4 Ways to Build a Meaningful Second Act, Even During a Crisis

In many ways, now seems like a crazy time to talk about your second act. The devastating impact of the coronavirus crisis on our economy, health and psyche has been staggering.

At this juncture, when even simple tasks like taking a shower or grocery shopping are more challenging than normal, tackling a plan for the future can feel overwhelming.

Still, if you’ve read this far, my guess is that there’s at least a part of you that is looking for a way forward. Small, but impactful, steps that you take now to help you be in a better place once this crisis passes.

So I’d like to propose something for your consideration. Despite all the disruption to our lives, the one thing most of us have an abundance of right now is time. As Arthur Brooks notes in a brilliant column for The Atlantic,

“We’re stuck at home; our lives on COVID time have slowed to a near halt. This creates all sorts of obvious inconveniences, of course. But in the involuntary quiet, many of us also sense an opportunity to think a little more deeply about life. In our go-go-go world, we rarely get the chance to stop and consider the big drivers of our happiness and our sense of purpose.”

I agree with Brooks. This time of “involuntary quiet” does provide us with the space to reflect on priorities, investigate second-act possibilities, connect with others and be of service to those in need.

Reflect. Investigate. Connect. Help.

Four foundational steps — creating the acronym R-I-C-H — that can enrich your life in pivotal ways, even during this uncertain time . Below you’ll find more about each of the four steps, along with resources to explore as you move forward:

1. Reflect. The first step in any transition is to reflect on where you’ve been, who you are and what you value. The good news is that as someone over age 50, you have a lot of life experience to reflect upon. As Steve Jobs noted in his iconic 2005 Stanford University commencement speech, ” You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.”

To assist your self-reflection process, I’ve selected several posts that highlight books, exercises and questions that will help you connect the dots of your story. Admittedly, these readings and exercises take time to complete. But I promise that if you make the effort, it will be energy very well spent.

2. Investigate. One of the biggest challenges people face when considering a second-act is to imagine options beyond what they did in the past. They grapple with questions like:

  • How do I repurpose my skills, interests and experiences in new ways?
  • Will my skills be welcome in new industries?
  • Are there courses, certifications or workshops that will enhance my marketability?
  • How can I take advantage of my skills as a gig worker or entrepreneur?

There are no easy or quick answers to these questions, especially right now. But there are a number of resources that can help expand your sense of what’s possible. Below you’ll find three posts that contain links to dozens of helpful classes, job boards, inspirational second-act stories and more.

3. Connect. It’s impossible to know how the post-pandemic economy and job market will shake out. But one thing I can pretty much guarantee is that your next gig, volunteer opportunity or project will come about as a result of your professional or personal networks. Fortunately, with so many people working from home, now is the perfect time to reach out to contacts for good old-fashioned voice-to-voice conversations or video conversations.  It’s an ideal time to refresh dormant connections, check-in on people you care about and build richer relationships with people you’d like to know better.

Just remember that the purpose of these calls is not to ask for work, but to enjoy authentic, meaningful and mutually-beneficial conversations. If you feel uncertain about the best way to go about his, below are three posts that will help improve your networking chops:

4. Help. Finally, if you’re in a position to do so, I encourage you to find a way to be of service to others in this crisis. Helping others makes you feel valued and grounded, at a time when life seems to be spinning out of your control. And from a second-act career standpoint, volunteering or providing services pro-bono, can be a smart way to expand your networks, build skills and enhance your resume, while giving back.

Of course, most of you are already helping others. You’re checking-in on loved ones, volunteering with community organizations and donating to worthy causes. You’re organizing drives to collect protective gear for health workers and funds for people who are hospitalized with COVID19. Some of you are sharing your professional expertise through no-cost webinars, informational content, consulting and mentoring. Others are participating in artistic outlets, like the wonderful musical videos that have proliferated online in recent weeks.

But if you’re looking for ways to do more, or you simply want a better sense of what is out there, the posts below can help:

In closing, I’d like to share this quote from William Bridges book, Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes. I hope you find comfort in his words that speak to our collective struggle and hope for a better tomorrow:

“You can’t follow the thread of your life very far before you find “the past” changing. Things that you haven’t remembered in years reappear, and things that you’ve always thought were so turn out to be not so at all. If the past isn’t the way you thought it was, then the present isn’t, either. Letting go of that present may make it easier to conceive of a new future.”

By Nancy Collamer, Author and Founder of MyLifeStyleCareer.com
Nancy Collamer, Author and Founder of MyLifeStyleCareer.com Author and Founder