Boomer Career Encore

As much as I’d like to write about an article I read today entitled “The Battle Hymn of the Slacker Father,” I have chosen to write about Baby Boomers. I am a Baby Boomer. I was born right in the middle of the age range usually attributed to Boomers, and I possess all of the characteristics of the Boomer generation, both good and bad. The latest characteristic under discussion involving Boomers is how they are recreating themselves.

Boomers are aging, but instead of retiring they are choosing new careers. The careers they are choosing usually involve a cause. AP writer David Carpenter discussed this today in the Columbian. He calls these careers Encore Careers, or “paid work that combines personal meaning with social purpose.” It seems this is a pervasive phenomenon. “As many as 9 million people ages 44 to 70 already are in such careers as the second and third acts of their working lives.” But with the Boomer population at 76 million, there just might be a whole lot more people exploring secondary careers that involve a cause.

There are many reasons for this event, such as shifting cultural values, financial realities, and longer life expectancy, but I think it may be something else. The Boomers grew up in the 60’s, and many of us protested against the man. We also felt we could not trust anyone over 30, but eventually all of us hit 30 and beyond. Maybe our desire to find cause related careers is connected to our earlier feelings. Because we had to sell out, go to work, and become the establishment, we may just feel guilty. We never took that trip to New Orleans on the chopper; we never lived in a Teepee; and we never solved the issue of poverty. Maybe these new careers are our attempt to deal with the guilt associated with these failures.

I don’t know if guilt is the reason I retired from Boeing and started teaching, but I know now that I have an encore career. I am making a lot less money than when I was working for Boeing, but I am much more fulfilled. I am working longer hours, but I am happier. My current role as a professor means that I have the opportunity to lead a group of students on a journey of discovery. My cause involves helping students to learn the value of life long learning. To me this is much more important then making airplane parts.

And that is my thought for the day!


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