Earlier this week, The New York Times wrote about a new trend. Apparently, younger workers are leaving their well paying jobs in droves. They call it the “YOLO economy” which stands for “You Only Live Once”. The pandemic has changed many people’s priorities and with so much time to reassess our values and figure out why some of us are so unhappy, it’s not a big shock.
Time For An Extreme Pivot?
The desire for a YOLO lifestyle is trending for older professionals as well. People in their 40s, 50s and 60s are deciding to exit long term careers, downsize earlier than planned, and do life differently as a result of the pandemic. They are seizing the day and reimagining their futures. Some older professionals believe now is a good time to make a career pivot and explore more meaningful options. A woman I know decided to leave a hospitality design firm and start a clothing line (targeting older women) using recycled cashmere. Another person I know is making plans to leave her tech job and become an organic farmer in France. They’re both in their 50s and although they have savings, neither of them are wealthy. Both of them evaluated their current situation and felt inspired to make enormous changes. With work from home technology advancing rapidly, it opens up so many opportunities for everyone.
Others are leaving because their companies want them back in the office full time. The remote work genie is out of the bottle and when companies insist on being in an office, it feels a bit like big brother is trying to gain control. I don’t know anyone who likes that feeling or believes that will attract and retain talented employees - no matter what age you happen to be. Many employers realize it’s going to take more than a $50 Amazon gift card to keep their talented staff from leaving. In fact, The New York Times wrote, “A recent Microsoft survey found that more than 40 percent of workers globally were considering leaving their jobs this year. Blind, an anonymous social network that is popular with tech workers, recently found that 49 percent of its users planned to get a new job this year.” The Microsoft survey was conducted with all different ages in the workforce.
On April 12th, 2021 in response to the YOLO trend, @analogbath responded on Twitter:
“This is 100% a thing and has been for the last year or so. I have a handful of
friends who have left their jobs from IT executives to lawyers jumping in
a car and living out of it while working remotely. I’m fucking 40 years old.”
- Dee Rock
The Resilient X Factor
Older generations have seen economies crash and have weathered storms in the U.S. such as the gas shortage in the 70's, recession in the late 80s, 9/11 attacks and another slump in 2008 thanks to the financial crisis. My friend, Jim who is in his 60s said, “Bring it on, global pandemic. I’ve been through it all and COVID will not bring me down”. Maybe that’s one reason why they’re doing better psychologically during the pandemic than younger generations. “Older people have been through more. They show more resilience and emotional intelligence and fortitude than any other generation” said Ken Dychtwald, the founder and CEO of Age Wave. Gen X, born between 1965 and 1980 are often referred to as the “sandwich generation” because many are caring for children and older parents. They’ve also been the generation of “latchkey kids” being left alone after school since both parents went to work. The theory is that because they were left alone at home for years, Gen Xers have adapted more easily living in isolation.
While the YOLO economy sounds aspirational and exciting, we realize that some older professionals have either been pushed out of the workforce or they simply do not have the means to take the leap. And many of them are forced into early retirement as a result of the pandemic. According to the Pew Research Center, “In the third quarter of 2020, about 28.6 million Baby Boomers – those born between 1946 and 1964 – reported that they were out of the labor force due to retirement. This is 3.2 million more Boomers than the 25.4 million who were retired in the same quarter of 2019.” And we all know that getting back into a full time job with fabulous benefits is more difficult for many older professionals and we all know the reasons why. The most sage advice from coaches and future of work specialists we’ve had on the illume hire webinar has been consistent. Whether or not you plan on being in the tech field, learn more technology. Make it a goal to learn about trello, airtable, loom, miro, crowdcast and so many amazing (and easy) tools.
If you’re rethinking your life purpose and crave the idea of disrupting yourself to achieve a YOLO life, having a game plan and asking these questions might help before taking the leap.
5 YOLO Questions to Ask:
- If I don’t do this, will I regret it?
- What’s the worst thing that could happen?
- Can I live with that worst case scenario?
- Have I mapped out the next year or two?
- Do I have a plan C?
Since you only live once, why stay at a job that makes you miserable?
Separately, if anyone is interested in joining a community talking about the future of work and different opportunities that exist for professional “olders”, please send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. Make it an awesome week.
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Emily’s vision for illume hire developed as part of her journey from a startup-curious sales and media professional to co-founder and CEO. Her passion is to provide resources to support professionals with 20+ years experience. Emily was part of the founding leadership team of Age Equity Alliance, a non-profit focused on the benefits of an intergenerational team.