- Professor Richard Fein
You’re 50-something—what’s next, a condo in Florida, days of golf and canasta? If you’re like most baby boomers, you’re not quite ready to be put out to pasture.
Thanks to the generation born after World War II, the retirement scene, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, is a-changin’. Boomers and soon-to-be seniors are staying in the workforce, often on their own terms. In fact, close to 80 percent of them say they will continue to work beyond the typical retirement age.
“Approximately 266,000 Americans are working past the age of 80,” writes Professor Richard Fein, founder of the Isenberg School of Management undergraduate placement service. His new book, Baby Boomer’s Guide to the New Work Place, is a handbook for aging workers not particularly enamored of traditional retirement scenarios. In it he offers myriad ways for boomers to navigate retirement waters: remaining in the workforce, returning to it in a different capacity, or shifting careers entirely.
The book covers job-search basics from a boomer’s perspective, such as what to put in a résumé and cover letter, which questions to ask at the interview, and when a position is obtained, how to survive in the workplace as a gray-haired “new kid on the block.” Practical and down-to-earth, the book is filled with good ideas. (See “Tips”).
Fein is a living example of career flexibility. Born in 1946, he retooled a number of times before arriving at the Amherst campus in 1982. A student of Hebrew since childhood, his undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania (Class of 1968) led him initially to rabbinical studies. He served on a kibbutz in Israel, studied at Jerusalem University and the Jewish Theological Seminary, then turned to law. “One class in constitutional law was enough for me,” he adds. His early interests eventually morphed into two CUNY degrees, a master’s in Political Science, an MBA, and eventually a professorship at UMass Amherst. He has just published Baby Boomer’s Guide, his ninth on the subject of job acquisition.
Fein’s career path was anything but linear. Many boomers follow a similarly adventuresome route, being drawn in different directions by their various passions and skill sets.
- Another multi-career alum is Rob White, who recently opened a new restaurant, Z Square, in Cambridge. He was a teacher for nearly two decades before breaking into real estate development. White is also a motivational speaker and author.
Take Robert J. White ’66. “I taught for 17 years in Boston and loved it,” he says. “Then I decided I wanted to become a millionaire.”
He read How to Get Rich in Real Estate by Robert Kent and jumped in with both feet. His firm, RJW Development Group, has employed up to 22 people, with offices in Boston and Santa Cruz, California. It is now 20 years old.
“I followed the basic principles of real estate,” he says, “namely, that there are ups and downs and you have to go into it for the long run.”
Teacher, Realtor… also restaurateur and motivational speaker. White has owned restaurants on each coast, currently Z Café in San Francisco and the recently opened Z Square in Cambridge. Along the way he gave motivational seminars to individuals and corporations on how to control the mind and body.
“Anybody can be a success at any age,” he says. “Your mood grants you the authority to live the life you choose.”
He credits his “transformational moment” at UMass Amherst to an English teacher, Professor Robert Tucker, who impressed on him the importance of focusing and concentrating on the task at hand. Tucker told him he had to, otherwise he wouldn’t pass the course. The ability to focus—to willfully control his mind and his mood for success—became a key idea for the rest of White’s life.
His passion at the moment is a book he is writing, Life Doesn’t Have to Surprise You, due out in 2007. The book is a recap of the many seminars he has given over the years.
Unlike their parents, who typically had one or maybe two jobs in their lifetime, many boomers juggle multiple passions and careers. The lucky ones, like Margery Wells Piercey ’84, reap rewards from both.
A performer since childhood (one of her first routines was as a singing bunny in a school play), Piercey sang in numerous church choirs over the years and still sings at funerals and weddings, most recently at her sister’s marriage. “I’ve always enjoyed performing in front of a crowd,” she says.
After graduating from Arlington High School, she flirted briefly with a possible Hollywood career (she waitressed there) before enrolling at UMass Amherst. She finished her accounting degree in three years, graduating with honors. But she continued to sing, “in Dr. duBois’s University Chorale and in the folk choir at the Newman Center,” she says.
During the next two decades, she rose steadily in the corporate world, working for both public and private accounting firms. Piercey became a CPA; started her own public accounting firm; took time off to start a family (two children, now teenagers); and eventually joined her present employer, Wolf & Company, P.C., as principal.
She has also served as president of the Massachusetts Society of CPAs and in 2004 was the recipient of the Accounting Alumnus of the Year award from the School of Management.
Boston sports fans, however, may know her for her singing talent, not her head for numbers.
Piercey always harbored the dream of one day singing the national anthem at a Red Sox, Celtics, or Patriots game. In 2006 she achieved two of those goals. In January she performed before 14,000 Celtics fans and in August, before 36,000 of the Fenway faithful. “It was nerve-racking but wonderful,” she says.
Balancing career and personal goals, says Piercey, is “a wonderful aim. It’s a great message to reinforce to aspiring accountants, especially female ones who currently make up greater than 50 percent of graduating accountants.”
- Build a Job Network: Whenever you can do someone a favor without violating professional ethics, do it. The strongest relationships with people are built when you do not need anything from them.
- Tell the Truth: Being truthful is often a selling point in itself. Nobody is perfect. In fact, people who walk on water often leave puddles.
- Keep It Simple: If you need a lawyer to defend your résumé or a philosopher to explain it, rewrite your résumé.
- Have a Two-Way Interview: You should prepare at least five good questions to ask your interviewer. At least two should be about doing the job and two about the company.
- Dress the Part: Your goal is not to look like a 30-year-old if
you are a 60-year-old.
Mind Your Manners: Courtesy doesn’t go out of season. Yes, you should write a thank-you note to the person who interviewed you.
- Mind the Bottom Line: Ask for a higher salary
only when all other issues are settled.