If you’re over 50, you will likely have a second career.
Since 1900, the global average life expectancy has more than doubled, according to Our World in Data; and women live longer than men. Thus, Prime Women are on target to have multiple careers – many more than our mothers or grandmothers.
You might not be ready to deploy at this moment in time, but you definitely want to be the decider.
Here are six ways to get ready for your second act:
1. Create Bandwidth.
Make space in your life for something new. This year, you deserve time to explore possibilities and lay the groundwork for a second career, a new lifestyle. Take a close look at your longstanding commitments – memberships, committees, volunteer activities, social groups, etc. Do they fit with your old life or a bright new future? What might you eliminate?
Are you at the top of everyone’s Ask list because you always say yes? Are you over-scheduled to the max, always racing from meeting to meeting? Here’s a trick. Before you add anything new to your plate, get rid of something old. If you are a Yes-aholic, here is my advice for a 12-step cure. You will never build a new life if you are trapped in the old one.
We live in fast-changing times. Market dynamics often lead to career and lifestyle disruption. Legislation, mergers, acquisitions, consolidation, consumer trends, executive changes-in-control and new technologies can deliver a jolt to your organization and upend your current path.
Therefore, you may be starting a second career sooner than you anticipated. Or exiting the career world entirely, if that is your preference. The key is to expect the unexpected and make the best decisions for yourself.
2. Love or Money? What will be important in a second career? Don’t romanticize. Be realistic! If you need money to put food on your table or supplement retirement funds that might not be sufficiently robust, adopt a high sense of urgency and pragmatism in your research and preparation. A smooth transition to a second career – and its inherent income – may be mission critical.
Meet with your financial advisor to get a clear picture of options. Be careful of the R word. You’re not retired, just because you begin drawing Social Security as part of your income mix. See this Prime Women article on clarifying your brand and intentions as you evolve into a new stage-of-life and second career.
If you need or want money for your second career efforts, be sure you are not chasing a phantom. We’ve all heard the premise: Do what you love and the money will follow. That can certainly happen, but it is not an If A, then B slam dunk tenet of the universe.
If you delve into a creative pursuit, Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame, has a fabulous reality-based book, Big Magic, for your consideration. You may evolve to a hybrid model: Doing what you’re good at for the money, but stretching into something for pure joy on the side.
If you have financial flexibility to do something you love without regard for income, congratulations! Oddly, but not surprisingly, this may be a bigger challenge than you think. Especially if you don’t yet have a vision. If your options are limitless, it might be hard to decide. Or, just enjoy the path of exploration and enjoyment – guilt-free – which I highly recommend! The laws of attraction will draw talented, savvy Prime Women to worthy, satisfying pursuits, whether vocational or avocational.
3. The Perfect Day. If you could design the ideal schedule for the next 5-10 years what would it look like? Technology enables many possibilities in a second career. The gig economy embraces flexibility. There are many second career options that can provide a year-round schedule of work – in the increments you seek – if you are looking beyond a traditional full-time work schedule.
Do you have a husband who is fully retired? A fabulous second home? Grandchildren in various geographies to visit and spoil? Factor this into the mix. What is a rhythm and groove you would enjoy? Would you like to work a few hours a day, 2-3 days a week – or something seasonal?
If you’ve had a traditional career in a large organization or consulting entity, you may enjoy a change of pace via project work. Being heads-down for 1-2 months, then free to travel. Then heads-down again. You can amp it up or slow it down. Be inventive!
4. Due Diligence. What will it take to enter and pursue a second career that interests you? Invest time in research and discovery. What are the barriers to entry? Who has been successful? Who has left the field and why? Google will provide a bonanza of insights. LinkedIn, as well. Attend meetings, conferences, industry associations, etc. Reach out to your network and request a bit of time – for coffee, email exchange or phone chat.
What is a realistic ramp-up? Will you need special training or certifications? How much time/money are you willing to invest? Is it salary, commission or fees-for-service? Will you have to find your own customer base? If you want to move from corporate to the consulting world, start collecting quals presentations, fee proposals, contracts, letters of agreement, etc. How would you package yourself – or might you joint venture with some of your existing service providers?
Increase the level of due diligence tenfold if you are exploring buying or starting a business, especially if it involves capital investment for product, inventory, facilities – or if your work will encompass printing of publications or materials or purchase of any items on behalf of a client. If there is a problem or dispute, could you digest a $25,000 mistake? Create a business plan for ramp-up, marketing and on-going operations. Be a bit of a skeptic and validate findings/assumptions with knowledgeable, impartial third parties.
5. Take a Test Drive. As you investigate the market, you may walk into unexpected opportunities. When I was researching executive search, a headhunter who met with me was buried with a flurry of new assignments in the aftermath of a client merger. He saw I was well-connected in the tech industry and immediately engaged me to assist with candidate identification and screening. Because I had created capacity in my schedule (see #1, above) to explore second career options, this was a valuable foot in the door, the equivalent of a paid internship. Look for opportunities to try before you buy. Offer behind-the-scenes help, if appropriate.
That said, do not assume that you can immediately draw on your own network if you move far afield in a second career. You have a solid track record in Role A, but everyone will know you are new – and not yet proven – in Role B. Understand that even with your most beloved clients, you would have to displace someone who is already enthroned as the go-to expert in the space you are entering. Having a self-marketing plan to transition your brand and earning potential is important.
6. Get Smart with Social Media. No matter what you choose for a second career, you can assume that being adept with social media will be an important asset. Ignoring the potential could be a deal-breaker – or make you look like an old person. Not what is befitting of savvy Prime Women. Take a class, attend conferences, consider pursuing a digital media certification.
In any field, you will need to be multi-lingual as it relates to digital communication. If you are an in-person or telephone girl, you will have to adapt to the preferences of your clients and colleagues. Don’t be surprised if it is text-only. You have to go where the market is. Embracing constant change and new technology platforms will extend your relevance into a second career – and beyond!
By Nancy Keene for Prime Women magazine