Although he began serving food out of his gas station twenty years earlier, it wasn’t until age 65 that Harlan Sanders began franchising Kentucky Fried Chicken. While it might have been unusual to think of reinventing yourself in 1955, today many people in their 50s and 60s are taking on new career opportunities.
Baby boomers point to two reasons for career changes. Some take on a second career because their old profession has been made largely obsolete by technology, but they still need income. Others don’t need to work, but have always wanted to try something different from the daily grind.
So it’s only natural for people in their 50’s and 60’s to want to reinvent themselves careerwise. To help us understand the phenomena we contacted Nancy Collamer, author of Second-Act Careers: 50+ Ways to Profit from Your Passions During Semi-Retirement and the MyLifestyleCareer.com website.
We began by asking what a career reinvention looks like. "While reinvention sounds very exciting, in truth, I think for most boomers it is more about repurposing their expertise and interests than it is about a complete reinvention. All things being equal, it is always easiest to transition into a new career that is related in some way, shape or form to what you did before. For example, perhaps you enjoyed facilitating meetings, a skill that could be transferred over to working as a director for a non-profit. Or maybe you loved mentoring younger employees, an experience that could be a springboard into a second-act as an executive coach."
And although many boomers want to rush because they feel time is running short, that might not be necessary. Collamer suggest that they "take the time to assess your background and then consider whether there isn’t some piece or part of your professional experience (no matter how seemingly insignificant) that might be worth leveraging as a bridge into your next act."
Part of the time should be spent looking for a reinvented career that will make you happy. According to Collamer, "Most boomers are looking for at least one of the following: fun, flexibility, fulfillment and financial rewards. These days, people can be retired for 20-30 years and that’s a long time. Beyond being a source of income, work provides people with purpose, structure, community and intellectual stimulation. Many people also like to use this time to ‘give back’ through encore careers that serve the greater social good."
Another common question for boomers reinventing their careers is whether they can work for someone else or do they need to become self-employed? Collamer says that she sees people doing both. "Some choose to work on a part-time basis, while others prefer being entrepreneurs. It’s interesting to note that according to the Kauffman Foundation, boomers make up the largest share of new entrepreneurs. The share of new business formation by the 55 to 64-year-old age group rose from about 14% in 1996 to nearly 25% in 2013."
Although most boomers won’t become the next Col. Sanders of KFC, many in their 50s and 60s will successfully reinvent their careers in fulfilling ways.