As I watch (with dismay) the unfunding and dismantling of social services around this country, I’m glad to see Marc Freedman continuing to talk about the importance of encore careers.
In his most recent book, The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife, Freedman reminds us that the experience of people over 50 is quite different today from that of earlier generations. Many of us will continue to work in some fashion into our 70s and even 80s (health willing).
As a career coach, I work with people from about 45 on up who want to do something “different” with their extended work lives, and for many of them an encore career is exactly what they’re looking for. Encore careers provide a sense of meaning as well as an opportunity to creatively address the many social problems we’re facing, particularly in areas like education, the environment, and health care.
Caring for Future Generations
I like how this dovetails with the work of psychologist Erik Erikson. Erikson saw the years between about 45 to 65 as a time of either stagnation or generativity.
Whereas stagnation is marked by self-absorption, generativity is characterized by concern for the well-being of future generations. Generativity is about movement and growth, about caring for others, often through mentoring, teaching, and leading. It’s about leaving the world a better place.
Successfully navigating this developmental stage calls on you to share what you have to offer with those you’ll be leaving behind.
A Call to Action
I see Freedman’s work as a challenge to all of us. When we find ourselves concerned about another’s plight or about the future of this planet, do we ask ourselves how we can use our experience and wisdom to address these concerns?
As Freedman points out, this isn’t up to us alone. It will require changes in public policy, as well as a recognition that age (either young or old) does not define how or how long a person can contribute.
But as Arthur Ashe said, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”
Is an encore career calling you?