Some may still remember 78-year old George Takei only from his role in Star Trek back in the sixties. But over the last decade, many of us now recognize Takei from his hilarious commentary on social media, role as announcer on the Howard Stern Show and recent projects like the Broadway show Allegiance. Takei is increasingly productive, profitable and impacting more and more people as he ages.
Do you feel like you need to shake things up? Want a career change? Want to engage and impact others in a more meaningful way? If so, it’s time to plan your second act by borrowing some strategies from George Takei.
As an older adult, you may fear age discrimination. You may feel as though your best years are behind you. But as Takei and countless other productive and influential older adult public figures (Betty White, Robert Duvall, Colin Powell) have shown us they don’t have to be. Maybe you are already retired and don’t know how to go about forging a second act. Or maybe you still have a job but harbor a lingering dream that you haven’t yet pursued. If you worry the odds are against you now as an older person, remember that George Takei has experienced adversity too.
As a young boy, Takei knew he was not like the other kids. He recognized that he was gay during a time of harsh intolerance for those identifying as LGBT. Takei was also incarcerated in a Japanese American internment camp as a child during World War II. But despite these life challenges, he forged ahead to build a solid acting career during a time when there were precious few roles for Asian American males. So it’s no surprise that Takei keeps reinventing himself and is still tackling new and exciting career firsts in his seventies. Consider these three tips for your planning your next career:
1. Try something that you assume is for “younger people.” Takei excels at social media, considered by many to be the forte of the Millennials. What might you be good at that you’ve deemed “off limits” because of your age? Maybe you love yoga and fantasize about becoming certified to teach but assume you are too old. Do you love writing but think it’s too late to make that your second act? Maybe you want to go back and get a bachelor’s degree. Don’t let your age limit you. At least consider what you may enjoy doing if you weren’t concerned about the year on your driver’s license.
2. Pick your passion. Takei dedicates much of his time to human rights activism, speaking nationally about equality for all Americans as well as advocating for the LGBT community. Is there a cause you care deeply about that you would like to dedicate more time to? Perhaps this cause could be the centerpiece of your second act.
3. If you can’t get over the fear of your age as an obstacle, consider what other adversity you’ve overcome during the course of your life. Have you bounced back from a chronic illness, made it through a long arduous journey as a parent or even as a caregiver? Have you weathered financial or career uncertainties and come out the other side? I bet Takei’s triumphs over his early struggles still serve as inspiration for him when he tries something new. Try to look at your past struggles as future inspiration for your realizing your second act.
Gerontologist Jennifer L. Fitzpatrick, MSW, CSP is the founder of Jenerations Health Education, Inc., an Education Consultant for the Alzheimer’s Association and a gerontology instructor at Johns Hopkins University. She can be reached at email@example.com or on twitter @fitzpatrickjen.