For those of us over 50, that new dance is Entrepreneurship; and it's a dicey new dance for us if we've spent most of our careers in the predictable, stable and familiar corporate environment. Even if we have attained senior management ranks, the prospect of taking a chance on our own venture, depending entirely on ourselves, and forging into unknown territory is uncomfortable at best.
Encore.org is preparing to honor social entrepreneurs over 60 at next week's Encore Conference. Through recognizing these Boomer pioneers, I believe we will begin to define a better sense of what our generation is capable of in the coming decades, and, most importantly, to better persuade the rest of society just how important our continued leadership is going to be for everyone's collective future.
There are usually two inspirations for great inventions: 1) The Epiphany, where a brilliant idea appears seemingly out of nowhere in our consciousness (and if we're smart, we'll write it down and figure out a way to make it happen), or 2) The Inspiration, where we meet or listen to someone, or witness an event that fires us up sufficiently that we just can't get the idea out of our minds.
Everyone we know is going to give us advice and tell us what they think we should do, and what will be right for us. As tempting as it is to take the advice, it will likely completely screw us up. Dare to look the gift horses in the mouth: their well-intentioned sympathy may also mask their own fears that they are themselves only one step away from our scary situation.
Career reinventions in and past mid-life are successful when they reflect authentic passions, commitments, concerns and issues. At this point in our lives and careers, we need to acknowledge who we are, what we're good at, and what kind of legacy we want to leave. But this does not mean that we have to necessarily turn our backs on our current careers.
Jim Milligan might well be considered the Howard Schultz of olive oil. Like Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, it was on his business trips to Europe, and Italy in particular, that Milligan became enraptured by the quality and variety of extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars, and the practice of offering customers the option of combining and tasting the products as both sales incentive and education. His career reinvention has been a successful pivot to that vision.
Most of the health focus of the boomer Generation is on how we're living longer. The assumption is that we are healthier, take better care of ourselves, and make healthier choices, including diet and exercise. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The health facts are actually not good for boomers.
Shifra Raz and Benny Rubinstein seem like just another happily retired couple living in Santa Monica, CA. Shifra was a teacher for much of her career, while Benny was trained as an engineer and worked as a project manager in the Southern California aerospace industry. Both Israeli immigrants to the U.S., they met and fell in love 17 years ago, on the heels of Shifra's divorce from her 31-year marriage.
For Boomers who have spent their career mostly in one or two jobs within the same industry, the prospect of flipping to a new career after so many years can be beyond daunting. It is inspiring when we discover Boomer compatriots who demonstrate that setting an intention, coupled with a sense of purpose, can make career reinvention a relatively smooth process.
Career reinvention is a messy business. It is usually not a one-step transition. Sometimes, it can take a few pivots to work out the kinks and make the necessary mistakes to find one's true calling. What we think we want to do, or should do, may not necessarily be the best thing for us to do, or the right thing for us to do.
When we think 'reinvention,' we tend to panic at the enormity of that prospect. Maybe we've been downsized from a job that we've held for a long time, or (less stressful) we realize it is time to move on and we know we need to find something else, or maybe our retirement savings won't be providing what we had hoped for, and we need to keep working.
Baby Boomers are often caught in a difficult bind. Many of us are still in the process of launching our kids out into the real world after high school or college, while also confronting the health care needs of our aging parents. Some of us not only rise to these challenges, but go a few steps further to turn our experience into an opportunity to help others.