Once upon a time, people had only one career for most of their working lives, until they retired in their fifties or sixties. These days, they are not only changing careers regularly throughout their twenties and thirties, but well into middle age and beyond. In fact, at the age when many workers once retired, many are now choosing to pursue a new career path for the excitement, challenge, social interactions and financial security.
One man who’s helping people to obtain their preferred “second-act career” is reinvention career coach John Tarnoff. Seeing how many older workers were struggling in the wake of the 2008 recession, Tarnoff realised he could help support people to develop more resilience and understand best job-hunting practices.
“My experience as an entertainment professional, coupled with my counselling psychology Master’s degree, meant I was in a good place to be able to share my experience,” says Tarnoff. “I first explored this topic in a TEDx talk in 2012, and then began writing about it in earnest in the Huffington Post in 2014, and began coaching soon after that.”
Tarnoff then decided to publish a detailed book on career transitions. His title, “Boomer Reinvention: How to Create Your Dream Career Over 50”, was released in 2017. That year he was also named a Top Influencer in Aging by PBS/Next Avenue.
Tarnoff’s book provides a framework to help readers hold themselves accountable to the goals they know they want and need to achieve.
“My book is a practical guide, as well as a portfolio of case studies of people who have made this kind of change. It was designed as a menu of tools and practices so that someone could make this transition on their own.”
For those wondering when the right time is for a career reinvention, or if there ever is actually a right time, Tarnoff has some suggestions. “First, reinvention can take many forms. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a 180-degree departure from what you do (pivoting to an entirely new industry, for example). It can be a reinvention in your current job or business.
“Reinvention to me is about mindset. If you’re hitting a wall in your job or career, maybe it’s time to rethink the habitual ways you go about doing or thinking about your work. In the corporate world, getting fired or laid off, no matter what the reason, is the most obvious opportunity to start that rethinking process.
But many people I talk to over 50 are in the category of the “working worried” – not sure if they’re going to be able to hold onto their jobs, or not sure what value they provide anymore, or nervous about how to keep working beyond traditional retirement. These people should also be thinking about making some sort of reinvention happen in their lives.”
Tarnoff advises that to reinvent your career, it’s best to focus on reflection and introspection. Look at what you’ve done in the past, and who you are today. He says, “Get clear about what you like doing, what you want to be doing, and create a mental image of your new life that you can begin to follow and manifest.
You also have to reconcile everything from your past that could lead you astray or keep you stuck: the limiting beliefs and attachments to a role or a status, the baggage from years of disappointments, missed opportunities, burned bridges… Only by healing the past can we hope to create the future.”
Tarnoff doesn’t believe in the need for HR-oriented tests or skills assessment, either. “At this point in our lives, we have the experience and wisdom to better understand ourselves, and to chart our own course.”
The benefits of reinventing your career can be many. Tarnoff says, “If you successfully create a sustainable path forward in your career, one where you can represent yourself as a niche provider of very specific, valuable solutions (and if there is a proven market for these solutions), then you are in control of your career and people come to you for your expertise.
“If you stay engaged, and continue to build and grow this practice, you’ll be able to work for as long as you want and need to work. Think of yourself as a consultant providing value to a client, never as an employee taking directions from a boss.”
The first step Tarnoff recommends for those wanting to reinvent their careers is to start a daily, handwritten journal. You only need to write two pages or spend 20 minutes on this per day.
“Writing it by hand is very important!” says Tarnoff. “It is a way to channel ideas from your unconscious and uncover or rediscover them. It is a way to work out your unanswered questions about your career, and over time come up with the certainty and confidence around your next steps.”
Other tips can be found in Tarnoff’s book, where he details 23 separate strategies across five different steps. “These range from ways of resolving old obstacles that are haunting you and preventing you from moving forward, to using reframing and mind-mapping tools to think differently and to iterate your ideas about your next job, business, or career.”
When it comes to obstacles facing people during a career reinvention, Tarnoff sees one thing in particular holding people back. “It’s the attachment we have to the job that we’ve just left. The longer we’ve been at that job, the harder it is to detach from it. Invariably, people compare subsequent job prospects in relation to that lost position.
This creates a dangerous inability for someone to clearly focus on new possible opportunities. It can be particularly problematic when it comes to job interviews, too, if you’re taking your regret for your old job into your meeting.”
More information about John Tarnoff, his book and coaching services can be found on his website, www.JohnTarnoff.com.
John is a reinvention career coach, speaker, and bestselling author who connects mid and late-career professionals to their inner calling, helping them transform their work lives into meaningful, purposeful, and sustainable second act-careers.
Throughout his 35-year career as a media/entertainment exec, he learned how to turn his many setbacks into successes and reinvented his own career at 50, earning a master’s degree in psychology to focus on professional development and training.