Your life may span more years than you think. Best to be proactive, not reactive in designing – and funding – the life you want to lead. Start now to lay the groundwork for your second act.
Be expansive in imagining the possibilities you want to pursue, but do incorporate an underpinning of reality planning. What if an elder parent whom you are supporting lives for another 10 years? What if you become responsible for the lifelong care of a younger sibling – or grandchild? What if you make an investing mistake? A back-up plan is like money in the bank!
Do NOT let your professional licenses expire. They are lifelong assets you’ve worked too hard to earn.
Take the Gallup Strengths Finder assessment. Have your significant other do the same! It will shine a mirror on your core assets and what is important to you. Why not build your second act on your strengths, rather than try to change a lifetime of who you are?
Maybe you have a vision already in place. If not, scope out what others are doing. What looks interesting? What is attainable and within reach? What is a scenario you would be willing to sacrifice for? How are others integrating challenge + enjoyment + revenue continuity? Start researching and networking, either on-line or in-person!
Are you hoping to serve on a public company board? Here is the #1 criteria: previous board experience. Desirable candidates include: public accounting audit partners; public company CEOs, COOs or CFOs; public company line executives with ops/line responsibilities. Does your current company support major non-profit organizations? Could you win a slot representing them on the board? This is a way to gain exposure with other board members who may also be serving on for-profit boards.
A female banker took a separation package in the aftermath of a mega-merger. Instead of retiring, she stayed in the game. She took a business development role for a virtual CFO consultancy – still connected to key banking decision makers. When a new bank entered the market, she was offered a dream role – based on her longstanding experience and current, active client contacts.
As you enter a new stage of life, you may not want the rigor of a 24/7 top executive position. But, you can teach others what you’ve learned. A successful magazine editor pursued a PhD while she was still on the masthead. As the print publication market upheaved, she was able to pursue a follow-on career in academia – also gaining an additional pension revenue stream. She is now partially retired and still teaches an abbreviated schedule of classes.
Earlier in my career, I noticed a number of older tech colleagues and clients moving into the field of retained executive search. They were applying the same principles of client service to a different discipline. The traits of maturity + wisdom + experience were highly-valued in high-level recruiting. Something an earlier career entrant couldn’t instantly osmose. Look for new channels that can deliver career longevity and on-going revenue for your second act.
Another game-changer for me was a consulting assignment in the construction and building materials industry. Many of my clients in the go-go tech and start-up sectors thought I was crazy – like a fox. It was a mature industry with an executive population that skewed older – and male. I could be a fresh young face – for a long time. 20 years later, I still operate successfully in heavy-industry realms.
The pioneering TV newswoman, Linda Ellerbee, saw her network career cut short as management sought younger, less expensive, more glamorous on-camera talent. Ironically, her future was with an even younger demographic than those who replaced her at NBC. She wrapped up a 25 year, award-winning run anchoring Nick News – for kids – on the Nickelodeon channel. Talk about a contrarian move!
As the world of technology evolves at a lightning fast pace, entirely new business disciplines are being spawned. There are high-demand, high-growth opportunities in areas such as coding, social media, SEO and more. And top-ranked business schools are offering highly strategic Digital Marketing executive education programs – a powerful imprimatur that can punctuate your portfolio of offerings and even break the tie if you are in a panel of candidates being evaluated for a senior position, consulting engagement or board slot.
Tracey Jackson had a 20 year run as a successful screenwriter. Then, she turned 50 and hit the brick wall of gender bias in Hollywood. Not to be deterred, she joined forces with Grammy and Oscar-winning songwriter, Paul Williams, to create Gratitude and Trust, a brilliant new book + blog + conference platform – appearing together on Oprah, the New York Times bestseller list, and more! Why go it alone when you can collaborate and trigger some serious synergy?
Direct marketing companies can provide a way to leverage your contacts and business skills. Beauty, fashion, decor and other product categories abound. Research the categories and talk to existing consultants and team leaders. Many successful executive women are adding this to their second act platform to enhance discretionary spending budgets.
In evaluating the future, you may choose to step off the fast track. Enjoy! But remain visible and maintain a re-entry ramp. Stay connected via social media and professional organizations. Be strategic in your non-profit and community service commitments. Maintain your brand, tweak it – or experiment with an entirely new platform!
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