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I Could Be Done, But I’m Not!

By Gwen Kelly



Many Baby Boomers are at a fork in the road, challenged to reframe and rethink if a next stage of their careers is possible. Or if it’s time to take the off-ramp to Retirementland.

For me, being in the highly youth-oriented business of advertising and marketing, I am constantly reminded of how relevancy is critical. But as I edge closer to “retirement age,” I keep thinking “I could be done, but I’m not ready yet!”

Just as I was having this internal debate, I found some support and encouragement for that perspective when I stumbled upon a television spot from TD Ameritrade that speaks to the heart of this issue called “The Green Room: A Plan for What’s Next” . The brand spokesperson meets with a client who has been working his whole life. He describes some of the “prestigious” jobs he’s had over the years, such as news producer and executive transport manager, which are really just code for paper boy and valet. The client’s key point is he really likes working, and he doesn’t want to create a retirement plan, but rather “a plan for whatever comes next.”

This spoke to me at my core. Retirement is not in my future. There is so much more to do and the reasons for staying in the workforce are many. In talking with many of my fellow Baby Boomers, this idea resonated, but was it easier said than done? Turns out, I was going to find out first hand.

Last year, my corporate career with Walmart, Inc. ended as a result of a reorganization and I was forced to consider retirement. Instead, I took it as an opportunity to pivot and seek a new career opportunity altogether. What resulted, was an apprenticeship at a technology-based cultural consultancy in New York City, sparks & honey, where I was paired with millennial strategists at the company to support client deliverables and contribute to a special IP project on the Future of Work.

I often daydreamed and imagined my experience was every bit as Hollywood-memorable and comparable to that of Robert De Niro’s in the 2015 movie “The Intern.” From the lens of working on Madison Avenue to every day engagement with New York City life and its world-famous city-scape, mine was an unbelievable experience. And more so, it was life-changing and life affirming to make #RewireNotRetire more than a hashtag; it was a path to further career satisfaction that was actually real and attainable.

The takeaways from that experience were many; but here are three that could help others faced with retirement consider a “third act.”

1. In today’s workplace, intergenerational relationships are critical.

Albeit Millennials comprise the largest percentage of today’s workforce in the US, 20% of the total workforce is age 60+. With 4–5 generations in the workplace in some industries, the workforce is age diverse. In the case of sparks and honey which has a median early 20s to mid-30s age range, interaction with seasoned talent provided a unique, richer and more dynamic work experience and positive business outcomes for the consultancy’s clients and their brands.

2. It’s Never Too Late to Learn Something New.

Whether it was learning the latest Apple computer hack or adjusting to the preference of communication tools such as Slack or the complex knowledge software of Quid and NetBase utilized by the data scientists, an ever expanding toolkit was discovered to be necessary to remain nimble and resourceful in the 21st century technology world.

3. Experience Leads to Impact.

When armed with knowledge, dedication and passion, and bound with desire to mentor and be mentored tremendous outcomes can be realized. Case in point, from the time as a senior cultural apprentice I was given the opportunity to work on several of the consultancy’s top brands, e.g. participating on business calls, providing strategic guidance on a global beauty brand, and contributing to a research project that has implication way beyond just the marketing world, “The Future of Work.”

I can say truthfully, having had such a unique and impactful experience as I was entering this next career phase, I am now all in for seeking the “what’s next.” Heck yes, it is scary. And most companies have yet to realize or catch up on how this tribe of Boomer retirement disruptors are coming to play. But let there be no doubt. We’re coming to continue our winning streak. We’re the original life-cycle disruptors. It can be done!


About the Author

Gwen Kelly is a veteran multicultural marketer who has worked with brands including American Family Insurance, Disney, Procter and Gamble, Singapore Airlines and Walmart. Over the course of her career, Gwen has become known for her keen ability to inject insight into multiple areas of the marketing process and the infusion of the multicultural perspective bringing life and energy to a client’s bottom line and reputation. Most recently, Gwen participated in an Executive Apprenticeship program at cultural consultancy, sparks & honey, where she worked on a Future of Work 2030 project. Follow her on LinkedIn.

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