Business Case Studies, Executive Interviews, Tamara J Erickson on Managing Troubled Times

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Executive Interviews: Interview with Tamara J Erickson on Managing Troubled Times
March 2009 - By Dr. Nagendra V Chowdary

Tamara J Erickson
Tamara J Erickson, President nGenera Innovation Network

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    The necessity of continuing to work may represent a psychological shift for boomers, but for most, it does not represent a major behavioral change. The reality is that few boomers were headed for an old-time version of retirement even before the recession. Even boomers with a large nest egg in hand were recognizing that their long life expectancy – much longer than any generation’s before – will give this generation a new life stage: post-first career and pre-old age. On average, boomers can expect to be active and intellectually engagedat leastuntil age eighty-five or so.For those who are in their mid-fifties today, that’s another thirty years – as long as most have spent on their careers so far.

    Today, the big change for boomers is that the options for how they might spend those thirty years appear more limited. Many were planning to spend their second phase picking up on teenage intentions – working to give back or directly contribute to a cause they care deeply about. Others perhaps wanted to learn new skills. Most look forward to spending at least some of the time ahead in pursuit of leisure activities and enjoying family. Now, many Boomers expect to continue working for a significantly longer period of time than they anticipated just twelve months ago.

    It’s important to recognize that most Boomers won’t need to work as hard as they are today for another thirty years – most will be able to meet their financial obligations through reduced work commitments. So, all the other priorities – volunteer work, learning, family and leisure – are not really off the table. They’re just part of a portfolio of activities that formostwill include some form of commercial work.

    As boomers consider working longer, it’s important to keep in mind that thirty years is a long time – far too long to settle for continuing with a work life that isn’t satisfying, even with the increased financial challenge. Boomers have enough time ahead to do it all over again – differently, better, and with the benefit of experience and the freedom of focus. Workmay or may not be the core activity, but it is likely to be one important – and hopefully very gratifying –element.

  • What should boomers do?

  1. Approximately 20% of people are deeply engaged by their work – find it exciting and compelling. If you’re among that lucky minority, talk with your current employer about options for continuing on. Discuss a reduced time or more flexible role, if that’s what would work for you. Or, let themknowthat you’d like to take on a new, and perhaps even more challenging role. Some of you, perhaps particularly women, may feel a sense of personal ambition that you were not able to exercise when you were actively rearing children. You may be ready to take on more in the workplace-more responsibility, greater challenge.
  2. If you’ve already discovered you don’t enjoy your current work, begin now to segue toward other options. You may want to try a profession that you didn’t the first time around; thirty years is plenty of time to go to medical, nursing, or law school – and build a second, successful career. For some, your work experiences may involve entrepreneurial activities this time around – starting new businesses and pursuing ideas that have been forming in your mind throughout your "first career" experiences.
  3. Is there a way to combine work for economic benefitwith contribution to social good? Is there a cause you care deeply about? How does the idealism and yearning for meaning of your youth influence choices for your next life stage? Use this opportunity to craft scenarios that combine lifelong passions with the practical realities of the life you’d now like to lead.

  4. From a company perspective, boomers still represent an important pool of skilled and experienced labor. Early anecdotal evidence indicates that many companies are choosing to retain boomer talent, even when laying off less experienced employees.

1. Troubled Times Case Study
2. ICMR Case Collection
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