Think of Dear Ellie as your very own kitchen table, where you can discuss the things that are on your mind. Now that the boomers are turning 60 and those in the Greatest Generation are in their 70s, 80s, and 90s—we are all blazing new trails in the third third of life. So, have a cup of coffee and let’s talk about life: the past, the present, and the future. [Editor's note: Dr. Greenberg no longer contributes to Silver Planet, but we have made her archived blog entries available as a service to our readers.]
I am a 55-year-old baby boomer born in 1953. I’ve been reading a lot about how the baby boomers are beginning to retire and are ending their careers and work lives. I just went back to work at age 45, after raising my three children. They are all on their own now and don’t need me like they used to. I am not ready to retire. In fact, I am interested in starting a new career and hope to keep working for a long time. How can I find out more about how to begin a new career? What should I be considering at my age? Rachel
I am a big fan of one-to-one mentoring. I meet many younger women who would like to have information and advice about the next steps in their work lives and careers. I recently met with a woman who heard me speak on a panel and asked if she could have coffee with me someday. Since she was a teacher, we decided to wait until school was finished and meet during the summer. We corresponded by email and set a date, time, and convenient place to meet for coffee. She is a single mother and still has a child living at home. Other women with whom I have met have children who are grown and not living at home anymore, just like you.
One thing they all have in common is that they are in the baby boomer age group, in their 40s or 50s, and are considering a change in their career or are returning to school or both. They are concerned about changing careers at their age and worry about ageism in the job market. We talk about lots of things: school, careers, starting a business, retirement, benefits, investments, health, personal relationships, marriage, divorce, singlehood, children—virtually all aspects of their lives. Sometimes I lend them books to read. Sometimes we make a date to meet again. Sometimes we exchange ongoing progress and problem reports via email. Sometimes I recommend a local organization, workshop, therapist, or career counselor.
I have been impressed with their eagerness to listen, to learn, as well as to share their ideas and feelings with me. I often explain the process of transition to them, which can be very useful. (See my article on this website about Negotiating the Transitions in Your Life.)
Most important, I think that the most useful step they took was to establish a new relationship with someone older and more experienced from the age group we call The Greatest Generation, who today are over age 60. I sometimes call this mentoring; some prefer to call it coaching. In any case, I suggest that you try to identify someone in this age group whom you trust, even someone you may admire and with whom you wish to establish a relationship. Invite that person to lunch or coffee. You should pay the bill, of course, as a thank-you for that person’s time and expertise. If he or she works in a helping profession and has a practice or a consulting firm, ask if there is a fee for such an initial meeting.
I suggest that you start with a one-to-one relationship. That may lead you to some helpful group situations. But there is nothing like a customized, individual advising environment to help sort out both short- and long-term issues.
Let me know if you try this and what the result is. You have lots of career time ahead of you. Make the most of it! Ellie
By Elinor Miller Greenberg, EdD