Start planting your second career before 40

If you work for a big company, it is safe to assume that you'll be dead (professionally) by the age of 45-50. Professional death will take the form of:

  1. You'll be on your way out.
  2. You'll be taken over by younger colleagues (i.e. they'll be awarded with the promotions you feel entitled to).
  3. Stagnation will have taken a toll on your motivation, commitment and enjoyment.

Hence, you'd better start working on opportunities for a second career by the time it happens.

Your second career should give new air to:

  1. Your finances, specially if you had children after 30, and therefore face your professional death with children still at school.
  2. Your sanity. You still face at least 15/20 years of productive professional activity. You’d better have something to do with all that time.

If you are 35-40 already, plant the seed of your second phase.

  1. Interests. If you happen to have a clear personal interest, allocate time to nurture it and consider investing on it (courses, events, forums).
  2. Network. Talk openly about your willingness to do something else. Anyone (and I mean really anyone) can set you on track for a second career.
  3. Start small. Set yourself a super-easy goal. Ask to give a talk at your children’s school. Start a blog. Buy a book. Sign in for an event. Talk to a friend about this over some beers. It will take you nowhere, probably, but it changes your mindset from daydreaming to action.
  4. Experiment. Try different things in different domains if that’s fine for you. The point is, you don’t need to have a predefined and fine tuned plan. You are just exploring.
  5. Look for positive influence. Try to surround yourself of optimist, energetic people. Move away from burnouts and know-it-alls.
  6. Don’t think of money at this stage. Just think on creating a slice of time for something else that’s not your day job.

I sat myself on this course years ago, triggered by the inevitable introspection that follows watching someone you admire go through a terrible journey way too soon. I’ve explored and gotten nowhere (yet) but it’s clear for me this is the right path. In the meantime:

I’ve done things I’m very proud of, whether it’s the blog, my Minutes App, our Codigo Rojo podcast, my activity as mentor for Endeavour. And while all of this has clear room for improvement, I’m proud of having shipped stuff out there. It means I committed, I persevered and I delivered.

I’ve met the most interesting people, expanding slowly (I’m an introvert) the network by timidly offering myself to do different things. One person introduced another, and then another, and that road takes you to unexpected places.

I’ve learned lots. My day job would have never given me this chance (despite I’m a privileged). Naturally, you are supposed to produce, not to play or explore.

I’m hopeful (not sure that’s a word). I have a clear belief that the best is yet to come.

I became better at my day job. The perspective that other commitments give you sets a clearer focus on contribution (rather than busyness). I’ve become more effective.

All this (and much more) was already argued by Peter Drucker in his brilliant Managing Oneself. I realised only later that I had inadvertently followed his advice, and therefore I can only endorse everything he says there. Go read it, it may be the first step of your journey. It should. And count on me if you feel I can help, I’d be glad to have you on my own journey too.

Enjoy the weekend, give this a thought, and prepare for the second half of your life, where the best stuff happens. Cheers.