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April 7, 2009
The Generation That Won’t Go Away Has One More Thing to Say
 
Even the most ambitious among us knows that net worth isn’t the same as personal worth. But a big pile of money makes every one smile, right? This recession is a face full of cold water that requires us to re-think the meaning of money in our lives for today and for the future.
 
Boomers were hit hard—this was not what they had planned. They are shell-shocked because they have grown up in an unprecedented era of near continuous growth and opportunity. A 50% drop in the Dow was simply unimaginable.
 
Can we learn anything from this carnage? For us, one lesson stands out: get a job that makes you happy. Do not work one more day at a job you hate. You cannot control the vagaries of the global economic situation. But you can control what you do every day. The Conference Board has reported a steady decline in job satisfaction since 1995—across all ages and all income brackets. In fact, only about 10% of today’s workers say they are “very satisfied” with their jobs.
 
We always kinda knew we weren’t as happy in our jobs as we should be. Now, we really know it. 
 
We interviewed hundreds of Boomers in the process of writing our book, The Hourglass Solution. We spoke to so many people dulled by the relentlessness of jobs they no longer loved. “Just a few more years until profit-sharing kicks in,” they told us, or the 401K hits that magic number. For most of them, this recession means that those monetary goals will never be reached. They simply do not have enough time left in the workforce to make up the losses. Their choice now is to re-evaluate those goals – or face a life sentence in work that starves the soul. Or wait passively for a pink slip to arrive.
 
Times of great disruption provide great opportunities. This is an opportunity to throw some baggage overboard—baggage that may have been obscuring your future and getting in the way of achieving your dreams. This isn’t a time to make small changes or little tweaks: re-evaluate everything. Where you live, who you live with, how you spend your days, and how you spend your money.
 
This could be the time to get a new job—or a new career. Don’t let your paycheck obscure the real value of work. Work provides one with an identity and a sense of purpose—not just the means to create a lifestyle. Lifestyle is window dressing. Identity and purpose are the real stuff of life.
 
The advice to Boomers and to Gen Xers and Millenials is the same: get a job that you love. One that gives you a personal identity you are proud of and a sense of purpose that adds value to yourself and the world around you.
 
Take some risk. Make mistakes. You will know when you have found the right thing and don’t settle for less. A job is not a life raft. It’s a boat to take you where you want to go.

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Jeff Johnson, Ph.D., has had multiple careers and expects to have several more. He has worked as a psychologist for the New York State Office for the Aging and the New York City Department for the Aging; he has taught graduate school and has worked at some of the most prestigious ad agencies in the country, including his current role as general manager of independent ad agency, Cramer-Krasselt.
 

Paula Forman, Ph.D., had a long and distinguished career in the advertising business, which was satisfying and defining, until she reached midlife. In search of another adventure, she began her Hourglass Solution by dusting off her Ph.D. and teaching sociology. She currently is a columnist for InsideOut Magazine.

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