Archive for the ‘Midlife/Second Half of Life’ Category

Will you be a “working retiree”? by Barbara Babkirk – January 10, 2018

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

A recent study from Merrill Lynch determined that nearly three out of five retirees will launch a new work chapter after they retire from primary careers.

The term “working retiree” may seem like an oxymoron, but it’s a new reality that is here to stay. It’s projected to have a significant impact on the marketplace due to low population growth and high talent needs.

If you’re wondering why this shift in retirement mindset is coming about after just one generation, think about the characteristics of this baby boomer demographic:

  • best educated in history
  • commitment to lifelong learning
  • healthy lifestyles and
  • desire to make a difference (think sit-ins and demonstrations of the 70’s)

But, not all boomers who want to work after retirement share the same reasons or priorities around work. Ken Dychtwald, gerontologist, author and expert on aging issues, has identified four “core profiles” of today’s working retirees:

  1. Driven Achievers (15%) who have consistent derived their identity from work and continue to be driven to achieve
  2. Caring Contributors (33%) who are motivated to give back and make a difference in the latter part of their lives
  3. Life Balancers (25%) who see work at this time of their lives as fitting into larger priorities and want work to be fairly stress-free and fun
  4. Earnest Earners (28%) who need to work to meet financial obligations, whether or not they want to continue working. Since a significant number of boomers have not adequately saved for retirement, this group is predicted to grow.

If you’re among the significant number of retirees who leave work and after 6 to 18 months, miss the structure, camaraderie, or sense of purpose, then you may be joining the emerging group of working retirees.

Identifying your “core profile” from Dychtwald’s list as well as knowing what is motivating you in this next life phase, is essential to forging a successful path.

Do You Know Your Calling? by Barbara Babkirk, March 9, 2014

Sunday, March 9th, 2014

Calling, purpose or vocation—these popular terms refer to work that gives you a sense of meaning and fulfillment and draws on your innate gifts. A calling connects your inner strengths and natural inclinations with outer needs and opportunities.

I recently had a conversation with a woman who wanted to discover her calling. She longed for the passion her husband had for his career as a physician—a profession he’d imagined since he was 10. She thought that this was how it was supposed to be—you “just know” at a young age what you’re meant to do in the world and then achieve it.

She saw her lack of clarity about her direction or calling as a character flaw. In response, I shared my perspective on the different ways that a person might experience and develop a calling.

Individuals who “just knew” early on what they wanted to do when they grew up and actually accomplished it are actually few and far between compared to the rest of us.

Far more people grow up clueless about their calling than those who knew it from a young age.

But, that does not mean that the majority of us have to move through life aimlessly without a sense of how we might contribute to the world.

In spite of no clear career direction early in life, most of us live our lives and find an array of work options that suit us in one way or another.  As our experiences accumulate, we may begin to recognize an unfolding pattern—one that slowly develops a path of its own, not based on a preconceived goal with prescribed steps.

Take for example Barbara Allen, a Purpose Prize winner of the Encore movement, who, in her second half of life, was “called back” to the art world after being a stay at home mom for 20 years. Barbara founded “Fresh Artists”, an organization that engages students in the giving process by using their artwork to raise money to buy art supplies for their public schools.

In reflecting on her new and unplanned career, Barbara talked about seeing the “threads of everything I’ve done before, woven in a new tapestry”.

The clues to a life calling are present in many ways and reveal themselves in your particular interests, talents, attributes, and chosen activities.

Here’s an exercise that might help you discover clues to a calling:

  1. Make a time line of your work history from your very first job to your current one. List each job title and when you did it.
  2. Under each job, indicate what you brought to it that seemed different from others doing this job (e.g. for one of your early jobs… “I was always on time.” or “I was the one who asked a lot of questions.”)
  3. Indicate the part of any job that made you feel alive and engaged.
  4. Note the parts of any job that were right for you (met your needs at the time, tasks were easy to do, received positive feedback…)
  5. When you’re finished, review your responses and determine if there is a pattern to your responses.
  6. See if this pattern reveals a clue to your calling.

