Rick was featured in the “career” section of April 9, 2008’s Online Wall Street Journal with his TechnoServe story–including his (and Adrian’s) picture in full Swazi costume. It’s about halfway through the article below. Despite the slightly negative title, family and friends are all proud.
Second Acts: Career Paths for Worn-Out Executives
If you’ve been in the same industry for decades, changing careers might seem daunting. But, for many recovering executives, nonprofits, career coaching or making a clean break are all real options.
By DANA MATTIOLI
Golfing and gardening aren’t as enticing as they once were. While baby boomers are increasingly becoming eligible for Social Security benefits, so far it seems that few are actually putting their working lives to bed. According to an AARP survey, 79% of baby boomers plan to work in some capacity into their retirement years.
But not all fiftysomething executives want to stay in the jobs, or industries, they spent most of their careers. Many are opting to step back from the long hours and stress of managerial roles in their golden years in favor of new and less time-consuming jobs.
A decade ago, Arnie Cogan, 64, exchanged a suit and tie, and a pay package that topped $300,000 a year, for a flight attendant uniform and starting salary of about $20,000 a year at Southwest Airlines. He now works as an in-flight supervisor for the company at its Phoenix airport. “It’s been the best job that I’ve ever had,” says Mr. Cogan, who previously worked as vice president of a graphic arts supply company. In his vice president role, Mr. Cogan worked 60 hours a week and frequently attended dinner meetings. As a flight attendant he worked 30 hours a week, and in his new role he works 40 hours a week. For seasoned executives like Mr. Cogan, a slower lifestyle and less stress can trump a big corporate paycheck.
For other older careerists who have been downsized or are in need of a change, there are a variety of options. One of the top destinations for people seeking a second act according to a myriad of surveys: Nonprofits. Working for a charitable organization may provide a change of pace and rewarding work. Consulting is also a natural destination for executives looking to use the skills they’ve developed throughout their careers. For others, career coaching is an increasingly popular field. And of course, some executives. Like Mr. Cogan, are simply looking to make a clean break from their old work lives altogether.
To experts, it’s no surprise that many older career changers look to the nonprofit world for a second act. “This is a group that when they were young thought they wanted to change the world, and many put that on the backburner for 20 to 30 years while they climbed the corporate ladder,” says Tamara Erickson, author of “Retire Retirement: Career Strategies for the Boomer Generation.”
A survey by Civic Ventures, a San Francisco-based nonprofit, found that 58% of fiftysomethings want a second-career that aids their community. But it’s not just altruism at play. Having seasoned employees with business savvy come onboard is an asset for nonprofits, too, since they generally work with limited resources and rely heavily on volunteer work. Nonprofits offer an opportunity to give back while moving away from the hours and stress of managerial positions.
What’s more, you don’t need decades of specific experience to find a job. The nonprofit sector typically welcomes professionals from a wide range of industries, says Howard Seidel, a partner at Essex Partners, a career management and outplacement firm in Boston . “If I’m a financial services person and I’m looking into biotech, the chances are not impossible. but improbable,” he says. “If I’m looking into the nonprofit area there is much more receptivity.”
Nonprofits can also offer nonmanagement roles with less stress and flexibility, giving executives time to pursue hobbies outside of the workplace. For the first time in years that might mean an end to answering incessant emails via Blackberry and dealing with the stress of being boss and watching the bottom line.
Rick Walleigh, 59, left a management position with a high-tech company to work for TechnoServe, a nonprofit that helps people in the developing world build businesses to break the cycle of poverty. When he first joined, he worked 40 to 50 hours a week, compared to the 60 to 70 hours a week he previously worked. He has since further cut back his hours to 25 a week. “Work is a lot more fun if you’re not the one who is ultimately responsible for everything,” says Mr. Walleigh.
Still, like many businesspeople turned nonprofit employees, Mr. Walleigh struggled with letting go of the power and tendency to take control of situations. He says he frequently had to battle himself not to jump in and take the reigns. Experts say many executives have a hard time relinquishing such power. “Some miss high-octane jobs; it’s very addictive,” says Tim Irwin, corporate psychologist and author of “Run With the Bulls Without Getting Trampled.”
(Above) Rick Walleigh (Center) with family and random person at Reed Dance in Swaziland while working for TechnoServe, a nonprofit helping developing countries.
Giving up the trappings of power, such as administrative assistants and other perks, could also take some getting used to. Irene Stillings, 68, executive director of the California Center for Sustainable Energy, was faced with making her own photocopies, arranging her travel plans (this time flying coach) and other administrative duties. The former business-development executive says it’s a small price to pay to be able to do work that makes a difference. “Everyone wants to feel that they’re contributing to a better world, and in this position I really am,” she says of the nonprofit, which provides education and services to help people “green” their lives.
If you want even more flexibility in your second act, independent consulting is ideal because you can stick with their areas of expertise and set your own hours, says Eric Winegardner, vice president of client adoption at job site Monster.com. Don’t overlook your current employer when it comes to consulting, either says Mr. Winegardner. Many companies allow employees to stay on the payroll as contract workers for 20 or so hours a week. If you plan to leave your employer, networking is critical to spread the message that you’re looking for new opportunities. Rather than sending a mass email to everyone you know, Mr. Winegardner suggests making an update to your employment status on social-networking sites you belong to.