I was reading an article in The Huffington Post this morning. Minus possible issues in the eurozone and the antics in Washington, D.C., we appear to be headed to even lower unemployment. It's been a long slog. It's far from over, but it looks like we're headed in the right direction.
But here's what I also took from the news. As the employment picture begins looks brighter, those that are looking for work may become less desperate to find anything and could become more selective, more inclined to find what's right for them. This is particularly true for people who are in their 50s. Our group may find this is the time to pursue a new professional passion.
I had worked for ABC News since 1981. In 2010, a number of us received buyout offers. The news business is changing. Technology is letting people do more with less -- mainly lighter, easier-to-use equipment. As a result, there's been a lot of downsizing. Most found work in TV elsewhere. Some lucked out with full-time jobs, but mostly, it was freelance. Then there were the ones that used the buyout as an opportunity to do something different.
Two examples that come to mind are my friends Bob Hurley, who went from being a video editor and supervisor to being a voice actor, and Bill Hatch, a video operator at ABC who has become a winemaker.
As a child, Bob Hurley was asked by his guidance counselor what he wanted to do. He said he wanted to be an actor. The counselor, surprised by the non-traditional career choice, responded with, "Why don't you be a fireman or policeman?" From that moment, Bob recalls, he stopped pursuing acting. Bob worked behind the camera for decades. When the cut backs started, Bob realized the same technology that made it easier for ABC to downsize also made it easier for Bob to become a voice actor. He's able to work anywhere in the world from his home. He has also taken up stage and film acting. In Bob's case, he just took a little detour to get back.
Bill Hatch was raised on his family's farm, which specialized in dairy. As time went on, the profit started to shrink as the land value increased and taxes went up on the land. The farm is located in Leesburg, Virginia, outside of Washington, D.C. All this time, Bill and his brothers and sisters were working in other satisfying careers, but Bill never lost his love of the family farm. In the mid 1990's, he started to experiment with growing grapes. He realized not only did it work, it could keep the farm viable. Zephaniah Winery was born and with it, a new career.
I've found that people who "start over" are often just returning to an old professional passion. Something that, for whatever reason, had to be put on hold. Like Larry Owensel, who always wanted to be a dancer, but took a detour. Now in his 50s, he is back at it. There are so many stories like this -- whether going for a paying career or doing something for the better good.
In my own case, when I started at ABC in 1981, I thought I would be there for about a year and then move to Los Angeles and pursue a career as a filmmaker. Well, turns out I was at ABC for 29 years. ABC was always a great place to work, but moving on turned out to provide the career choice I had envisioned 29 years earlier. I wrote, directed and edited my first comedy feature, The Nextnik. It's all about reinvention after 50. Surprise! The Nextnik is a film about a55-year-old company executive suddenly laid off from his job of twenty-five years. With the help of a free spirited buddy from his past, lead character Larry navigates new career choices and relationship complications in his search for a second chapter in life. In the process a trail of humorous and at times touching moments unfold in his path. The Nextnik has been shown at festivals. It's received well and resonates with the 50-plus crowd. The best part is after the film shows and I'm introduced as the filmmaker. In the words of Lennon/McCartney, I'm back to where I once belonged.