Twentysomething 2.0: Rebooting your career

The recession has boomers and Gen Xers feeling uncertain about their future careers.

EMAIL  |   PRINT  |   SHARE  |   RSS
 
google my aol my msn my yahoo! netvibes
Paste this link into your favorite RSS desktop reader
See all CNNMoney.com RSS FEEDS (close)
By Pat Regnier, Money Magazine assistant managing editor

pat_regnier_2009a.03.jpg
chart_lifetime_gigs.gif

(Money Magazine) -- Recently my family and I wandered into an outdoor punk-rock festival in our neighborhood. I can't say I fit in. There's no way to look hard-core when you're trying to shoo your children away from the mosh pit.

But the (way too loud) music connected with me. This was the soundtrack of my own youth, and lately I've been feeling young again. And not completely in a good way.

Think back to your early twenties. Your future was a blur. You may have had only a sketchy idea of what you might end up doing for a living, and you weren't sure you'd be successful. For lots of boomers and Gen Xers, the recession has brought the old uncertainty roaring back. It's Twentysomething 2.0.

We already knew our jobs weren't lifetime deals (see the graphic). But now entire white-collar industries are shrinking or reorganizing: finance, marketing, media, real estate. We're realizing we may need to make a really big change.

Young mind, old mortgage

The smart move would be to get past the fear and try to recapture the openness and energy of youth. It's not so simple. Our careers may once again be up in the air, but our obligations are nailed down. We have spouses, kids, and mortgages.

Employers don't see us as actual twentysomethings either. We want real paychecks, and we're actually going to use our health insurance. And as sociologist Richard Sennett has observed, we're not docile yes-men and -women. Today's flexibility-obsessed firms don't always appreciate that.

Planning for reboots

Our society isn't yet set up for people to go through startup mode twice, says Marc Freedman of Civic Ventures, a nonprofit dedicated to helping boomers move into "encore" careers in public service. It's still too hard for mid-career people to go back to school -- or to maintain health coverage between jobs.

Even financial planning needs a new approach: You may want to hold less in stocks in order to have liquid assets to tap during a career reboot.

Then there's the psychological challenge of shifting gears when your plans fall apart. One approach that helps, says Herminia Ibarra of the Insead business school: Don't assume that you'll quickly go from dead-end career A to dream job B. You'll have false starts and a long learning curve, and you may have to experiment with a few jobs, volunteering, or consulting gigs. You won't know what fits until you actually try new things. "People act their way into a new career," she says.

Getting back to punk ... It turns out the bassist of Hüsker Dü, one of my favorite '80s bands, now owns a restaurant in Minnesota. Greg Norton didn't transform overnight.

"After the band broke up, I was like, 'What do I do now?' " he says. He started working in kitchens, became a chef, and finally learned enough to open a place with his wife. To quote a Hüsker song I've had on heavy rotation: "Expectations only mean you really think you know what's coming next. And you don't."

Thinking of relocating to get a better job? Tell us your story. Please send an email with a brief description of your situation and a photo to Donna Rosato at donna_rosato@moneymail.com. For the CNNMoney.com Comment Policy, click here. To top of page

Send feedback to Money Magazine
Features
They're hiring!These Fortune 100 employers have at least 350 openings each. What are they looking for in a new hire? More
If the Fortune 500 were a country...It would be the world's second-biggest economy. See how big companies' sales stack up against GDP over the past decade. More
Sponsored By:
More Galleries
50 years of the Ford Mustang Take a drive down memory lane with our favorite photos of the car through the years. More
Cool cars from the New York Auto Show These are some of the most interesting new models and concept vehicles from the Big Apple's car show. More
8 CEOs who took a pay cut in 2013 Median CEO pay inched up 9% in 2013 to $13.9 million. But not everyone got a bump last year. Here are eight CEOs who missed out. More
Sponsors
Worry about the hackers you don't know 
Crime syndicates and government organizations pose a much greater cyber threat than renegade hacker groups like Anonymous. Play
GE CEO: Bringing jobs back to the U.S. 
Jeff Immelt says the U.S. is a cost competitive market for advanced manufacturing and that GE is bringing jobs back from Mexico. Play
Hamster wheel and wedgie-powered transit 
Red Bull Creation challenges hackers and engineers to invent new modes of transportation. Play

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer LIBOR Warning: Neither BBA Enterprises Limited, nor the BBA LIBOR Contributor Banks, nor Reuters, can be held liable for any irregularity or inaccuracy of BBA LIBOR. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.