. 
  • Smartest tip we’ve seen anywhere: ask people in the field you’re interested in to critique your resume.  They’re much more likely to see the red flags that could mean your resume winds up in the trash.   
  • Be confident.  The workplace is changing in your favor.  According to AARP, by 2012 almost 20 percent of the U.S. work force will be 44 or over. Americans are predicted to work longer than ever before. There were 5.5 million people 65 and older in the labor force in 2006, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, a number which is projected to reach 10.1 million by 2016.
Read more:


Paradigm Shift?

You know something is changing in the culture when you start to see full page ads with words and images that deliver a new message. When I was contemplating a next career as a yoga instructor 10 years ago, it still seemed a rather esoteric, out there endeavor. Today, Yoga Journal is fat with advertising for retreats, schools, yoga products of every description. Moreover, images of toned people striking yoga poses or sitting in smiling meditation are commonplace in mainstream media.

With this in mind, I have to mention a full page ad that appeared in PLAY, a magazine section of last Sunday’s New York Times, that is emblematic of the zeitgeist as regards older people and the choice of meaningful second acts. The ad is for a new partnership between the Times and, the career site. The headline copy is: FIND A JOB YOU’D DO FOR FREE…THEN LET THEM PAY YOU. “When you do what you love to do,” continues the body text, “it’s not really work at all. Now you can find the job you love, when you love to live. Your calling is calling — find it at” Good enough (and I love the idea of a job one loves), but the image should resonate with all of us 50 and beyond. It shows a mature male face, a hand holding a piece of chalk at a blackboard, the suggestion of a classroom. A teacher who loves his job?

As it happens, teaching is, like nursing and nurse-training, a profession where there are more jobs than people to fill them. These are also jobs where maturity and life experience give one an unusual advantage, and where we can exercise the ‘give back’ desire than grows stronger as we pass midlife and begin seeking our life’s work. Our calling, which we may have ignored to attend to the business of building a career and family, calls more loudly and clearly. How each of us answers can shape the rest of our lives. If enough of us in later life choose work that makes a positive impact on society, we can shift the paradigm*.

*Once used only in the scientific context, “paradigm shift” has found uses in other contexts, representing the notion of a major change in a certain thought-pattern — a radical change in personal beliefs, complex systems or organizations, replacing the former way of thinking or organizing with a radically different way of thinking or organizing (Source: Wikipedia)

One Thing Leads to Another

I was walking with my friend and yoga student, Mary, up from the beach after finishing a class and she said she had been thinking more about how one thing leads to another, and whether that might be a good topic for the Small Group Ministry at the Unitarian congregation we both belong to.

We agreed that it was. It was also too intriguing a statement not to pursue, so I asked her to describe what she meant. And she told me, in brief, how she found her life-long passion because when she graduated from college, she went out knocking on doors looking for a job and found herself at the Library of Congress where they were looking for someone to work with the blind. All she wanted was a job, and it turned out to be a job that led to other jobs, in Beirut where she later lived, and then in Geneva, one thing leading to another, and in the process she found the work she was meant to do.

Why does this resonate with me? 2young2retire, the mom-and-pop I founded with my husband, Howard, ten years ago, helps people at midlife and beyond transition from work they did for a living, to work they do for love (and sometimes for money). Our book (Too Young to Retire: 101 Ways to Start the Rest of Your Life) and course on which it is based, use provocative questions to get at what really matters to people, where they feel they could make a contribution — a different motivation from making the mortgage payment — and then how to proceed to find that next work. This work, usually found in one’s late 50’s or 60, has been called a Next Chapter, a Second Act, an Encore career, but what characterizes this new work is that it feels like a calling, something you simply cannot resist doing.

Transition is never easy because we tend to be creatures of habit. And it’s good to have a plan, a goal, a sense of direction. But perhaps we’ve not given enough weight to the value of just getting started, taking that first step, as Mary did long ago, and then simply letting one thing lead to another. Because it most certainly will.

