Marla Halley and Marne Harding, principals in event planner and organizer Blue Vine Events, left good salaries with a marketing and advertising firm a year ago for more control over their jobs and lives.
They’re in good company. Changing jobs or even specific occupations — whether from necessity or desire — is becoming more popular among people between the age of 35 to 64, an American Association of Retired Persons study found.
Nearly 40 percent of people ages 35 to 64 wanted to find a new job in 2016, with those who are likely to seek a new job citing more money as the top reason for looking (74 percent), according to the study.
Of those ready to move on, almost half (44 percent) were ready not just for new jobs, but new careers. Only 23 percent were willing to stay in their same fields while a third (33 percent) were undecided, the study found.
The desire for more enjoyable work was a strong motivator (30 percent of respondents). Better health benefits (28 percent), and more job flexibility (25 percent) were also mentioned as reasons for making a job or career change.
A 2009 Urban Institute study found nearly two-thirds of workers — including 27 percent of older workers — who changed jobs also changed occupations.
Halley, 58, and Harding, 41, wanted to decide when and how to work — and they wanted to work for themselves.
Starting a business is a “tough and difficult road,” Halley acknowledged. But there’s a key difference between working for a boss and working for oneself.
“It’s just such a satisfying thing to work hard for yourself,” Halley said. “I’m not good at regret. I left a fairly comfortable salary to make my own rules.”
“It’s definitely more control over my life and family,” Harding said. “I have a very busy family with all kinds of obligations on that core front, and I wanted to be able to control my time.”
Bradford resident David Matthieu, 51, was making $36,000 working in general maintenance when he was laid off seven years ago in the depths of the Great Recession.
The road forward was not easy. Matthieu went back to school. He found himself rejected for openings he knew he could handle.
But he persisted — and today as an engineer for ConForm Automotive, he makes well over $80,000 annually.
“You gotta want to do it,” Matthieu said. “That’s the thing. And you have to put the work into it.”
Chad Bridgman who oversees math and science internships at Sinclair Community College, formerly worked in the college’s displaced workers office. In both jobs, he encountered students willing — and in some cases, desperate — to make the leap to a second career.
”I get to see it all,” he said.
Bridgman wrote Trade Adjustment Act grant contracts for students who worked for GM and the former Appleton Paper who needed tuition to develop new skills. GM closed its Moraine SUV plant in December 2008. In 2012, Appleton (now Appvion) laid off 330 workers at its 1030 W. Alex Bell Road mill.
“Imagine showing up at work tomorrow and it’s closed,” Bridgman said.
Today, he doesn’t work with as many displaced workers. In this somewhat calmer economy, students ages 18 to 60 show up at Bridgman’s office because they want to be better, make more money and have more control over their lives.
“I think what you’re seeing now is, ‘How do I invest in myself?’ ”
Some career-changers had to put education on hold, and now they can return, he said. Or students have bachelor’s degrees, but they don’t necessarily enjoy the field they’re in now.
The students seek to change careers not always out of “pure raw survival,” he said.
Michael Herndon, vice president, financial resilience programming for AARP, works for nationwide programs that help people 50 and older with financial and career issues, including people who launch second and even third careers.
In an era where defined-benefit pensions are less plentiful and more workers rely on defined-contribution plans such as 401(k) accounts built up over decades, retiring isn’t always an option, Herndon said. They need new jobs — or new careers.
“There are a lot of people who say, well I want to keep working,” he said. “Maybe I need to keep working.”
But some may be less interested in work and drawn more by “passions,” Herndon said.
“They may re-career in the sense of finding something that’s more about passion,” he said. “They’re thriving because they’re at a point where they can pursue passions.”
When people are willing to move to not just new jobs but new occupations, it’s often because they’re thinking about more than just how to pay the bills.
“My gut is that most people, when they want to re-career, it’s more about the interest,” Herndon. “When the guy says, ‘Gosh, I have to keep working,’ they’re probably going to stick with what they know.”
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“What I’ve been telling people for years is, let’s get one done.”
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