You may find that you’ve been pursuing a calling for sometime, but did not recognize it.

A true calling comes from listening and paying attention.

What’s calling you?

When Do You Need A Career Counselor And What To Expect

Friday, January 18th, 2013

The beginning of a new decade, the loss of a job, a change in economic circumstances, a debilitating illness, or an overall feeling of dissatisfaction at work are some reasons why you might question your current work or future career direction.

While assessing where you’ve been and where you’re headed is healthy and important, it’s not always easy to do by yourself.

Sharing your questions with friends or family could complicate matters since they might have their own agendas for you or may unwittingly project their own dreams and goals onto yours.

There are times when working with a career counselor can help you sort through your thoughts, concerns, desires and blocks relating to your career, and develop an effective strategy for moving forward.

Not only can they be objective in helping you evaluate ideas and options, qualified career counselors have professional training and experience focused on the world of work.

Specifically, career counselors should be trained and knowledgeable guides in all three aspects of career transitions:

  1. Self assessment: This process helps you notice patterns in your work history that may provide clues to future options, identify competencies that are transferable to multiple work settings, reflect on life stage priorities that shape how you want to make a difference and consider internal blocks that can hinder your ability to move forward.
  2. Job Search Strategies:  Most career counselors keep up to date on effective ways to learn about and secure jobs, including how to incorporate social media and strategic conversations into a job search plan. Communicating the best ways to project a professional brand through a well-crafted resume, cover letter and an online profile will help you improve your edge over competition.
  3. Marketplace Knowledge: From knowledge of forecasts on emerging careers and requisite training to local prospects and average salary ranges, career counselors are key resources that stay tuned in to marketplace trends locally and globally.

If you’re wondering whether a career counselor might help you evaluate your work situation or advance your career, know that they typically offer a brief phone consultation at no charge to address questions and supplement more detailed information on their website.

What’s Your Plan For Your Second Half of Life?

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Do you bristle at the term “retirement” that connotes a life free of work and focused on some newfound pastime? If so, that’s because your parent’s concept of the years following a dedicated career is not acceptable or appealing to today’s vibrant and energetic baby boomers who are on a quest for meaning in their later years.

Marc Freedman, author of “” Encore captures the essence of an extraordinary shift that, according to researchers, will result in a cultural phenomenon as transformative and significant as the women’s movement.

According to Freedman, “If the old golden years dream was the freedom from work, the dream of this new wave (of baby boomers) is the freedom to work—in new ways, on new terms, to new and even more important ends.”

The years after 50, now referred to as “The Third Age”, “Encore Years”, or Second Half of Life”, currently generate over a million Google results, when only a decade ago, the topic might not have taken up as much as a bookshelf at Borders. But, today, there are a vast array of books available with examples of individuals who closed the chapter on careers that shaped their earlier identities to initiate new experiences that addressed their desire to serve a greater good or enliven some lesser known aspect of themselves.

This shift in the focus and intention of life and work is indicative of the life phase when individuals begin to lose interest in the “what should I be?” question inherent in the first half of life to address the “what am I meant to be?” quest of the second half.

Since this is a topic of great interest to me personally and professionally, you can count on seeing more of my blogs dedicated to it in the future.

In the meantime, here are a few questions to consider as you ponder your next life phase:

What would I do if money was not a primary concern?

What skills, abilities or gifts do I want to offer the world or my community?

What would I feel proud of doing?

Whom do I admire in the world today and what are they doing that might indicate a new direction for me?

What Does Being in Your 20’s and 40’s Have in Common?

Friday, November 23rd, 2007

For many people, the twenties is a time of leaving home to explore the world of work after college or high school. It’s about determining the profession or jobs that will meet your need to maintain social connections, keep up with living expenses, and try something new.

In the course of this decade, it is common to choose several different jobs without much direction or guidance as to where they might lead or how they fit with your personality, interests or abilities. It is estimated that if you are in your 20’s today, you might have up to eight jobs before you reach 30.

