We Need a New Word

It’s time to invent a new word.

I talked to Janice the other day who wants to create a new future for herself. Janice is in her late 40s and works in banking. Over the last six months, she’s had a growing feeling that the life path she’s on is not what she wants anymore.

“I spent the last 25 years doing what I thought I was supposed to do. I’ve worked hard to create success for myself. I’m proud of what I’ve done but it’s not satisfying anymore. I tell people I’m ready to retire but that word doesn’t feel right.”

Retirement is defined as the action or fact of leaving one's job and ceasing to work.

Janice doesn’t want to cease work. If all goes well, she sees herself working for another 20 years.

Janice is part of a generation that, for the first time in history, has the luxury of time to create a new career that is as long as their first career.

To be sure, lots of people have started new careers in midlife. But younger Baby Boomers and Gen Xers are the first generation(s) to be faced with the opportunity for second careers en masse.

We are living longer and healthier, allowing us to continue to work longer. Retirement at 62 is unappealing for a lot of people Janice’s age.

So, what do we call this stage between our first career and retirement?

Here’s what I’ve noticed talking to hundreds of people who want to create or have created their next life act.

  • They’ve done what was expected of them. Now they want to do what they want to do.

  • Many have carried a dream with them since college that they now want to live.

  • Making money is important, but aligning their values with their work is more important.

Second act? Twilight career? Encore career? These names don’t feel quite right.

We need a term that captures the longing for passion and purpose that pulls many of us to create a new future for ourselves.


Kirsten Bunch