Many of us aren’t as close to retirement age as we think. A recent Wells Fargo survey found that 48% of Americans aren’t confident they’ll be able to save enough to retire comfortably, and 34% of middle class consumers plan to work until at least age 80 as a result.
That’s worrisome, but perhaps there’s a silver lining to the American habit of not saving enough. Another study, the Longevity Project, found that folks who were continually productive in their careers in middle age and beyond lived longer than folks who took it easy. Going after goals they were passionate about seemed to help them stick around longer.
Given that many of us have another 30 to 40 years of work ahead in midlife, I’d argue that we should redefine what many think of as midcareer as still being part of the startup phase.
Simply putting yourself in situations where you’re surrounded by people trying something new—whether that’s taking a class at a local college or joining an organization for entrepreneurs—can help open you to new possibilities and put you, not your current employer, in charge of your career. Here are some other strategies commonly used by entrepreneurs in startups that can help you get a fresh take on your career, so you can stay focused on growth.
Write a business plan. It doesn’t matter if you scrawl it on a napkin at your favorite café or create a PowerPoint presentation. The point is to get clear on where you are now and what your options for growth are. This document doesn’t need to be longer than a page.
To get started, go to the Small Business Administration’s website and take a minute to read the “Essential Elements of a Good Business Plan”. Now fill in all of the categories—for your career. Keep each entry to no more than three lines, so the task doesn’t become overwhelming.
- In the Executive Summary, write a brief one liner describing what your career is all about and what your top growth goal for the year is.
- Do a market analysis. What are the opportunities, both within your company and industry and outside of it, for someone with your particular skills?
- In the marketing section, consider how you will promote yourself, whether it’s to your bosses, to peers outside the company to build your network, or to new potential employers.
- Write some financial projections. How much money can you bring in this year? Are there additional sources of income you’d like to add, perhaps by taking on a higher paying job at your company or starting a side business? How much money will these new avenues bring in? How soon will you be able to add them? If you’re starting a new side business, maybe you’d say that’s a Q3 source of income.
- Tackle the funding requirements. If you’re thinking of getting a new degree, how much money will it cost you? Are there other investments you plan to make in your career, like joining a high-level networking group or going to conferences? Will you “bootstrap” them by paying for them in cash or find some other way to finance them?
Be willing to pivot. Writing your business plan will help you quickly gain clarity on whether what you’re doing in your career is working or not—or if you need to shift in a new direction, like a startup where the business model isn’t working as planned. For instance, maybe your market analysis will tell you that you.