Staying On the Job: Open Dialogue Needed

All research on older workers indicates that a significant number will choose to become free agents of one sort or another, some swelling the ranks of entrepreneurs 50 and older. But many who are retirement-eligible would prefer to remain in their jobs, renegotiating terms of employment with their current employers. Phased retirement and consulting gigs are among the many options most sought after, if employees could find a way to broach the subject without jeopardizing their positions.

As it happens, the more enlightened companies are willing to listen (see A Longer Goodbye). These employers know that talent shortages are not going away any time soon. This means they are much more amenable to new ideas on how to retain valuable employees of a certain age. Sounds like a win-win, provided there is frank and open dialogue on the subject.  And a new bill before Congress now will certainly add some fuel to the discussion.

Regardless of which side of this question you find yourself, check out the Retention Connection, a collection of thoughtful articles on the subject from The Herman Group, “futurists specializing in workforce and worplace trends.” While you’re at it, you could sign up for the free Herman Trend Alerts, which arrives in my emailbox every week. There’s invariably a tip I find useful.

The Leisure Economy?

Now’s here a new wrinkle (you should pardon the expression). According Canadian economist, Linda Nazareth, leisure is the new, new thing that will shape the way we live (and work!) Here are eight trends — some self-evident, some whimsical — outlined in her new book: The Leisure Economy: How Changing Demographics, Economics, and Generational Attitudes Will Reshape Our Lives and Our Industries (Wiley 2007):

1. In the Workplace, It Will be Time to Welcome Back Fido

With more people looking for leisure or retiring early, companies are going to have to put up with more special requests from employees – like maybe to bring the odd dog, or cat or budgie into the office. Think the days of the boom.

2. Saying “I Was Here All Weekend” May Make You Seem Like a Loser Rather than a Hero

It’s very ‘baby-boomerish” to brag about working flat out all the time. Gen Y is into having a life; they’ll work, but they want their leisure too. (By the way, they know how to use technology so they know they don’t have to be in on the weekend anyway).

3. If You Don’t Know How to Knit, It Will be Time to Learn

Boomers have been too busy working to take up hobbies. When they retire, they are going to make leisure pastimes huge – even if they have to learn how to knit or rughook or how to play with model trains first (caveat: education will be the biggest growth industry, but it may not be traditional education).

4. Chopping Up Your Own Carrots May Seem Like a Reasonable Thing to Do

In the leisure economy, some people will be coping with lower incomes, so they will not want to pay for the convenience of pre-chopped vegetables or the like. And they’ll have more time to do the chopping. Keep an eye on the restaurant industry – it could be forced to adjust as more people cook.

5. People Will be Hitting the Road – and Not Just on the Long Weekends

More “leisurites” means more travel – but a different kind. The new leisure class will have lots of time, so can think in terms of seeing lots of different things, maybe over the course of a few months.

6. There’ll be Lots of Volunteers – But They Won’t Want to be Candy Stripers, Thanks Very Much

Boomers may be open to the idea of volunteering, but many will want to use the skills they developed when they were working in professional fields. Problem? The volunteer sector isn’t well set up to receive their talents, so they may lose them altogether. And keep an eye on Gen Y volunteers. They’ve spent years volunteering in school, and could be convinced to keep at it if organizations manage them well.

7. If You’re Looking for a Business to Start, Try a Moving Company

Boomers will be tapping into the value of their homes in the GTA and looking for cheaper places to live. They’ll pull up stakes at a quicker pace than their parents or grandparents. Gen X and Y may move too: they’ll want to try out telecommuting and they don’t have to be in big city-centres to do that.

8. Loitering Will be Encouraged

Or at least it will be by smart companies. If people don’t need to rush back to work, they’ll stay in stores longer, and smart ones will offer them comfortable spaces to hang out (Starbucks gets this), or things to do (talk to a nutritionist in a drug store or take a craft class at a craft store).

Interestingly, Nazareth’s book foreshadows the latest Metlife Mature Market Institute survey of leading edge boomers, which we found full of surprises. Boomers Ready to Launch finds that “Contrary to what most of us have believed about the baby boomers who came of age in the turbulent 1960s, the group is very much like the ‘Silent Generation’ that preceded them,” said Sandra Timmermann, Ed.D., director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute.

