What's a good second career to address age-related irrelevance?
April 4, 2019 3:11 AM   Subscribe

What are good second career paths to stay relevant as one gets older? I'm 44 and single, and I've been part of big tech in a non-technical capacity for 20 years. I have a good amount of savings but I'd like to continue to be a productive member of society and not retire.

I fear the loss of relevance as I get older, especially in tech as it evolves. Short of clawing my way to power in my firm (and I'm not terribly interested), it seems to me the two best (but still low odds) areas where aging is less of an issue are:

* Working in Politics (various capacities)
* Becoming an artist (Creating art)

Perhaps teaching, but I want more glamour. Any other ideas?
posted by Borborygmus to Work & Money (15 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Depending on your geographic area and personality: real estate agent. You need to be a very social person, willing to work a job that’s always on call, a self-promoter, and patient about waiting for clients to find the right place before you get paid (which sometimes takes years).
posted by sallybrown at 4:30 AM on April 4, 2019 [3 favorites]

IME "artist" isn't really a career path without some formal training and luck, and rarely then. Are you already involved in politics in some way? Can you leverage your tech experience into political or corporate consultancy? Age isn't necessarily a downside in consulting.
posted by aspersioncast at 5:23 AM on April 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

Being a productive member of society and not doing full-time waged work any more (which is what I assume you mean by "retired") are hardly mutually exclusive.

Consider going abroad and doing some volunteer work. You'll learn something new, guaranteed. You might even be able to remain in another country, doing something completely different from tech.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 5:35 AM on April 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Were you a project manager or brand manager in your tech life (you said "non-technical capacity)? Project management is easily transferrable (fight me), and you probably have other organizational and/or administrative skills as well that will transfer. I'd look at nonprofits, who would often kill for such skillsets along with the stability that you seem to be offering. The pay is lower than what you're used to, but that didn't sound like a major motivator in your original ask.
posted by Mogur at 5:43 AM on April 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

As a Very Glamorous Teacher*, I would take offense at your remark but I've won enough awards and have enough self-esteem to let it go.

Having said that, if you were an amazing substitute teacher, you could work whenever you felt like it and get a lot of positive good vibes. If you want to feel like a Kardashian or a Hadid, walk into a roomful of kids as they screech in delight because they're so happy to see you.

* I feel like creating the Glam Teacher calendar is now A Thing I need to do.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 5:58 AM on April 4, 2019 [9 favorites]

I get that you're kind of spitballing here, looking for general ideas, but it seems like this question could use a bit more focus (in your own head, even if not here), not least because "relevant", "productive member of society", and "earning a living" are not necessarily the same things at all.

(Just as starting examples: while artists may be "relevant" or "productive" their entire lives, "earning a living" as an artist tends to be "HA! No. "Low odds" is an understatement." Touching on sallybrown's answer, real estate (as an agent or property owner or both) is not at all uncommon as a second career for musicians who may have had some success while younger but can no longer support themselves entirely through their art. They can still earn money while having a schedule flexible enough to play shows and work on new material.

And if you've been paying any attention to the US politics threads, there's certainly plenty of, um, discussion about the "relevance" or "productive member of society" elements of our current crop of active political class, which definitely skews older (and whiter) than the general US population.)

Aging out of the workforce is generally a concern in virtually any job, AFAICT, at least partly because there are plenty of incentives for companies to hire people younger and cheaper. And while there are certainly stories of folks finding success in politics or art late in life, virtually all the people working in these areas after 50 have been doing it in one way or another for most of their working lives.


I've been part of big tech in a non-technical capacity for 20 years.

Genuine question - I honestly don't know enough about the tech world to even guess - but how urgent are your concerns about aging out if you're not actually a coder or programmer? I've certainly heard of and read plenty of horror stories about tech companies dumping older workers who can't learn the hot new language or industry norms and/or can't or won't do 80-hour-a-week "crunch months", but I think it's worth considering whether your current position and job requirements put you in serious danger of being unemployed for age-related reasons.

