We are experiencing the beginning of a massive demographic transition, particularly in the developed world. The percentage of the population over the age of 50 is exploding, and a growing number of people are looking to change careers later in life. These “encore”careers were the topic among expert panelists at the 2012 Milken Institute GlobalConference.
The discussion started with all four panelists sharing personal stories about their mid-life transition after having successful “first” careers. Over the years, they started getting less and less satisfaction from what they were doing. As Sherry Lansing, CEO of The Sherry Lansing Foundation and founder of EnCorps Teachers Program put it, she “did not want to die at her desk.”
However, the panelists noted that people face challenges in making the transitions that they want. For example, there are not programs that provide people older than 50 with the education and internships that are readily available to younger people.
Moderator Paul Irving of the Milken Institute discussed what the perceived obstacles were for most Americans who are looking to make the later life transition, including:
- Financial insecurity
- Uncertainty in career choice
- Not enough information about what careers are in need of them
- Inadequate support system
- Inadequate time
A. Barry Rand, CEO of AARP, pointed out that as our population is aging, there is a growing group of younger baby boomers who are taking care of both their children and their parents, which makes the economic insecurity that comes with changing careers even more daunting. Marc Freedman, CEO of Civic Ventures, noted that the financial insecurity issue is compounded by the fact that most healthcare is provided through employers. Lansing noted than in her experience, the average transition takes 18-24 months. Cutting this time down would help alleviate many of the barriers discussed.
Ron Cordes, co-founder of the Cordes Foundation, used a personal anecdote about his career change to point out that many jobs today are procured through personal and professional networks that can often take years to build. When planning a switch, it is helpful to utilize the networks you already have built, or to start networking ahead of time before making the change.
All agreed that we need programs that match those who want to make a transition with information regarding where the labor needs are in order to create some level of comfort for those who want to change careers later in life.