Something interesting suddenly struck me recently and I wonder if you too have had a similar experience; possibly like me, you weren’t entirely aware of it yourself. Or it could be that I’m just realizing it myself and slow getting to the dance!
What I’ve become aware of is a large number of the conversations I’ve been a part of, and the musings I’ve read of others centers on men and women in their late 40’s and early to mid-50’s who are openly contemplating exactly what to do with the balance of their working lives. Now in retrospect it may not be a new phenomenon.
The difference I suppose is that historically there were fewer types of jobs to choose from in the past. With fewer choices available, most people who hadn’t reached retirement had a choice between the jobs they currently had and doing a similar job for another company or becoming an entrepreneur themselves. Most you understand stayed with companies for decades and it was the norm to retire from these employers.
Fast-forward to 2016 and there are more jobs being created than ever before. Technology alone as a single sector has created job titles that didn’t exist just a few months before. Go back a generation and there are even more jobs that didn’t exist because the environment was different. There were no Information Technology jobs because the technology hadn’t evolved to the state it is today, and home computers didn’t even exist.
The consequence of more types of jobs existing today is that there are more choices than ever from which to choose. Add to this that because we are living longer than in the past on average, we have more time to spend in retirement, and we may want to work longer in life to both pay for a longer retirement with less income, or just keep involved longer in our work lives.
Whatever the reason, my sense is that these conversations people are having about exploring employment or work options into their 50’s and 60’s when they’re in their late 40’s to mid-50’s is becoming more popular. It’s not that people are always disenchanted with their current jobs and have lost interest; although I know of some who would say that is exactly their issue. For some, it’s a desire to do something different; a last chance perhaps to do something they’ve always wanted to do or they finally feel a now-or-never mentality.
Now when they arrive at this point of their lives where there is an urge to explore options, the options available largely are confined to whatever skills and experience the person has in their life inventory. Those of us who have worked in a single sector all our lives may on the one hand have less choices available than those of us who have worked in positions across several sectors. Those who have continued in their adult lives with upgrading their education may be more attractive than those who haven’t to potential employers.
Let’s also say that there are some people who are just more comfortable taking risks than others as well. If you have a conservative nature you may think the person quitting a stable, well paid position for some new venture is foolish, off their rocker, gambling with their retirement savings. On the other hand the person who leaps may be feeling they’ll die on the inside and live with regret wondering, “what if” throughout their retirement if they don’t find the courage to jump into something new and invigorating, mentally stimulating.
This isn’t where I’ll wade in on what is right or wrong – that’s for those individuals to contemplate and arrive at decisions they literally have to live with moving forward.
I do think as I say that the quiet musings or open discussions are just becoming more prevalent of late with the people in my network. Is it a restlessness of spirit perhaps; normal checks and balances that happen throughout our lives and nothing more? I suppose one might say that generally our teen years are about setting us up for emerging independence from our parents. Our 20’s are for exploring people, the world and ourselves, our 30’s are for establishing our futures, taking on responsibilities, finding roots to hold onto. Our 40’s enrich our lives and we reach our potential. Our 50’s we start looking at our work lives and see for the first time a window that’s just starting to close. In our 60’s we have far less compunction to re-invent ourselves and start anew; less willingness to gamble the nest egg. I don’t necessarily believe this work-related timeline is the absolute way it is for everyone.
I’d love to have you weigh in and comment on where you are in your life at the moment and what musings – quiet or otherwise you are mulling over. Is there something stirring in your consciousness and if so, what’s driving those thoughts for something else? Are you afraid, excited or confused about the growing state of flux in which you find yourself more often these days? What considerations do you have to take to change?
Change can be liberating, threatening, give you your sanity back, put a smile on your face, fill your retirement with memories or empty your bank account. If you continue the course you’re on, will you be okay with the choice you’ve settled on?