For this Virtual Book Tour, we’re pleased to host career reinvention coach, John Tarnoff on our blog. We’ll be discussing his recently published book, Boomer Reinvention: How to Create Your Dream Career Over 50.
After learning the secrets of how to turn setbacks into successes, John reinvented himself at age 50. Today, he’s here to share how a ‘second act’ career can be not only financially successful, but personally fulfilling as well. Let’s get started.
Her Mentor Center: Why should people trust John Tarnoff to take them through a critical life event like reinvention and a second-act career?
John Tarnoff: I’ve lived this process. Not only did I have to pretty consistently learn how to bounce back from the instability and insecurity of Hollywood job changes, I also had to make a mid-life decision about how I wanted to live out the rest of my career when my startup failed. I felt like I had hit bottom. But I knew there had to be a way through this, and my answer was to go back to school to earn my advanced degree in psychology. So between my life experiences, and psychology training, I believe that I have a unique perspective on how to help people get through this transition.
HMC: What makes your book different from other “second-act” books available? How did you come up with the 5 steps and 23 strategies?
JT: Most books that I’ve read – and there are some good ones – focus on the choice of job categories that are available to job seekers. They present the advantages and disadvantages of each kind of job, or industry, and let the reader decide whether that job could be right for them. Other books use case studies to show how specific people went from one career to another as a way of inspiring the reader to also step up to the plate.
While these books are helpful, I wanted to bring a personal development approach to the job seeking process. The 5 steps and 23 strategies stem from one important lesson that I learned a long time ago, namely that we have to take 100% responsibility for everything that goes on in our lives. That doesn’t mean that it’s our fault if something bad happens to us – like losing a job – but rather than blaming other people for our misfortune (“The boss didn’t understand me…”), it’s better to focus on the lessons of that experience, and use them to our advantage in the next situation. The first 3 steps are designed to help you reconcile the past, and clear the slate so that you can make a fresh start. The 4th step is the workshop where you figure out what you want to do, and the 5th step is the connection step to develop the skills to make your new career a reality.
To make the process super practical, I devised the 23 strategies as a smorgasbord of exercises and practices to help anchor the process. There is truly something for everyone in this collection of approaches. No matter what stage someone is in, they’ll likely find something of value in a number of these strategies, all of which are easy to implement, but powerfully effective.
HMC: Why is it so critical that boomers reinvent themselves?
JT: In a word: money. Unless you are one of the 5% –15% of boomers who have saved enough to retire, or who have a full pension to rely on, you are going to have to keep working past 65 in order to maintain your lifestyle – and save enough for when you truly are no longer able to work. We also hear a lot about the problems that the government is having keeping Social Security and Medicare afloat. That question alone should inspire us to both stay in the workforce to keep ourselves solvent, as well as to continue making our contribution to the economy at large. Younger generations are justifiably concerned about having to support us in our old age, particularly considering the size of the boomer generation. By continuing to work, we demonstrate our commitment to being self-reliant and to continuing to do our fair share at a time of great economic flux.
HMC: Entrepreneurship can be a scary endeavor at any age, so why should boomers feel confident starting a business or consultancy so late in their lives when they have a lot to risk?
JT: As the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation has reported, older entrepreneurs (55-64) tend to be more successful at starting businesses than younger ones. I think this is because we actually have learned a lot about how business works, and how life works, and about how to properly manage staff, adjust for the pitfalls down the road, and strategize where the business should go. So while we have a lot at stake – this being possibly the last chance we’ll have to start a business – our chances of success are greater than they’ve ever been.
For someone who has never been an entrepreneur or small business owner, now is perhaps the best time ever to be starting a new venture. Digital tools and resources make starting a new business incredibly inexpensive. Your knowledge and expertise are at their peak. You likely have a rolodex (remember the rolodex?) full of contacts that you can draw from. And social media is a great way to meet more people, and to find customers, partners and vendors.
HMC: What are some of the traits that make boomers better employees? When coaching boomers through reinvention, what have you found to be the most difficult trait to work through? And conversely, what’s the trait that most pleasantly surprised you?