“Despite the social and political turbulence of their youth, these leading edge boomers have established very traditional lifestyle characteristics. They were married once, had two children and feel they’ve done a decent job of caring for their family, their community and themselves. They really are more like Ward and June Cleaver than we may have thought and they might be classified as ‘conventional.’ Just 2% say they attended the Woodstock Festival of 1969.”

“They’re comfortable being identified as a baby boomer, and contrary to claims that they’re not ready to retire, only 18% dislike the term ‘retirement’ to describe their next transition.”

Bottom Line: there isn’t one. Trend-spotting makes for interesting books and surveys. But as you know, and Peter Drucker famously said: The best way to predict the future is to create it.

The New Senior Moment

You know the comedy routine: a ‘senior citizen’ tears the house apart looking for his reading glasses only to find them, perched on top of his head. It’s been called a ‘senior moment,’ but it’s only funny if you find stereotypes about the aging brain humorous. Well, Gene Cohen, M.D., Ph.D., the first Director of the Center on Aging, Health & Humanities at George Washington University, has news for us on the other side of 50: it ain’t necessarily so. The brain is far more malleable than has been supposed.

In his back-to-back addresses to the Life Planning Network pre-conference and the First Annual Positive Aging Conference, held December 5-8 at Eckerd College, St. Petersburg, Florida, Dr. Cohen mixed cutting edge evidence about brain regeneration (there’s more to the line, use it or lose it than you might think) with flashes of wit. Creativity and practical intelligence actually increase with age, Cohen told some 200 professionals including life planners, life coaches, career counselors, social workers and psychotherapists — most of them 50 or better and eager to serve clients in the age cohort.

As an example of a new kind of ‘senior moment,’ he told a story about his own parents. Visiting Cohen and his wife one winter, the elder Cohens found themselves marooned in an unfamiliar part of the city by a snow storm, with nary a taxi in sight. The solution: they ordered a pizza ‘to go,’ and had themselves delivered to their son’s address with it.

“It’s not at all about denying the very real problems associated with aging,” Cohen said. “It’s all about not denying th very real potential associated with aging. Any program that doesn’t consider both [the problem and the potential], is not state of the art.”

The fact is, the brain — once thought to have all the neurons it could — can continue to regenerate and experience can actually have an impact on brain structure. We have, Cohen said, “a built-in inner push [which is] an evolutionary component of aging. Furthermore, it never leaves us.” Midlife can and should be more than a ‘crisis.’ For many it is a flowering of creativity coupled with a feisty sense of self that manifests in ‘second acts,’ ‘encore careers,’ and a strong desire to make a positive impact on society.

For more on the conference, visit Positive Aging Conference

Here’s a report that rebuts the notion that aging and disability go hand in hand.

Here’s how to keep your brain sharp so you can give ‘senior moment’ a whole new meaning.

The Purpose Prize

What if you offered a $100,000 prize for social entrepreneurs over the age of 60? Civic Ventures, a think tank and incubator based in San Francisco, was convinced that such a prize would draw out candidates by the thousands, proving its point that life after 60 is the time for an ‘encore‘ career aimed at societal good. It convinced two foundations to fund the prize and in 2005 began to seek nominations. The nonprofit organization was immediately innundated with nominations from which it selected 60 Fellows, 15 finalists and five winners of the first Purpose Prize. In 2005, Howard and I nominated Rick Koca, founder and leading light of StandUp for Kids which rescues homeless and street children, and he was chosen a Purpose Prize Fellow for 2006. In 2007, we were also chosen Fellows for co-founding 2young2retire, and a week ago, we attended the Purpose Prize summit in Palo Alto, CA. It is the kind of company that leaves you wondering: what am I doing here? Here are a few memories and people that standout for us in a memorable experience.

  • At the airport in San Francisco, we shared a van with Rick Koca of StandUp for Kids and Robert Chambers, 2006 Purpose Prize Winner and president of Bonnie CLAC, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help individuals purchase fuel efficient new cars at very low interest rates. The conversation spontaneously turned to succession issues, that is, whom we could envision carrying our work forward — a founder’s mixed blessing.

