In a few weeks I will be back at New York University to teach a course in “Career Transition and Change.” My students are mostly Millennials. I am a Baby Boomer aka at an Expressive Age. My goal is to emphasize that career is part of lifespan development. It’s not linear, there are interruptions, and unexpected opportunities and crises. What I enjoy about teaching career transition is that its foundation is self-awareness (values, interests, personality) but it’s also about self-expression.

Chip Conley tweets that “Midlife used to be 45 to 65. But if we’re gonna live til 100 & work til 75 then maybe it stretches 10 more yrs.” I couldn’t agree more. I like to think about life as a 100-year span. Most of my friends and colleagues belong to the third quarter (ages 50 to 75). Some retire from paid work and travel or focus on volunteerism. Others begin new careers or entrepreneurial ventures.  Case in point!

In my doctoral studies, I was taught that an individual’s career is a source of one’s natural expression of self. It provides purpose. Yet others would disagree arguing that there’s work and then there’s life. Sadly, one of the disconnects for many Millennials is a sense of purpose at work.  Leadership often fails to communicate how their individual work contributes to the organization’s purpose. To me, it doesn’t matter what level someone is in a workplace. The elevator operator or janitor each contribute to the functioning of an organization. But do they realize that?

As we age, there is a misconception, often rooted in ageism, that we, at an “Expressive Age,” have less to offer the workplace. We should challenge that assumption because work experience counts for much.  After all, Millennials seek just that!

“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.”
Barack Obama