JT: 1. Boomers present a very advantageous value proposition to employers and investors. First, they have experience in business and in life. So anything that they truly commit to is something they’re going to stick with. They’re not going to decide that all of a sudden they want to switch businesses, or move to South America and backpack for a year. With many of life’s challenges behind them, including stable relationships, raising kids and other family and personal issues, they are better employees, better managers, and better owners. This is truly the time of no drama! While healthcare is an issue, we tend to focus too much on the downside, and fail to realize that only 4% of older citizens are living in nursing homes. Most of us are doing just fine, thank you, and aren’t about to slow down for quite some time, yet.
2. The most difficult trait that I have observed with boomers is their unwillingness to adapt to changing times. Actually, that’s only half true. They are actually very able to adapt; they just don’t believe that they can. There’s nothing actually holding them back other than their belief system. This is why my first step in the 5 Boomer Reinvention steps is “Reframing.” It’s a process where they get to rethink the fundamental lens they’re using to look at themselves, and to look at the world.
3. What’s great about my generation is our single-minded desire to stay engaged and to make a difference. While we get criticized for being selfish and self-obsessed, I don’t think that’s quite accurate. Because we’re such a big cohort, and so many earth-shattering changes happened as we were growing up, we do tend to think of ourselves as special. But to me, that specialness means that we are confident about our ability to change things. It’s ironic that some of us have become afraid of change, while as a generation, our core is all about solving problems and getting things done.
HMC: How important are boomers to the current and future economy of the country?
JT: Just do the math. With 10,000 boomers turning 65 every day until December 31, 2029, we are and will continue to be a significant economic driver. By 2060, the share of people over 65 is going to rise from 15 to 24 percent of the population. The good news, according to Pew Research (Economic Mobility Project 2012) is that having more older workers in the workplace does not diminish employment opportunities for younger workers. All generations will benefit from working together in what many organizations, including the AARP are promoting as the multigenerational workforce.
HMC: You mention that there are a few companies initiating “phased retirement” plans. Can you give some examples and why you think this is a good move?
JT: Rather than simply kicking workers out the door when they reach 65, so-called “phased retirement” programs build on the flexible work practices (e.g. telecommuting) that have become more prevalent in the workplace, and provide something of a “soft landing” for older employees to gradually phase out of their job. This is advantageous on many levels. It allows companies to continue to benefit from the skills and experience (and mentoring) that older workers can provide. It also allows older workers to spend less time at their company while still receiving a paycheck, and use the time to set themselves up in their second-act career.
Phased retirement is a concept that has been adopted by the U.S. government in a number of agencies (NASA, Depts. of Labor, Justice & Defense, the Smithsonian), as well as by a small but increasing number of corporations. I love the idea of phased retirement. What a great way for someone to transition to a next act, particularly if they are unsure of what they want to do, or how they want to do it. A phased retirement can give them time to workshop their next moves.
HMC: How do you guide boomers through using social media since for many it seems like a daunting task? As you discuss in the book, a majority of boomers are on social media, but are not using it to either further a career or to find a new one.
JT: In my experience working with boomers, the biggest problem is that they just have never been educated on the value of using social media, and how it can apply to them and their career goals. They are often laboring under a number of misconceptions. Once I explain the value, and how it can be used, it becomes clear to them that social media, particularly LinkedIn, can be a powerful resource.
HMC: If readers were to walk away learning just one thing from this book, what do you think it should be?
JT: The one takeaway that I hope everyone gleans from this book is that it is never too late to start a second-act career – and that successfully launching it is within everyone’s grasp. While my book can provide the spark that gets someone off the dime and into their career reinvention process, there are so many resources available to career re-inventors today. The only thing holding someone back is their own unwillingness to take a chance and bet on themselves.
Thanks, John, for your important work and for joining us here today. Now, Readers, it’s your turn to weigh in with questions or comments through “Leave a Reply” below. Check out John’s website to learn more about what he’s up to and his insightful book, Boomer Reinvention: How to Create Your Dream Career Over 50.