  • Life and death issues. Purpose Prize winner, Donald Berwick, MD., a pediatrician whose political-style 100,000 Lives Campaign seeks to improve hospital safety and save lives. Dr. Berwick’s goal is to help hospitals reduce unnecessary deaths by encouraging them to implement six specific, scientifically proven improvements in care, including those aimed at reducing medication errors and infections. In December 2006, his Institute for Healthcare Improvement expanded its goals to avoid five million incidents of medical harm. Nurses for Newborns Foundation, the brain-child of neo-natal nurse, Sharon Rohrbach, has proven to be a low-cost, high-impact way of reducing infant mortality, particularly in populations at high risk. In 2006, the program reached 5,300 children in 40 counties in Missouri and Tennessee. Frank and Peg Brady, who are 2006 Purpose Prize Winners, also direct their efforts toward sick children. Their Medical Missions for Children uses interactive video technology to allow pediatric specialists to remotely diagnose patients and recommend treatment.

  • We had breakfast and talked one morning with Richard Cherry, 2006 Purpose Prize Fellow and 2007 Winner, and creator of the Community Environmental Center, the first New York City nonprofit to focus exclusively on environmental issues of housing and development. Over the last decade, the former Wall Street attorney’s organization has saved low-income New Yorkers $20 million in energy costs, and reduced annual carbon dioxide emissions by 83,000 tons.

  • On another day, 2007 Winner Gary Maxworthy told us how he translated his three decades in the food distribution business and one year as a VISTA volunteer at the San Francisco Food Bank into a new service that brings non-market standard fresh produce to the poor. An expanded initiative called Farm to Family distributed 22 million pounds of produce to 40 California food banks. This year, their target is 34 million.

  • “How Might We?” It’s a deceptively simple question, but one that IDEO, an organization that applies design thinking to products, services, spaces and processes, to help its clients experience innovation directly, come up with new, better answers, and sometimes even change their culture. At our day-long session with IDEO, Howard worked on a team to help Jessica Holt of The Bauen Camp, Parkman, Wyoming, on strategies to scale up her project. They produced a template for a start-up kit. Marika’s team helped 2007 Winner, Adele Douglas, founder/executive director of Human Farm Animal Care, to devise a prototype of a brochure that supermarkets could hand out to customers. Work should always be that stimulating and fun!

  • Tolerance was a big subject among Fellows. Emira Habiby Browne combined her experiences as a Palenstinian immigrant and social service professional into the Center for Integration and Advancement of New Americans. The organization provides support and educational services for immigrants and refugees upon entry into the U.S. to help them gain economic independence and engage in civic life. Shakeela Hassan, a University of Chicago Professor Emeritus, is producing “The Sounds of Faith” a three-part series exploring the connections between the music of Judaism, Christianity and Islam for a national PBS broadcast. 2007 Winner, Phil Borges, is in his second encore career: using photography (his first encore, after leaving his orthodontic practice) to expand children’s worldview and cultural knowledge. Bridges to Understanding has involved 4,000 students in 30 countries. Nearly ten years ago, Richard and Shelli Steckel became photographers dedicated to chronicling the humanity shared by all people, with a special focus on children. Their Milestones Project has reached over 118 million people through exhibits mounted in airports, museums, restaurants, colleges, schools, at the United Nations and on the web.

  • Senior Civic Ventures Fellow and founder of Uplift Academy, Tom Munnecke inspired us with this question: What is the simplest thing I can do to create maximum benefit for humanity?

  • During a break, Marika took a walk toward the Stanford University chapel (our hotel was conveniently located right across the street from the campus), and stumbled on the Rodin sculpture garden and a work entitled, Stone River, by environmental artist, Andy Goldsworthy. If you don’t know his work, prepare to be stunned.

  • One week later, we met with fellow Fellow, Dennis Littky, a veteran, much-recognized educator with some ideas we would like to see implemented throughout the educational system. In 1996, he co-founded the Met Center High School in Providence, Rhode Island, a school designed to meet the personal educational needs of underserved urban students. All you have to do is talk with students — as we did — to know it is working. With the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Littky’s model has been embraced by 54 schools, all public schools with fewer than 150 students. A college matching up Prime Time mentors with students is in the works, which is something that got our attention. For more, see his Big Picture Company.Nominations for the Purpose Prize are open. Deadline is March 1. Join the Encore revolution!

