Questions for Marc Miller, author, Repurpose Your Career

1.    In your book, you contend that losing the option to retire can be a good thing for Baby Boomers. Why?

Retirement in itself is not healthy. We get too much out of work: social interaction, structure, rewards. We have a reason to get out of bed in the morning. The woman who cuts my hair is 68. I asked her why she still does it. She just likes the social interaction. Her husband is in his 70s. He fixes air conditioners. He just likes it.

2.    What are some of the biggest obstacles Baby Boomers face in transforming their careers?

Number one is fear. Fear of failure, fear about finances, fear of what other people will think. The second biggest obstacle is that we don’t know who we really are or what to do next. That’s why I always include a lot of introspection in this process. People will tell you “I don’t know what I want to do next” and so they wind up doing nothing.

3.    What’s the most important step Baby Boomers should take to find a better career?

Figure out who the hell they are. What makes them happy? What makes them tick? When have you been happy? When have you enjoyed work?

4.    What’s the biggest mistake people make in changing careers?

Not doing their homework. Not dealing from realities. That’s what I did when I went off to teach high school, I didn’t do my homework I learned a hard lesson. I have one client who has been a project manager sitting behind a desk for 20 years and he thinks he wants to be a butcher. So he’s been going to classes, working in a seasonal meat department. He’s finding out he has to be on his feet all day. It’s a really hard, physical job. But he might still want to do it, he just needs to be in the proper shape for it.

5.    Is there a difference between what you advise for people who still have jobs versus people who have been downsized?

Absolutely. People who still have jobs have time and money and can afford to make slow transitions. When you’ve been unemployed for awhile it’s uncomfortable and stressful and you need to put food on the table. Usually I tell people who have been downsized they should find a job that’s closely related to what they were doing and make changes from that stable position. Most people who want to start a business, for example, start it on the side.

6.    What was the best career move you ever made for yourself?

The best move I ever made was leaving IBM and going to a successful startup. It got me out of the monolithic organization where I worked for many years and into a smaller one. It taught me a lot about what I really liked.

 7.    What was your worst career move?

That would be stepping out of an IBM sales organization and stepping into being and IBM IT consultant. I assumed I was so technical I could go back to that, but I was sitting in a cubicle eight hours a day writing technical specifications and I hated it.

8.    Tell me about your nearly fatal bicycle accident: How did it change your perspective?

I was riding my bicycle and I collided head-on with a 96 Toyota Corolla. Our combined speeds were 50 miles per hour. I totaled the car with my body. I was up, walking on crutches in three days and back on a bike in two weeks. I was 46 and survival rates at those speeds are 10 percent. I had no business living through that. That made me really look at “What am I doing with my life?” Since then I’ve always done things to help people.

9.    What piece of advice in your book do you think Baby Boomers will have the most difficulty with?

I would have to repeat what I said in the book—it’s asking for help. If you’ve been in a position where you have been the expert and you’re going to where you are the novice, that’s a major step down. That’s hard on the ego. And it’s just hard for a lot of us to ask for help.

10.  Is the information in your book only applicable to Baby Boomers?

No. Most of the practical steps to finding a career run across generations. The part that applies more directly to Baby Boomers is the introspection part. They have a lot more career and life experience to draw from than younger people. They have more previous choices to examine to help make future choices.