Academic journal article Career Planning and Adult Development Journal

Resolving the Baby Boomer's Conundrum

Academic journal article Career Planning and Adult Development Journal

Resolving the Baby Boomer's Conundrum

Article excerpt


Baby Boomers are different than their parents. They enjoy better health and greater life expectancy. Often they are not interested in retiring the way their parents did, to a life of continual shuffleboard, bridge or other sedentary activities. They want to stay engaged, involved, and active in community, civic, and commercial affairs. Yet they also want more flexibility and they want to do something that feeds their personal values. This article examines two individuals who are exploring the next chapter of their lives. One has been living a varied life involved in both charitable as well as commercial activities for several decades after leaving a lifelong career with IBM. The other is just starting to figure out what to do. Both have examined themselves determining their values and what excites them. This article also points out that these two individuals are pioneers. As yet there is not a clear path to careers after 50. As pioneers, they and their cohorts will try numerous approaches, some of which will not work and some of which may bring greater satisfaction and a sense of leaving a legacy. And like all Baby Boomers, they will rock the boat and change the ways things are done.

Resolving the Baby Boomer's Conundrum

Most people look forward to a time in their lives where they aren't under the gun to produce, to bill thousands of hours, to exceed quota for the year, or to meet payroll. Yet, today, many American workers are in better health and physical condition than their parents were at the same age, and retiring to shuffleboard or endless travel doesn't quite feel right. This article is about two people, both highly educated, highly motivated and actively involved in their community, yet both seeking a balance among work, family, community, and their internal needs.


Ralph says he has retired two and a half times, however, he has not. In fact, he's retired several more times than that and he's still involved, engaged, and making a contribution; in fact, a BIG contribution. Ralph is using all the skills from his decades in the business world to lead turn around for a prominent not-for-profit in Dallas, Texas. But that's ahead of his story.

Ralph is an energetic guy who grew up in Dallas, one of two sons of a single mom. It wasn't easy growing up, and when he graduated from Hillcrest High School, he headed off to the Army Infantry Corp. A bit older than the baby boomers today entering their 60 's, at the time he joined the Army, Ralph was too young for Korea and just missed Vietnam. In retrospect, he says enlisting out of high school was a wise (and perhaps lucky) decision. Classmates of his who completed college and then were drafted were sent to Vietnam ... and many did not return.

There was no GI bill for Ralph to use once he left the military. So working two, sometimes three part-time jobs, and earning an academic scholarship, Ralph graduated from college with a BBA in Business Management with a minor in English Literature. He immediately joined IBM where he stayed for 30 years. He started in sales and technical support, moved around the US as his career progressed and ended up back in Dallas responsible for managing some of IBM's user groups. When IBM offered him an early retirement package for the third time, he got the message and at age 53, Ralph retired. Retirement #1.

Not content to sit at home, he reinvented himself as a business management consultant and set up a solo consultancy using his skills and extensive experience with IBM. He brought together high level executives from within organizations to break down silos or fiefdoms and build highly functioning teams. About half his clients were in healthcare. He had consulted for about four years when a friend asked him to help consult with Pontiac. Retirement #2.

After consulting with Pontiac for several years, he was recruited to DaisyTek, a publicly traded worldwide computer and office supplies company based in Dallas, where Ralph served at the C level over all staff functions, including HR, Public Relations, and Administration. …

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