Go Down a Different Path: Alternative Options to a Traditional Career
By Bradford Dworak
September 02, 2009
With the national unemployment rate higher than 9 percent for the first time in decades, many baby boomers are being forced to find alternate ways to bide their time between jobs.
Here's a crash course in four ways you can step outside of your box in this difficult job market.
Start a "Slash Career"
Do people always praise your cooking? Are you really good with animals? If you're restless in your corporate America job but can't afford to give up that paycheck, now just might be the time to take up that passion and create a side job for yourself.
Marci Alboher is the author of One Person/Multiple Careers and writes the blog, "Working the New Economy" on Yahoo! She's an expert on "slash careers," which means having multiple jobs in different fields.
"This is a way to survive these rocky economic times," Alboher says. "I also think it fits in with people's desire to not be confined by narrow labels and [finally] admit that … we all have varied interests and varied talents and we [should] be able to pursue them, not just as a hobby."
If you're interested in starting a slash career, Alboher says to find ways to experiment with your passions and see if you could create a career out of them.
Deborah Rivera was profiled in Alboher's book as a slash careerist who runs an executive head-hunting business by day and owns and operates a hotel and bistro by night.
This businesswoman was able to blend her love for hospitality with her desire to get people back into the job market, and although she works at least 60 hours a week at her two careers, she says it's all worth it because she is able to do two things she loves.
Owning a franchise isn't all about fast food—there are actually 75 different categories and more than 3,500 franchises to choose from. With a new franchise opening every eight minutes in the United States, there could be something out there waiting for you.
Karol Mercurio is a New Jersey–based consultant for MatchPoint Franchise Consulting Network and has made it her job to place people within the world of business ownership. Much like a real estate agent, Mercurio is constantly seeking the best opportunities and fits for her clients.
"About 2 percent of the population have a desire to be a business owner. Only 1 percent actually do it," Mercurio says.
She says record numbers of people have entered the franchise market since corporate loyalty is generally down during this recession. She says they feel the only way to create self-worth is by becoming your own boss.
Mercurio says it's best to consider your motivation before getting involved with a franchise—they take an enormous amount of commitment.
She also says to evaluate your skill set to find strengths, weaknesses, interests and overall goals.
"Most franchisers don't require their franchisees to possess industry experience, but managerial experience is extremely beneficial," Mercurio says.
Do your research, and don't settle until you find a comfortable match, she says. Karol recommends franchises that are both recession- and Internet-proof—those in the service industry and home-based businesses.
Mercurio says opening one of these franchises has half the operating cost of a opening retail franchise and has much lower entry and overhead costs.
Use this downtime as a chance to go back to school.
Robert Lapiner, dean of continuing and professional studies at New York University, says baby boomers are heading back to the classroom in big numbers.
Many of these students, he says, have some sort of formal schooling and are coming back to hone their skills or expand their knowledge base to become more marketable.
"A lot of older people who are retired are coming back for the pleasure of learning, and universities have taken on this role [and they] open programs and public lecture series," he says. "They keep a lot of very well-educated but engaged older people informed about what is going on in the world and culture."
Marlene Romba recently went back to school after staying home to raise her three children for more than 25 years. Her husband recently lost his job, so she knew it was time to head back to her job as a nurse. After being out of the profession for so long, Romba went to a community college for a four-month refresher course to get acquainted with the newest technology.
"Part of me was scared out of my mind to go back; another part was challenged to see if I could do it. I was also excited to learn new things," Romba says.
Once Romba got an updated education, she was able to find a job in healthcare, proving it's never too late to get back into the game
A sabbatical is a planned, focused job pause in which an individual takes time to rest, travel, volunteer, learn a new skill or fulfill a lifelong dream before returning to work. Many see a sabbatical as the perfect opportunity for intentional reflection, personal growth and renewed passion.
Elizabeth Pagano, co-founder of YourSabbatical.com, a gateway for people and companies interested in sabbaticals, says 24 percent of small businesses and 14 percent of large businesses allow their employees to take a paid or unpaid sabbatical of six months or longer.
"Employees [that] return from sabbatical are more committed and energized, and that increases employee loyalty," Pagano says.
During a time when companies are cutting costs, Pagano says a sabbatical actually can save a company money since they temporarily have one less employee to pay.
Tim O'Connor recently finished a sabbatical after loosing his job as a senior vice president of marketing. This 50-year-old took six months off from the job search and volunteered with a nonprofit organization.
O'Connor says he had the full support of his family and used his sabbatical as a learning opportunity and a time of personal reflection. In turn, he's brought a new sense of humility and sense of calm to his next job.
"I learned how to lead a team of volunteers, and this is key and the biggest most tangible lesson learned," he says.