The modern day transformational trends seem to have shaken up the corporate world at a rapid pace. The new buzz words - disruption, startups, digital, etc. seem to outline today’s corporate concepts but were nonexistent just a decade ago.
With the same rate of transformation and disruption we can expect these trends to continue and offer a different corporate landscape another ten years from now. Employees of today find themselves in a very different career path as compared to their predecessors. One can no longer expect that the organization one works for at thirty will still be around when he is sixty.
With the ever changing pace of corporate roles and business models one can certainly no longer expect to do the same type of work for their entire career. For most people the change is not just organizational but also part of how to manage their work life. If they continue to do the same type of work over a number of years they will either find it boring or mundane and no longer be able to perform in it.
This argument, however is not supported by the general management principles which have long valued experience which has driven research, performance and best practices. In fact for many performance has improved.
Great scientists, artists, etc. have all continued to perform till their later years. Claude Monet (1840-1926) was still painting masterpieces in his eighties, Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) painted till he died in his nineties. However, these all are the rare examples and of individuals who were brilliant at what they did. Experience may have its advantages where relevant but only if such advantage is derived in terms of actual contribution and only for a limited few.
We keep hearing about the 'midlife crisis' of the modern day executive. It is basically not a crisis but boredom of their mundane work life. In their mid forties till fifties most senior executives have reached the pinnacle of their careers and know it and with twenty or more years of working experience they are certainly good at their work but seldom learning anything new and neither feel the challenge or the satisfaction in their work. What most of these senior executives are missing is the preparation for the 'Second Half' of their career life.
Many such people can bring about a change and motivation in their work by actually moving from one type of organization to a completely different one. A typical transition would be to move to a completely different organization such as a not for profit company, an educational institution or even at times a completely different line of work. Such a career change can bring about the requisite motivation and challenge that any individual would need for better performance and output.
Such transition options are, however sometimes limited and hard to come by. Another option for such individuals is to start developing a parallel career.
Many senior executives today can actively work towards entrepreneurship or parallel career models with sometimes related and at times different lines of work.
Take for example a senior banker or corporate executive who can take up part time or full time consulting work or launch a non profit community or even join an educational institution. Their skill set is certainly put to good use but in a different line of work and offers them a parallel career for their later stage in life – the Second Half
There are actually very few individuals who are able to manage the Second Half better or even attempt to plan it. Most will continue to work as they currently are, keeping up with their routine, continue being bored and retire on the job. It is only a few who will treat the working life expectancy as an opportunity and they will be the ones with the Second Half success stories.
The basic requirement of managing the Second Half is to create one long before actually entering into it. In our corporate world we see a very handful of senior executives that take any interest in giving back to the society.
Very few undertake any form of active volunteer work citing reasons as being too busy with their main career roles. The fact is that most people that have not undertaken any form of teaching or volunteer work during their career will not do so even after retirement or exit from their current management role.
The executives of today must plan their Second Half for them to lead a successful transition in future. The average work life expectancy has significantly increased thanks to much better medical care, health awareness and the fact that more jobs are now knowledge driven.
As such even with the pandemic and current work from home trends, most organizations are continuing at least hybrid work models.
This corporate work transformation brings along with it a multitude of opportunities available at hand to the executives of today with blurring work and knowledge boundaries and shrinking geographical boundaries. The executive of today can plan the Second Half much better.
With opportunities for online work to actual management roles in non profits to transforming entrepreneurship ideas into real companies as start ups.
As such the ability of the individual to contribute towards the society has increased given the much more advanced tools and technology at hand to deliver knowledge. All these opportunities can only exist however for the executive that has planned the Second Half much earlier.
There is also another important reason to manage and plan for the Second Half at an earlier stage of the career rather than when ending it. No one can expect to have a long career without experiencing any potential downside or set back.
There are times when one gets passed over for increments or promotions. At other times businesses face losses or close down. Infact nowadays we see such disruptions and business failures far too often as many companies close down due to poor business models, competition or the industry itself facing disruption.
There are numerous such setbacks which any average working person may experience in their career and when such setbacks occur at a later stage of the career it most often means an early unwanted exit from the person’s working life.
On the other hand individuals that plan their Second Half much earlier are at a much better position to manage such setbacks at any later stage of their life. Sometimes infact having a second interest or parallel career can even be perceived as career success.
We value success differently for all. The perception of success can at times overtake success itself.
Where it may be expected for any individual, that has achieved a certain level of experience and position after a number of years of work, to be treated as successful however that measure of success keeps being measured and perceived as such only till such time as there is no failure. Failure to get a promotion, failure to continue employment or failure to achieve increment or growth. Continued success is near impossibility as where there is success there is also failure however today’s society only perceives success to be the absence of failure.
For the mid career executive of today it is vitally important for not only one’s own but also for the individuals’ family sake that there be an area in which the individual contributes, makes a difference.
This may be a second interest, a parallel career, even a social venture and any such role in which he can claim to be a leader, derive respect and claim success and more importantly ensure the absence of failure.
Managing the Second Half is managing one’s future. It is important when it comes to individuals to continue to contribute but also perform better. It helps manage the organizational culture of today which values success, but creates failures and also offers opportunities.
The writer is a staff member