Encore Careers

Marc Freedman is one of our heroes. In the midst of sound and fury about the boomers, his is a steady, reassuring voice of hope and reason. In his new book, Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life, Freedman wastes no time in painting two starkly contrasting visions of the future. In one, boomers — ‘greedy geezers’ — on an endless, subsidized vacation, have sabotaged the economy, tipping the nation into decline. In the other, ‘boomer labor power’ fueled by Encore Careers — what he calls ‘purpose-driven jobs’ — makes life more meaningful, fulfilling and financially sustainable, not only for boomers themselves, but for generations to come.

Freedman, 49, founder and ceo of Civic Ventures, a think tank and incubator dedicated to “generating ideas and inventing programs to achieve the greatest return on experience,” shies away from the emphasis on voluntarism that characterized his earlier book, Prime Time: How the Baby Boomers Will Revolutionize Retirement and Transform America. He believes that, given the right policy decisions and bold new initiatives to address the ‘experience dividend,’ millions of boomers will make a virtue of the necessity to generate an income later in life, and enter into a new phase of work that may be shorter in duration, but ‘weight more’ in impact.

What is needed, he writes, is a new social contract with older people that directs them not toward the outdated ‘freedom from work’ of an earlier generation and time, but ‘freedom to work.’ To illustrate, five ‘Encore Pioneers’ tell their stories and show what is possible when you don’t accept the status quo. Former car salesman, Robert Chambers, now provides low-interest loans and fuel-efficient cars to the rural pool in New Hampshire. After thirty years as a truant officer, Jacqueline Kahn began to train in her early fifties for her new career as a critical care nurse (see her featured in Time Magazine).

“In choosing work that is aimed at making a better world, these leading-edge baby boomers are challenging the definition of success for all Americans,” writes Marc Freedman. In the future he envisions, these examples of Encore Careers will be commonplace and the dire forecasts of those who saw inevitable social collapse caused by an aging society, will seem as absurd as Y2K.

Read this book and light your own fire. The Appendix, Your Encore, is packed with resources to help you find your way and keep the flame burning.  And there is an Encore website.  “The future is calling,” Freedman concludes. “What are we waiting for?”

Leaving Life to Chance? Don’t!

In her New York Times article, Training to be Old, Claudia Deutsch interviews experts on the subject of how well, or badly, many of us are preparing for a span of years roughly equivalent to those spent building family and career. Here’s a comment that is worth your attention: “With the first wave of baby boomers already in their 60s, gerontologists are bracing for a tsunami of disgruntled postretirees who have left the psychic and physical aspects of aging to chance.”

If this describes you, don’t panic. Help with transition is available, although given the numbers — 78 million baby boomers alone — we have a long way to go to meet the need. Programs are beginning to turn up at local JCCs, YM/Ws and other social services groups. Look for a Next Chapter group or Transition Network (for women 50+) in your area. A lot of authors are jumping on the later life advice bandwagon. That’s not a bad place to start your inquiry.

You can expect financial planners to continue to focus on what they are trained to do — help you to manage your tangible assets so they will last as long as you do. But many have begun to adopt and train for a more comprehensive approach, perhaps because clients are demanding it. In our neck of the woods, 2young2retire has already certified one financial planner to facilitate the 2young2retire course and another is currently enrolled in the training. Facilitator Training is open only to people who have professional credentials, e.g. life/career/transition coaches, career counselors, social workers.

The 2young2retire course itself is a good model for what is possible. It asks a six (or eight) week commitment from participants to inquire into the important issues we’ll all face in a longer life span: staying healthy, smarter money management, ‘encore’ careers, entrepreneurial opportunities, community service, and intelligent travel. You reflect, you explore, you plan, you write down your plans. Good things happen.

Hungry for a ‘purpose-driven job’ in the second half of life? The MetLife Foundation/Civic Ventures Community College Encore Career Grants of $25,000 are designed to encourage community colleges to develop programs that help boomers transition into encore careers in healthcare, education and the social services where the jobs are many and qualified people few. Do good. Do well.