When I left a career in academia to pursue humor writing, there were plenty of outspoken and silent skeptics questioning my motives. Why would a 40-something woman with a Ph.D. (and a clinical psychologist at that) walk away from a steady paycheck? What kind of woman, after years of training and building a résumé in science, would shift gears and pursue a future in comedy? The answers were simple. I had a burning desire to accomplish something different. I had family support to help me through the transition. And I wasn't getting any younger.
Decades ago, our stability was judged by a consistent employment history. Those who stayed the longest were deemed competent and valuable. I was able to dodge that belief, but it wasn't easy. Thankfully, today's corporate mindset acknowledges that shifts can reflect positively on employees. Now with over a decade of creativity under my belt, I've come to learn that, for some people, a rich life is based on more than one career. It doesn't mean that we can't make up our minds, it's just that we are intrigued by one more avenue. But shifting gears isn't always easy. The change can be financially, psychologically, and socially risky. So, what should you do as you prepare for a second or third act? Below are six tips to help you maximize success.
Do your research.
Second acts can be hugely rewarding, but don't jump in without doing your homework. Read everything you can get your hands on. Quiz insiders. Observe. Take notes. Consider an internship because what looks intriguing from the sidelines may be unappealing when you get in the trenches. The best way to determine your dream job is to get up close and personal with a related opportunity. Consider shadowing someone in the field. PS: Internships aren't just for 20-somethings anymore. Opportunities for baby boomers have been on the rise. Check out Internsush.com for a fascinating glimpse into the world of internships.
Analyze the numbers.
Don't ditch your day job before you look at the bottom line. Career happiness is important, but the stress of financial problems can also undermine your quality of life and that of other family members. Examine the pros and cons and the cost of your new career (e.g., expenses, training). Don't forget hidden costs such as potential relationship stress, time away from home, and decreased flexibility.
Rally your social support network.
Surround yourself with those who value your happiness. Rally the troops and make sure they include those who understand your vision but aren't afraid to give you an honest opinion. Ignore mean people. They seem to pop up a lot when you're enjoying a new adventure. Recognize that some people aren't comfortable watching others pursue their dreams and find success, so they weigh in with negative comments. Move forward and don't lose momentum worrying about them.
Create your own unique brand.
Second acts may mean you're getting into the game a little later, but those first acts have given us an arsenal of skills that make us valuable players. I used to sometimes wonder what life would have been like if I had done my second act first. Would I have been more successful if I had started earlier and not had the first career? I now believe that there are pieces in every career experience that make us stronger for the next choice and make us stand out from the competition. When I do stand-up, there are traces of a past that included endless hours of lecturing to large audiences (no stage fright or microphone phobias). And my writing and interviews, like my psychology research in the past, always involve precision, sensitivity, and take away messages.
Some of my biggest breaks have come from people under the age of 30. Get over the fact that your boss is the same age as your daughter. We all have the ability to mentor. The more we work together toward a common goal, the more quickly everyone recognizes that age really is just a number.
Work better and faster than everyone else.
There's plenty of talent in the world and many who would love to be where you are or where you hope to be. Work better and faster than everyone else and you'll likely see success happen. And it, like you, will be fabulous.
Several larger corporations such as Starbucks, Target and Land's End are able to offer even their part-time employees benefits such as health coverage and paid vacation time (head over to ABC for a full list).
For those with an entrepreneurial spirit and computer know-how, the Internet offers opportunities to bring in some cash from home -- at any hour of the day or night. Take Jose and Jill Ferrer, a retired couple profiled by AARP for supplementing a freewheeling retirement with their website, Your RV Lifestyle. By highlighting certain products related to RV living, the pair earns $700 a month, AARP reports. "And we know the potential is there to grow our website business further," Jill Ferrer says. Other ideas: Etsy.com allows the crafty to turn a profit from their hobbies.
Personal care and home health aid topped the Bureau of Labor Statistics' list of the fastest growing occupations in America. The time commitment may vary (between 10 and 30 hours per week, according to SmartMoney), but the median annual wage is around $20,000 for both occupations, according to the BLS.
Bartending is not just for twentysomethings -- and for social butterflies, this part-time gig offers opportunity to rake in extra cash, not to mention tips, with a minimal initial financial investment (a 40-hour certification course at the New York City Bartending School costs a little less than $600, for example).
Age discrimination is less of a problem in government agencies, reports The Fiscal Times. In fact, agencies such as the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Transportation Security Administration actively seek older workers. Visit USAJobs.gov to search for available positions.
If you've got an artistic flair or an interest in theater, makeup artists can make up to $40 an hour, and only work 20 hours a week on average, AOL Jobs reports. Disclaimer: qualifications may include formal training in cosmetology or theater, and a license is required to practice in several states.
What better way to scratch that globetrotting itch? If you're up for an on-the-go lifestyle, flight attendants also earn up to $40 an hour, making it a very well-paid part-time job.
The nonprofit sector can offer more than volunteer opportunities for retirees, and may be particularly appealing to those who "thought they wanted to change the world ... [but] put that on the back burner for 20 or 30 years while they climbed the corporate ladder," as Tamara Erickson, author of "Retire Retirement: Career Strategies for the Boomer Generation," told The Wall Street Journal. To get started, Idealist.org offers listings for available paid positions in addition to volunteer opportunities: applicants with years of experience under their belts are sure to be met with open arms. Even cooler, Encore.org offers paid Encore Fellowships to "match skilled, experienced professionals at the end of their midlife careers with social-purpose organizations" -- while earning a small stipend for part- or full-time work, midlifers can get their foot in the door to a fulfilling retirement job.
The pay may not be great, but if you're an arts lover, a history buff or a sports enthusiast, the perks certainly are!
"I studied hypnotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy 3 years ago and now I have my own business, couldn't be happier" -- Huff/Post50 reader Lee Adley It's certainly a challenge, but as our amazing readers -- and the many men and women featured on our page -- can attest, going back to school and pursuing something totally different can be well worth the investment of time, money and energy.
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