Being young makes it acceptable to flounder and experiment with options. But, this cavalier, I’ve-got-all-the-time-in-the-world type of attitude can dramatically change as you enter the midlife stage. In the fortieth decade, you become increasingly aware of the passage of time and want to assert more control and develop a career plan with the time you have left.

Each decade shares the potential for either a life crisis or a life transition. A transition of some sort is inevitable; a crisis is avoidable. Being in denial about getting older, or judging yourself against the cultural standards of success can each lead to a crisis as you move away from your reality to one that is an unrealistic fantasy or someone else’s expectation.

On the other hand, a focus on your own values, skills and interests might provide clues to a new direction and sense of meaning. For ideas on avoiding a quarterlife or midlife crisis, go to my website: “

Considering a Job or Midlife Career Change?

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

The fact that this idea would cross your mind is not at all unusual in America. However, here in France, where I am enjoying some R&R before I lead my annual women’s retreat in Provence on Sunday, it is not commonplace to change careers at midlife, or at anytime for that matter.

French students must decide on a discipline or career path at 16 or 17 years of age. The idea of an “undeclared major” in college is unheard of. One must decide on a direction early on, and that decision essentially casts their professional fate.

While Americans enjoy the cultural norm of changing jobs and professions about 4-5 times on average during their lifetime, the French tend to remain in their “métier”, or profession until retirement—whether they enjoy it or not. Perhaps that is why the French put more emphasis than Americans on non-work activities over which they have more control–like vacations and eating well.

So, if a shift in jobs is in the works for you, be grateful that you are in a culture that supports this type of a life change. Perhaps you could have the best of both worlds in this transition: enjoy a change to more satisfying work as well as put adequate attention toward the non-work parts of life.

Even though I’d find it impossible to make a living here as a career counselor to the French, I have an appreciation for the balance they seem to achieve between work and life.

Do You Think It’s Too Late To…?

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

Have you imagined things you would like to do in your life only to talk yourself out of them because it’s too late or you’re too old? Then you have company.

It’s common for people to dismiss satisfying ideas and interesting options because of inaccurate assumptions. When my clients express resignation about something they cannot do because of their age, I challenge their thinking by asking: What if your age was not a negative factor? How would you feel about the idea then? Eliminating what appears to be the obvious hurdle can allow someone to zero in on the real issue, which might be fear of failure or fear of the unknown.

Whether you are a 30 year old contemplating graduate school or a 58 year old fantasizing a totally new career, it is important to get close enough to the idea to figure out whether or not it reflects what you truly desire. Considering the fact that the oldest person to receive her college degree was 95 and that the second half of life is an increasingly popular life stage during which to change careers, age does not need to be the reason to forego a path toward education or a career change.

Blocks often occur when a person is not clear about what they want and then they are taken off base by an array of reasons not to move from the status quo. One’s age is often a handy excuse not to take the risk. But, the “safe” path can come with a sense of regret.

“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years.” – Abraham Lincoln

Suddenly Without a Roadmap? You Must Be in Midlife.

Saturday, May 12th, 2007

Perhaps it hits you just when you think you have life figured out. You wake up in “” midlife to only to discover that the map of life that has guided you this far no longer leads you anyplace—or at least no place that you’d care to go.

In an effort to get things back to a normal footing, you might go about your business, pretending nothing has changed. But, you cannot fool yourself. While not much else may be clear, one thing is certain: your former way of approaching life no longer satisfies you and with that knowing, you feel adrift and disoriented about the alternatives.

Of course you wonder if you’ve lost your mind, and whether you’ll get back on the old path as quickly as you left it. But, actually, it’s not really that you’ve lost anything, rather that you are now preoccupied with discovering your true self.

Midlife is a perplexing time to say the least. It presents everyone, no matter their profession, income, gender or other preferences, with the most simple, yet complex question of their lives: Who are you meant to be?

In the work arena, the midlife quest can wreak havoc on what was formerly an acceptable and rewarding career path. It is said that the challenge in our early adult years is to establish an identity that is based on skills, competencies and ego-boosting accomplishments. That all tends to change as we enter into the second half of our lives and begin to come to grips with our mortality.

