Today, I spoke to Sam Greengard, who is a prolific journalist and author. We talk about how people can monetize their passion, evolve their brand over time and switch careers entirely. Don’t ever feel pigeonholed into one career, even if you are 50. There is always time to recover if you have a positive attitude and good ideas. One of the biggest messages you should take away from this interview is that the workplace is constantly changing, so you must stay relevant and not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.
What is recareering? Why is it important?
“At the most basic level, recareering encompasses reinvention and rediscovery in the pursuit of a new line of work.”
As children, we dream about career possibilities and opportunities without imposing any limits on ourselves. But as we grow older, practical realities begin to emerge–including the need to support ourselves and our families. Often, around middle age, we begin to reexamine our priorities and look for ways to bring greater meaning to our lives.
Changing careers is a way to breathe life into our dreams.
It is a way to adjust to our changing thinking and needs–especially as we live longer and work longer. For Boomers and other older workers, it is possible to combine life experience and passion in order to create new opportunities.
The benefits of recareering are substantial: society gains from people who are more energized by their work. In fact, many career changers want to make some kind of positive social impact and leave a legacy. There’s a huge shift toward working with non-profit organizations or firms that help achieve a personally or socially significant goal. Yet, regardless of the motivation, individuals who partake in recareering gain in many ways, including personal growth, a wider and more interesting social circle, and new financial rewards.
What are the differences between how generations tackle work? What advantages and disadvantages does each generation have?
Different generations approach work and careers in significantly different ways. Although generalizations are always somewhat dicey–plenty of exceptions exist–boomers and older workers clearly have a different mindset than Gen X and Gen Y. Most important: they’ve watched the paternalistic culture of the past disintegrate. They now recognize that a career with a single company–and a gold watch at retirement–is an anachronism.
“In today’s global environment, changing jobs, employers, and careers on a regular basis is part of the ongoing picture.”
Still, many older workers aren’t entirely comfortable with this concept. The idea of re-calibrating is scary. It requires a sometimes painful self-examination of goals, motivations, and core values. It also means facing potential discrimination, or having to start in a new career at the bottom of the totem pole. However, boomers have always been a group that blazes its own trail. And recareering is no exception.
- 59% of older workers (defined as 55 plus) said that a good deal of their pride comes from their work.
- Among, 35-54 year olds, the figure dropped to 48%.
- Among 18-37 year olds, it plummeted to 37%.
The good news for employers is that there is a huge pool of dedicated and qualified workers available. And as skill and talent shortages grow over the next several years, older workers are in a perfect position to fill the gap. Although many younger workers are far more comfortable changing jobs and careers, they’re simply not as committed to work as their older counterparts.
If someone ends up in a career that doesn’t fit their passion, what tips would you give them to steer them in the right direction?
Passion drift isn’t unusual. What lights our fire at 25 may cause a slow burn at age 45. if a person is unhappy in a career, it’s important to first identify whether he or she is running away from a bad boss or bad job (which may simply necessitate a job change) or moving toward something more interesting and meaningful. In other words, it’s vital to conduct a detailed self-analysis and understand the motivations, desires, and fears that shape a decision.
This may require personal or career counseling. It may require test-driving a new career through an internship or an organization like VocationVacations, a Portland, Ore. organization. Ultimately, a person must understand his or her objectives and be sure that they are in sync with a career option. Only then can a person be reasonably sure that he or she is making a smart move, rather than just a move. In the end, it comes down to three core values: What are my objectives?, What are my core values?, Are my values in sync with the job or career I’ve chosen?
What issues arise when you get older that might impede a career change? How can you prevent this when you’re younger?
Too often, as people get older, they become less flexible and willing to try new things. There’s the self-imposed roadblock: “I’m 60 and it’s crazy for me to go back to university and get a degree and change careers.” But, today, people are living and working to 75, 80, even 90. I came across a couple of individuals in researching the book that are still working at 100! So, if you put it into perspective–that you may work from 62-82 in a new career, it doesn’t seem so extreme. In fact, it’s not a lot different than someone who works from 25-45 in a career and then decides to change. Of course, sticking with an unsatisfying career is a recipe for unhappiness. So, the option is to seek growth, enlightenment, and satisfaction or to stagnate.
A secondary challenge is to stay current with business trends and technology. It’s important to read, attend seminars, enroll in training–and do whatever else it takes to stay current. Older workers don’t have to act hip and pretend that they are twentysomethings, but they should have their finger on the pulse of the business world, as well as their specific career. Not surprisingly, those who do a good job of staying current–and putting their collective life knowledge and skills to work–are among the most valuable employees an organization can find. Today, the best way to insulate against becoming obsolete is to constantly upgrade knowledge, skills, and expertise.
Can you list five strategies for making money based on your passion? How can people position themselves to do this?
Making money is usually an offshoot of doing something one loves (and it is important to remember that it is only one type of reward). However, a passion may or may not translate into a financially viable career. That’s why it’s important to understand up front whether the career will provide a windfall or merely provide psychic benefits. Each person must blaze his or her own path and figure out exactly what’s right on a personal level (and for family members).
It’s difficult to identify five specific strategies for making money based on a passion but I would say that it is important to:
- 1) invest in one’s self, both financially and psychologically.
- 2) Have a realistic idea of what’s in store in a new career.
- 3) Devote time and energy to getting the new career or business of the ground. This may encompass everything from perfecting a resume and rehearsing interviews to fully understanding the pros and cons.
When a person chooses the right career and has a good match with motivations, the money (whether it’s a lot or a little) will match expectations. Greater happiness will almost certainly result.
Sam Greengard is the author of the AARP Crash Course in Finding. The Work You Love. He has authored hundreds of articles, including pieces for AARP, the magazine, American Way, America West, Amtrak’s Arrive, Discover, Hemispheres, Industry Week, Home, iQ, Los Angeles, MSNBC/MSN Online, PM Network (The Project Management Institute), Southwest Spirit, Westways, Wired and The Writer.
He also handles corporate assignments–including brochures, speeches,white papers and annual reports. His work has appeared in materials for Charles Schwab & Co., Cisco Systems, Honda, IBM, Intel, Korn/Ferry, Microsoft, Oracle and Sun Microsystems.