How To Recharge Your Career In The Second Half Of Life

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Researchers are predicting that scientific advances could have millennials living to 100 or longer; the standard 30- to 40-year career could be extended by a decade or two. Combine that with the speed of technological advances, plus the fact that jobs we have never heard of will emerge as the hottest roles to have. What will the future of careers look like and how can we prepare for that now?

I sat down with an old friend, Marci Alboher, who is a leading expert in encore careers – finding meaningful work in the second half of life. When I first met Alboher, she had coined the term “slash” as it relates to careers and lifestyle. She had just published her first book, One Person/Multiple Careers – a roadmap for building a life that embraces the slash lifestyle and the concept of custom-blending a career.

Today she is one of the leaders in the encore movement, serving as a VP at, which is innovating new models to tap the talent of people 50-plus as a force for good. Her latest book, The Encore Career Handbook: How to Make a Living and a Difference in the Second Half of Life, takes some of her earlier thinking and applies it to retirement: reinvented, re-envisioned, and reinvigorated.

I asked her what mindset we need to adopt so we can remain relevant and fulfilled in the rapidly changing landscape of extended careers. She shared four fundamental actions we can take to ensure success and happiness in that second chapter.

1. Cultivate your slashes.

William Arruda: What does “cultivate your slashes” mean, and how do we go about doing it?

Marci Alboher: When I wrote the slash book more than ten years ago, I had noticed that juggling various work identities concurrently — the website designer/yoga instructor, caterer/teacher — was starting to go mainstream. Slashing is now less exotic. In fact, millennials just consider this the normal way of living!  If you can work anywhere with an internet connection, it’s easy to shift between very different kinds of work activities. A few things to consider: First, think about a balance that gets you using different parts of your brain or that gets you spending your time in different ways. If you spend a lot of your time staring at a computer screen for example, it’s great to complement that with something that gets you out in the world or using your hands in some way. Second, recognize that we become expert at things when we immerse fully for a while. So pace yourself, giving yourself time to do that before jumping into a new arena. Finally, recognize that some pursuits are easy to pair and others more complicated.

2. Create a financial plan for the long haul.

Arruda: One of the biggest implications of living a longer life is financial. How should we handle the money part of the equation?

Alboher: Longer lives mean that many people could be living well past what we used to think of the retirement period. In fact, if you retire at 65, it’s entirely possible you could be in that period for as long as you spent in your working life. That’s not sustainable, either for individuals or society. There are only two ways to solve the puzzle of making money last that long — cutting costs or keeping the income flowing. If you can find some ways to do both, you’ll have a lot more freedom. Cutting expenses doesn’t have to feel austere. The idea of living small, focusing on experiences over things, and taking advantage of the sharing economy could result in a life that’s richer with social connection. Continuing to have income-producing work, even if it’s less than you earned in the height of your career, is a good way to stretch your nest egg while allowing you to focus on work and other activities that may not generate a lot of income but have a lot of meaning for you.

3. Link the personal and professional.

Arruda: Perhaps the most exciting byproduct of the future of careers is the opportunity to integrate more of who you are into what you do and how you do it. Can you talk about the melding of work and life?

Alboher: As we share more of ourselves online, it’s easier to see each other as fully people. On the mostly virtual team where I live, we use Google+ to share photos and articles. Through these channels, we get a glimpse into each other’s lives outside of work. Because most of our meetings happen via video, we even know what each other’s homes look like!

We often carry forward pieces of prior identities into new kinds of work. And we layer experience over experience, turning our volunteer activities into full-time jobs or making career shifts that are spurred by life events like becoming a parent or dealing with an illness. As we age, it’s pretty clear that we contain all roles we’ve ever inhabited, and that’s incredibly rich. I gave up practicing law almost twenty years ago and often forgot what it felt like to be a lawyer, but now that I work in nonprofit management, my legal training regularly comes in handy.

4. Constantly be learning.

Arruda: Being a trainer and lifelong learner, I’m especially excited about one particular mindset you say we must adopt – the mindset of being a deliberate learner. How can we fit learning into our busy schedules?

Alboher: It’s ludicrous to imagine that a dose of education in our twenties will serve us for twenty or thirty years without the need for a refresh. Thankfully, there are all kinds of ways to do that, depending on what you need or want to learn. Of course, there’s the option of going back to school to prepare for a new kind of work. And that can be a few classes, a certificate program, or a degree — whether in person or online. One of my favorite ways to learn is to volunteer for a cause you care about. You can learn about a new issue, make new, meaningful relationships, all while giving your time and energy in a way that helps your community or an organization. There’s even microlearning through watching quick videos or taking a quick class to be better at your job or find a new one. LinkedIn Learning now offers hundreds of free courses and sends their premium members suggested courses based on what’s trending in their network. I’m also fascinated by a wave of new encore transition courses, like the University of Minnesota Advanced Career Initiative, a midlife gap year for people seeking a next chapter of meaningful work. I expect to see many more options like this.