Much has been written about the so-called Great Resignation – the millions of Americans who left their jobs during the pandemic.
Sure, it happened.
And, yes, WFH is still very, very real. Trust me.
But a new phenomenon is emerging – let’s call it The Great Reengagement.
Think about it: the Labor Department added 428,000 jobs last month. The unemployment rate is at its lowest level since February 2020 – 3.6 percent.
People are working.
Last month, Michael Clinton – best-selling author, pilot, photographer, philanthropist, and former president of Hearst Magazines – wrote a fascinating article in Esquire called The Great Resignation Whiplash.
But “that’s only part of a more complicated – and hopeful – story,” he writes.
I sat up and took notice. And then picked up the phone and called him.
MICHAEL CLINTON: There’s been a lot of media hype about the great resignation.
ALINA CHO: Of course.
MICHAEL CLINTON: It is true that people 65 and older did leave the workforce because their companies either closed, they were forced to retire or resign. This group also had the biggest impact in terms of the COVID crisis.
ALINA CHO: It was a health and safety issue.
MICHAEL CLINTON: Yes. But what I found in doing research is that a lot of people, regardless of their age were saying, "Okay, that was that. I may have left my job, but I want to get back into the swing of it."
ALINA CHO: Exactly.
MICHAEL CLINTON: And many of the people who were in their 50s — The Wall Street Journal just did a big story on this — they were all saying, "I'm bored, I want to go back."
I think this great reengagement is happening. From February 2020 to October 2021, 2.6 million people did return to the workplace much earlier than expected. And there's a huge amount of job openings right now.
ALINA CHO: 11 million jobs.
MICHAEL CLINTON: Employees are in the catbird seat because they're saying to their employers, “I’ve got a lot of options.”
ALINA CHO: You also said that the share of people 75 and older in the labor force is expected to grow by 96 percent over the next decade, while those 16 to 24 years old will shrink by 7.5 percent. What's going on?
MICHAEL CLINTON: I call it “The New Longevity” — people are living longer. People need to work longer. Stanford just put out a study [that said that] the future is the 60-year work life.
ALINA CHO: It's not 40 years anymore. It's 60.
MICHAEL CLINTON: What’s happening is the boomers — which is a big bulk of the population — they're on the leading edge of this, even the ones who will be the 75-plus labor force, who want to work and have to work. And they may work well into their 80s.
ALINA CHO: Wow.
MICHAEL CLINTON: Also, the generation just below the boomers is a much smaller generation, and so there aren't enough of them to fill the [employment] needs.
ALINA CHO: But there is still this stigma that older workers don't have a lot of runway and, therefore, companies won’t hire them. So, what's the fix?
MICHAEL CLINTON: People are going to say, “I don't want to step out when I was told I have to step out,” and companies are going to have to face that reality. But it has to come from the top, the C-suite. Corporations have to recognize that people in their 60s, 70s bring a value that is meaningful to the business.
ALINA CHO: True.
MICHAEL CLINTON: Maybe they're going to re-deploy them in new and unique ways. You may not stay in the same job that you had, but you may want to have a hybrid approach to a job, or you may want to mentor younger professionals. There are lots of different ways to skin the cat.
ALINA CHO: You wrote this incredible book last year called ROAR.
The basic message is, it’s never too late to start something new, career-wise. Let’s say you’re in your 60s — maybe you're thinking about a new career. What do you do?
MICHAEL CLINTON: This is a growing cohort of people, and I call them the Re-Imagineers. In fact, I just finished a national research project on this very group to really study them — 45-65 [years old], $100,000-plus income, educated. [What I found is that] they are very dynamic in terms of wanting to do new things, wanting to say that their best years are ahead. Trying to figure out how to re-wire as opposed to retire, and many of them are starting brand new careers at 60.
ALINA CHO: That’s amazing.
MICHAEL CLINTON: And the mindset that many of them have is, “If I start a new career at 60 or 65, I can have that career for 20 years, and that's okay.”
ALINA CHO: That’s right.
MICHAEL CLINTON: So, pivot into what the next thing can be. You might want to go back to school, you might want to pick up on something that you left in your earlier life. You might want to become an entrepreneur.
ALINA CHO: What should be on your checklist in terms of things you need to think about if you are thinking about pivoting into something new?
MICHAEL CLINTON: The first thing you need to do is to own your current situation. That means your health numbers, your financial numbers. Do you need to work to make money?
ALINA CHO: And then?
MICHAEL CLINTON: The next part is to do something I call S-W-O-T. Your strengths, your weaknesses, your opportunities, your threats. Your personal SWOT analysis to see where you really have things to bring to the party that are unique and different.
ALINA CHO: Love that.
MICHAEL CLINTON: The one thing that I'm a big advocate of is what I call lifelong learning and new learning. You don't have to get a degree, there are lots of certificates and programs where you can become an expert in a very vertical space. There's a woman I know in her 60s who decided she wanted to become a data analyst, and she took a course and got a certificate in data analytics. And she got a job, as a data analyst, she was 64 or 65 at the time.
ALINA CHO: Some people are really, at this age, finding their true calling.
MICHAEL CLINTON: We’ve been wired to, when we're in our 60s, to start thinking that we have to wind down and that's self-imposed ageism. We have to turn it on its head and say, "How do I wire up, how do I wind up?"
ALINA CHO: Right.
MICHAEL CLINTON: And many of them, to your point, did go back to their earlier self and said, "I left this idea on the shelf." One guy I interviewed always wanted to be in social work and social justice, and he spent 30 years in the business world as an executive and in his mid-50s, he said, "I can't do this anymore." He ultimately pivoted. Another guy who was a big Wall Street MBA-type, said, "I'm miserable and unhappy and I need to find my calling.” He wanted to be a teacher. He went back to school and got a degree in adolescent education, and he teaches math in the [public] schools in New York.
ALINA CHO: Wow.
MICHAEL CLINTON: I like to say that 70 is the new 70, not 70 is the new 50. Look at Helen Mirren.
ALINA CHO: I know.
MICHAEL CLINTON: On the cover of People for the Beautiful Issue.
We could go through a list of the trailblazers. Martha Stewart, who did the great recent story in The New York Times. She just turned 80.
These are the people who are at the tip of the spear, who are inspiring us. This is what 80 can look like, this is what 75 can look like. I like to say it’s the living longer group versus the getting older group!