Recognizing that we no longer have all the time in the world to do whatever we might set out to do is sobering to say the least. For many of us, this realization, coupled with jarring world events like terrorist attacks and tsunamis, makes a compelling case for aligning our lives with what matters most.

On my “” “midlife” website, I’ve outlined eight steps to guide you through midlife and its compelling call to change, make a greater contribution to the world, or explore interests and talents that have been forgotten or neglected.

Will You Reinvent Yourself At Midlife?

Tuesday, March 20th, 2007“My last blog about defining midlife drew more readers than any of the 100+ blogs I’ve posted to date. That shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows the stats on boomers—a formidable group of more than 78 million, comprising 30% of the population in the U.S. The fact that boomers tend to be more introspective than any other generation accounts for the array of information on the market to help them better understand themselves and maneuver through this often disorienting time of life.

Take for example, one of the latest books for and about boomers called  ““Thinking About Tomorrow: Reinventing Yourself in Midlife by Susan Crandell. Crandell, the former editor-in-chief of  ““More Magazine, re-engineered her own life and became a freelance writer and book author. Her inspiring book recounts the stories of a group of diverse individuals who seized the challenge of their age and made significant changes at midlife. Among the chapters that feature people whom Crandell refers to as “life entrepreneurs” is the story behind my annual ““Women’s Retreat in Provence. The profiles in Crandell’s book illustrate what can unfold when someone honestly and attentively asks: What do I want to do with the rest of my life?

To begin to explore that question yourself, consider:

What am I longing to do or experience?

Is there a part of an old dream that could be salvaged and integrated into my life now?

What energizes and engages me? What would need to happen to bring more of that into my life?

What helps me listen to what is true for me? How can I increase that activity?

What is most important to me at this time? Am I living my life in alignment with this priority? If not, what needs to shift so that I am true to what I value?

“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” – George Eliot

What’s Your Age Got To Do With It?

Monday, October 23rd, 2006

Consider these four different descriptions of people in job transitions. In spite of their diverse backgrounds, they share a common concern about what might deter them from reaching their career goals…

Jen is 30 something, bright and enthusiastic with several years of West Coast experience in her field. Her Master’s Degree focuses her credentials and adds much to her credibility as a professional. She wants to establish herself back in her native New England, but she questions whether she will be perceived as experienced enough to distinguish herself from other, more established and older professionals.

During Bob’s 30 years in technology sales, he has consistently achieved goals and deadlines and developed a wealth of knowledge about his particular industry. He’s now looking to make a significant change to a different field and job altogether. At 53, Bob is concerned that he is too old to make such a drastic shift in his career. Having enjoyed a certain amount of comfort that comes with experience and years in a particular field, he is also reticent about the prospect of “starting over” in a new field.

Tim is a recent college grad with a liberal arts major from a college in the Midwest. He helped pay for his education by working in construction each summer. At 21, he is finding it difficult to compete with older candidates who have relevant experience and in some cases, graduate degrees in the field in which he is interested.

After two decades as an administrative assistant in the legal field, Molly is in a midlife transition. While she is not certain about where she wants to end up, she is clear that she wants to complete her college degree. She wonders if she missed her opportunity by not remaining in school years before and she is scared that she will be perceived as too old to be a college student again.

It seems to be true that a person’s age can be an asset or a liability when it comes to finding or keeping a job. What is not clear or consistent are the conditions under which age is in our favor or not. Consequently, many people are left guessing about where they stand vis à vis the age factor in securing a job.

The fact that age discrimination and bias exists makes some people ill at ease as they approach the job market. However, fearing something over which one has no control, is simply not productive or useful. Instead, it’s important to remain focused on the skills, experiences, and qualities that are relevant to one’s goal and let go of thoughts that emanate from fears and speculation.

Heart At Work Associates offers career counseling and outplacement services for your life stage in Portland, Maine and globally.

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