For those Nearing their Forties: How to Plan for your Second Half of Career and Life ?

If the previous generation was the first to contemplate life after retirement as the Industrial revolution and the birth of modern scientific management meant that employees outlived their organizations. In other words, the baby boomer generation was the first generation to actually contemplate what their lives would be after retiring from the corporate world. This meant that many boomers post retirement engaged themselves in a secondary career as consultants, sitting on the boards of companies that leveraged their experience, and generally moved into positions of honor and respectability in social institutions like schools, colleges, universities, and hospitals. After the baby boomers, the Generation X or those born in the 1970s are now facing the same situation that their parents faced i.e. what to do with the second part of one’s life and career. As most Gen Xers are hitting forty or have already crossed forty, this crucial decision about what to do after forty is indeed critical. This means that decisions as to whether continue in the same job or sector, whether to retire from the corporate world and become social entrepreneurs and whether to slow down the hectic pace of work as otherwise they would be facing burnout.

Among the choices before those near or just above forty years of age are to develop a parallel career in related industries that pays reasonably well and does not consume as much time as the present career. Further, the Gen Xers who have been successful in material and career terms can become social entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and angel investors, or devote their time to higher value adding pursuits like being part of the government in an advisory capacity and leveraging their experience for the betterment of public welfare. Of course, these choices are available to those who have saved enough and who have budgeted for their children’s education. For those who are still finding their feet and nearing forty, the best course of action would be to ensure that they grow in their present careers and rise up the hierarchy in their present jobs so that they have personal savings, professional fulfillment, and a sense of achievement by the time they are fifty. Further, for those who have already made a mark for themselves in their present careers and feel that they cannot grow more, forty is the right time to venture on their own and build startups that would have the potential to be the next big thing.

However, there is a big caveat to these life decisions as to what to do after forty and this is in the form of the ongoing economic crisis that threatens to unravel the successes of the last few decades. indeed, Gen Xers have already lived through two economic crashes (the Dotcom bubble burst and the Great Recession of 2008) which meant that they were hit when they were about to settle down in their careers (the dotcom crash) and they were again hit when they were just about to make the transition to senior management or upper middle management. this is the reason many Gen Xers are facing a true midlife crisis as they feel that they have got the wrong end of stick not once but twice. Therefore, in these circumstances, it is better for those nearing forty or who have just crossed forty to ensure that they do well in their present job and not take hasty decisions that would leave them without savings for their children’s growth and professional disappointments.

Finally, the clear implication of the discussion above is that Gen Xers who have the urge to self-actualize should wait for a few more years and let the dust settle down on the economic slump before taking any life changing decision. This means that they should put their heads down and focus on the task and once things begin to look up, they can opt for any of the choices discussed here.


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Career Development