Otherwise, strong second for Mogur's answer - it's entirely possible your experience and skills could transfer over to another industry entirely. It's hard to give concrete suggestions without knowing what your skillset is (are you an accountant? HR? in marketing? logistics administrator?), but if your main concern is to keep working past 55 or 60, maybe look at what various analysts are predicting will be growth industries for the next ten or twenty years. For example, this CNBC article suggests "cloud computing, machine learning/A.I., big data" under "Technology"; "biotechnology, health data management, personalized health" under "Health"; "oil and gas, mining, fracking, sustainable energy" under "Energy." A Motley Fool article I found while doing a quick Google has "beverage manufacturing" (both alcoholic and non) as one of its top 3 growth industries. My own general guesses for industries liekly to be in need of employees for decades to come would be "medicine" and "civil service."

The TL;DR I think is that "Politics" and "Art" are really really vague general categories of careers, and not at all immune to age-related unemployment. You should put some consideration into why you're thinking about moving to a second career - are you burned out on tech culture? Looking for something more personally satisfying that seems more useful to society at large? Genuinely in danger of being thrown out on your ear after 50? - and then look into how your skillset might be useful in other industries.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:05 AM on April 4, 2019 [6 favorites]

Therapist. Age is a plus, and the therapists I know are essentially working well into old age and serious sickness. One of my hospice patients continued to treat patients until the last few weeks of her life.
posted by nanook at 7:15 AM on April 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

Hospice chaplain.
posted by nanook at 7:16 AM on April 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

I've certainly heard of and read plenty of horror stories about tech companies dumping older workers who can't learn the hot new language or industry norms and/or can't or won't do 80-hour-a-week "crunch months", but I think it's worth considering whether your current position and job requirements put you in serious danger of being unemployed for age-related reasons.

I'm paying close and particular attention to this AskMe because I have the same feels as Borborygmus. Though not the ability to retire, sadly, or I would.

My feeling is, if I don't want to climb the corporate ladder to a senior director or higher position, as an individual contributor there will be a day when beancounters decide they can hire a young'un cheaper to do my job. I like to think they'll find that, yes, you can hire someone younger and cheaper to do this job but it won't be done as well or with the same view to the bigger picture, etc. (Not to mention losing a lot of institutional memory and understanding why things are done the way they are, and what can/can't be changed, and what should and shouldn't be changed.)

Anyway, being non-technical is not likely to be safer if you're an individual contributor, IMO.
posted by jzb at 7:18 AM on April 4, 2019 [4 favorites]

become a product owner within a technical organization.
posted by nikaspark at 7:52 AM on April 4, 2019 [4 favorites]

The big tech firms do tend to spit people out when they near 40. However, many small tech firms are staffed by greybeards, who've been around the block a few times and are no longer mesmerized by SHINY. For example, most of the engineering staff at the medical devices firm where I work are well over 40. Have you considered moving to a smaller firm in a niche industry instead of moving out of tech altogether?
posted by monotreme at 8:58 AM on April 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

At 50, I'm finding that there are a number of small tech companies who love the experience and wisdom of people in their 50s and 60s (and possibly beyond), and who understand the best and most productive work comes when people are relaxed and excited about their work and have time to pursue hobbies. And often are working on socially meaningful products.

I don't know how it looks from a non-tech standpoint, but as a programmer I'm finding that I'm both getting reminded that it's after 5 and I should go do my other things, and am excited to come back to my projects the next day.

And often, because they're composed of experienced people, they're also not hung up on the framework of the moment, so your skills stay relevant for a lot longer.
posted by straw at 12:28 PM on April 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Working in Politics (various capacities)

Noooooooooooooooooo, politics in general (if by that you mean working on campaigns or for elected officials) is really dominated by young people because the jobs are demanding and low-paid. There are jobs for older people, but those are usually held by people who spent their 20s and 30s grinding away on campaigns. Take it from someone who got out of politics in my early 30s.

Look into fundraising (ie, for non-profits). It's a huge field with a ton of different job types (from data mangement to managing relationships with wealthy donors, to event planning) that a lot of people go into as a second or third career, and where ageism is less of a factor.
posted by lunasol at 6:47 PM on April 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

Psychotherapist work well into their 70s. Work is meaningful, pay is decent better if you have the drive to build a high end private practice. Reasonable prestige but probably not much glamour. If you don't need the money, working in underserved communities can be a significant act in support of social justice.
posted by metahawk at 10:58 PM on April 4, 2019

Art collector or Gallerist would be fun, you need rich friends though.
posted by Middlemarch at 1:36 AM on April 5, 2019

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