Q: A lot of my friends and I are nearing retirement or seeking new horizons. When we talk about new careers or jobs, we all come to the same conclusion: “I’m not qualified for the jobs I’m interested in, and I’m not interested in the jobs I’m qualified for.” How does one bridge this chasm? It’s sounds a lot like “have your cake and eat it too.” On the one hand, I’d like to be the Director of White House Communications for a future Rand Paul Administration — but I’m not qualified. On the other hand, I can be a greeter at Walmart — but I’m not interested. And then there’s the economy. A dose of reason, please?
A: Here are your options. Try all of them.
1) Continue the search. Assume you can and will find a job that you’re both qualified for and interested in. How many jobs do you think are out there? Tens of thousands. Unemployment is too high, but still, 90 percent are employed as of now. There’s a lot of activity going on in the world. Yes, there’s a big recession. But what are people still spending money on in a recession? In which areas of the economy is profit still present, if not increasing? One example is food. The Food Network recently expanded to a second network. A second example are pets — mainly dogs and cats. Vets are charging more than ever before, and pet services are at unprecedented levels. I’m not necessarily suggesting a career in food or pets. But those are two vast areas with lots of possibilities. Find others. Check out the Wall Street Journal and Investor’s Business Daily to find out what still makes a profit. If it makes a profit now, it will be an even more opportune field when and if the economy ever improves.
2) Be positive. And stay positive. When you start to become negative, get positive again. Even if the economy gets worse, new opportunities will open in some areas. Think of what people will want and need if things get worse. Study history. Study what happened in the Great Depression of the 1930s. Look at what stayed in business, and what businesses opened up during that time. The concrete specifics may not apply today, but use the concrete specifics of that time to apply to today’s time — and the coming bad times, if they arrive. Opportunity exists during good times and bad, just as people suffer failure during good times and bad. “Good” and “bad” times refer to general trends, not absolutes indicative of every case.
3) Don’t think in terms of age. Aging has just as many advantages as disadvantages. As you become middle-aged or older, you generally have less physical ability but more mental ability. Your increased mental ability is due to more life experience, greater wisdom, and more knowledge, especially if you have been reading, thinking and learning throughout your middle-aged years.
4) The “chasm” you’ve mentioned is one created by your mind, not one in the nature of reality. The “chasm” does not refer to a real-life Grand Canyon you physically cannot jump across. It simply refers to insufficient knowledge in some area. “I feel like there’s no job match for me. Therefore there isn’t one.” Wrong! In your mind, the chasm is real and objective, but in truth it’s only a feeling. Granted, you cannot pretend to have facts you don’t possess. You cannot take rational action based on facts you do not yet have. But your attitude ought to be (or if it isn’t, ought to become): “There are career matches for me. I just haven’t found them yet. I’m going to keep looking.” If you keep searching, you’ll likely find something (or finally think of something) sooner or later. If you stop looking, then it’s all over the moment you stop. Which is the more foolish approach of the two?
5) Don’t fall for foolish false alternatives. You’ve gave two examples — working for a man you believe in as President or being a greeter at Walmart. Now there’s a chasm of your own creation! The implication is that there’s nothing in between. In reality, there’s everything in between. I realize you gave that example only to illustrate a point, and I’m not criticizing you for offering that example in your question to me. I’m just cautioning you against foolish false alternatives. If you sacrifice even the very good and the excellent to the perfect, then you’re left with something worse than being a greeter at Walmart: The futility of having given up. Don’t let it happen.