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Dr. Greg Segment Summary

Baby Boomers at the Career Crossroads

Dr. Greg Ketchum, 2/21/04

There are 76 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964. The oldest Boomers are turning 58 while the youngest are hitting 40. In 2008, there will be 34.1% more workers in the 50-59 age group than there were in 1998, and 15% fewer workers age 25-40.

Boomers at the Career Crossroads
The leading edge of the Boomer Generation is entering the later stages of their careers at the same time that…

  • The economy is coming out of recession, but not creating jobs
  • The American workplace is undergoing profound & permanent transformations as a result of downsizing, outsourcing, productivity gains, “off-shoring” (sending jobs to China, India & the Philippines) & being part of a “world economy.” Many jobs are simply evaporating.
  • Further, the bursting of the dot.com bubble along with continuing corporate & mutual fund scandals have added to the upheavals Boomers are facing in their careers (i.e., nest eggs shrinking, health insurance benefits being cut, underfunded pension plans, solvency questions of Medicare and Social Security, etc).

Perfect Storm
All of these factors converging at the same time that the leading edge of the Boomer generation is entering late stage career and early retirement has created the “Perfect Storm for Boomers.”

Boomers Redefine Careers & Retirement
Boomers have redefined every life stage we’ve gone through either by sheer numbers or by a determination to do things differently and not accept the status quo.

  • We’ve been engaged in the process of redefining the idea of "career” (i.e. dads being more involved in child rearing and less work focused, women having more options than only being wife and mother, the idea of working for only one company & retiring after 20 years) ever since entering the workforce.

  • Boomers are now at the leading edge in the process of redefining the late stage of career along with the concept of "retirement."

  • This redefinition is benefiting not only baby boomers, but also the generations behind, as Boomers are pioneering new models.

The Current Challenge
All of these factors create unique challenges for Boomers.

  • They have no real models to follow of how to wind down a career and retire in the beginning of the 21st Century.

  • Most are too young with too many responsibilities (i.e. delayed childbearing) to “retire” and too old to make a radical career transformation.

  • Most Boomers want and need to find a way to continue to work, but to do so in a manner that brings as much meaning, challenge, and reward to this stage of their careers as possible.

The Crossroads
The decision point, the crossroads, where Boomers find themselves involves choosing to

  • Go Straight
    Stay on the career path they’re on and try to hang onto the job as long as possible, hoping to retire before they’re outsourced.

  • Go Left
    Change careers, but do it in an “evolutionary” manner, building on what we’ve already accomplished and transferring their skills into something new.

  • Go Right
    Make a radical career sift, but do it in a “revolutionary” manner, making a clean break with the past and going a whole new direction.

Each path has challenges, opportunities and obstacles to surmount. For every Boomer who has found a successful path through this career stage there are 1000 more looking for a way through. The critical factor is that no matter who you are, what your work or station in life, each of us must make a choice. In this situation, not choosing is a choice. It’s time to make a conscious choice.

Telling These Stories
Over the next 6 weeks we’ll be bringing you the stories of 3 Boomers who are successfully navigating this stage of their career, and who are making a career transformation. We’ll be looking at questions such as…

  • How have they done it and what can the rest of us learn from their examples?

  • Are there “steps” in facing this challenge and do you need help doing it?

  • Is it possible to take charge of your career at this stage and bring more meaning to life or to lower the stress?

  • Can you get off the “fast track” and still take care of your responsibilities like put your kids through college and fund a comfortable retirement?

In Summary
This story is not just about Baby Boomers, it’s about the transformation of the American workplace. It’s about discarding “antique” notions about the later stages of one’s career and retirement itself. It’s about creating new models, pioneering new trails through this stage of life at a time of great turmoil and change. Finally, it’s a story that’s not being told, but which directly impacts nearly one third of the American population.

If you’ve got work or career topics you’d like to see us address, just send me an email at drgreg@talentplanet.com.

®2004 All rights reserved. Gregory A. Ketchum, Ph.D.

Career Advice

Dr. Greg is the “KRON 4 (San Francisco) Workplace and Career Expert”

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