Second Act Careers: Work is Not a Place

Second Act Careers

Moving from an old year into a new one is a good to time to look forward and make plans. Many of us are looking ahead to a major change in our career and work lives. The ‘R’ word, retirement, comes up. We may be ready to move on from the position, profession or practice that we have been doing for decades. In some cases we are not given a choice.

Attractive as it is, playing golf or playing with the grandkids does not often appeal as a full time occupation. And bringing in some money is always nice and sometimes necessary. But the work world in which we will perform the second acts of our careers is now very different from the one we have experienced.

Many jobs will simply disappear. People are being replaced by robots and other forms of automation. Not just mechanical tasks but also higher level white collar work like medical diagnosis and legal research are being threatened by the advance of artificial intelligence.

More and more of available work is no longer in the form of regular full time, full year employment with benefits in a large company or government. I call those dental plan jobs. This is probably not a problem for most second acts. We have been there, done that.

Still, moving from a dental plan job to consulting, contracting or self-employment (what is often called the gig economy) is a big change. I made that move voluntarily over 20 years. After the initial adjustment, I realized that this new work life has many advantages.

Working From Home

One advantage for most of us in the gig economy is that we no longer need to get up early in the morning and face a long commute in the traffic which is repeated every evening. As Linda Nazareth puts it in the title of her latest book, Work Is Not a Place, much work can be done anywhere you and your tablet are. You can also set your own hours.

An advantage of working on your own is that there is no ceiling on how much money you can make. More work means more money. On the other hand, if time and leisure now mean more to you than income, it is your choice to take less on less work and enjoy more time off.

Once we become our own bosses, we should act like a good boss. The best bosses invest in their workers. We need to invest in ourselves. Certain areas will continue to be in very high demand for both jobs and for well-paid contract work. Keeping our skills up in such areas will serve us well, especially now when just about anything we might need to know can be learned on the Internet with a little time and motivation.

In 2019 and for many years after, robots and other forms of automation will not be able to build and maintain themselves. People who can do this will name their own price and with additional training and education, managing automation may be a great second act career.

The need for health care will grow and not all health care can be automated. Medical personnel will need to be able to take advantage of data bases and automated technology, but only people can provide the high touch, human component that healing requires.

We still need people to provide most of the content that fills the Internet and our automated world. Computers may soon be able to turn out ditties and formulaic romance or mystery novels, but new, different and great art still remains in the human domain.

Workers can be replaced by machines. Talent cannot. Talent is not just something we are born with. It is developed through education, training, lots and lots of practice; something many of us have.

One more skill that will serve us well is the ability to manage people or should I say manage  talent. In spite of many courses on the subject, the ability to be a good manager is largely learned through experience. As we start our second act careers, experience is something we have plenty of.

May 2019 be happy and prosperous for us all.


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