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Where Do We Go? A New Career Narrative

Over the past decade, nonprofits have increased their interest in developing leadership as well as attracting and retaining a skilled work force. One motivator has been alarm that the aging baby boom generation will retire from the workplace during the next decades, creating a labor force gap particularly in leadership. But things have changed during the past two years. The nonprofit sector has been hard hit by the recession with organizations cutting back. At the same time, older employees are deferring retirement, both for financial reasons and in order to continue to contribute. Now the concern is focused on whether there is room in organizations for younger generations eager to make a contribution to the public good.

This dilemma highlights a more general problem. Boomers in nonprofits as in other sectors assumed that they would have a 35-year work trajectory. But the reality is the work trajectory for us and the generations that follow is closer to 50+ years.

One place to start is to create a new career narrative. The myth that the Baby Boom generation will be retiring at 65 should be replaced with a new story about the possibilities that lie ahead. What are the ways Boomers can contribute? When can we afford to take less demanding (and not as high paying) jobs? What kind of retraining and continuing education will we need to stay current in our fields?

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