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From flip flops to high heels

If Career 1.0 started right after college, Career 2.0 was opting out to contract and raise a family, and Career 3.0 was heading back to work full time as an empty nester, then I guess Career 4.0 was resuming a career after a nearly two-year hiatus to move to Florida and start The Next Chapter. Okay—maybe it’s  Career 3.5 since it was only an interruption.

So, what’s it like to step back into the world of 8:30 to 5:30, and switch from shorts and flip flops to work clothes and heels at this point in life?

The short answer is that it hasn’t been without its challenges but net net, it’s been good. I think it has kept me younger.

To start with, the company and the people are awesome. The firm is filled with smart, high-achieving, well-rounded, genuinely nice people—the kind of people that you want to be surrounded with during the day. The company puts being a good partner with both clients and community at the top of its list, and we, as employees, are treated with respect and appreciation. We have fundraisers with creative themes for local non-profits, every Friday is “bagel day,” we celebrate birthdays once a month with cake and plates of fruit and cheese, and we even have a ping pong table. Hey—don’t laugh—it’s really fun and a great stress reliever. Besides, we had a ping pong tournament fundraiser—good times!

My immediate area is made up of two departments that work closely with each other. Our ages range from 23 to…well…me. There are a couple of 40-somethings and one 50-something, but most of the group are Millennials. Personality-wise, we’re all pretty open with each other and social. A lot of topics come up for discussion and it’s interesting to hear the different perspectives that come from each age group. The conversations can get pretty personal, but we laugh a lot—-and a lot of people seem to stop by to visit us…

Needless to say, there’s a lot of trust and a lot of comradery—and we’re all pretty secure in who we are. Some of these relationships transcend work despite the difference in age, and I believe that for me, some of them could become long-term friendships.

Whaaa…

That said, I’d be lying if I said I loved everything about working again. Early days, a structured schedule, and a sometimes-challenging commute have returned. The weekdays are long and structured—up at 5:30 am, on the road by 7:45ish, working from 8:30 to 5:30, and then home, usually by 6:30. So, even though the workday is 8:30 to 5:30 with an hour for lunch, my thoughts and actions revolve around work from 5:30 am to 6:30 pm. Why up so early? It gives me time to wake up, have coffee, meditate and give gratitude, and get some chores done. Doing that lets me feel that I’ve spent some time tending to life—and it also frees up the night for R&R.

Another part of working that I could do without is being the new kid again. New people, new systems, new processes. Not fun but it has gotten easier every day and eventually, it will pass. And if there was ever a group that helps you navigate all of it, I’ve found them.

Surprisingly, the commute isn’t that much different than it was in Boston, in terms of stress. I drive now, versus taking the train. It’s a longer commute than I expected to have, there’s plenty of company on the road, and there are a lot of trucks and service vehicles. The commute varies between “season” and “off season”—which soon becomes “rainy season”—and ranges from 30 minutes to sometimes close to double that. “Season” is when part-time residents, renters, and tourists come to Sourthwest FL (SWFL). High season runs from January through April (most have gone home by Easter), but some people come as early as October, and go back and forth to their permanent homes for the holidays. To give you an idea of how life changes here, the population of SWFL is estimated to grow by 2.5 million people (per 2015 statistics—the most recent I could find) during high season. And somehow, every single one of them—and the service people that work on their homes—are on the road with me when I commute. They also usually beat me to getting restaurant reservations…

The commute is much lighter in the summer—aka, rainy season. Bursts of torrential rain. You’re enjoying the sunshine one minute, then the next minute—boom—the sky has opened up. Buckets of rain on your windshield during commutes or looking like you’ve just stepped out of the shower after a 30-second dash from the grocery store to your car. I’ve even driven through pouring rain when the sun is out. And then, there’s the humidity. You get the picture. That said, it’s no worse than winter up north or the raw, rainy days of New England’s so-called spring. And while there’s lots of rain in FL, there are also lots of beautiful rainbows.

By no means are these comments intended as slams against FL or New England. I love being in FL and will always treasure our many years in New England—every place has some kind of weather that people don’t like to deal with.

And now for the flip side…

There’s a bright side to working, too—I genuinely love the people that I work with and I’ve learned a lot of new things about technology and about a business that I’ve been in for more than 30 years. My new work family has also helped me get to know the area—suggestions for restaurants, doctors, places to visit, etc.

And yes—income and benefits—it’s good to have those, too😊.

Don’t pick on the Millennials!

Commute and schedule aside, I also feel like the job keeps me young and makes me more well-rounded, professionally. The fact that so many of my colleagues are younger is a big part of that. They’ve taught me about technology, helped me tremendously with Excel and pivot tables (hey—I’m a writer—I knew Word:), and their perspectives have made me more open minded. It’s refreshing. I hear so much of my own kids in some of the things that we talk about that it often feels like home.

So many people make fun of the Millennials. Admittedly, they look at the world differently than my older peers and I do, and they can do and say some things that make me come out of a work trance and say, “Whaaat??” But their lives have been incredibly different than ours, so there would be something wrong if we all looked at things the same way. Besides, our generation raised them, and every age group has gotten the disapproving eye of prior generations. Gen X-ers? You were once known for getting bored easily and wanting more fun in the office—and Boomers? Say no more—that one’s a long list. So, you know what they say—“let the generation with the approval of the prior generation throw the first stone.”

At least it’s something like that.

The Millennials that I know are smart, hardworking, and caring. They are juggling busy schedules and trying to build and balance their lives and careers. The Millennials in both my personal and professional lives respect and appreciate all of our respective stages in life. Am I on the receiving end of some “old” jokes? Sure—but the younger end of the group takes some pretty good (natured:) heat, too. Thankfully, we’re all the kind of people who can laugh at ourselves and with each other. It’s very entertaining and plus, we all learn from each other. From the Millennials’ fresher and current perspective on life and career, as well as their knowledge of social medial and technology, to the Gen Xers’ ability to bridge the generation gap, to my Boomer perspective on industry and life—everyone adds a piece to the puzzle.

So, what’s the bottom line? Going back to work has been a good thing. I wish there was more free time, though. More time to build this website, cook more, volunteer more, and work out. Okay, maybe not work out—but I’d walk and move around more😊.

I sometimes debate between wanting to retire tomorrow and challenging myself to work until I’m in my 70s. I’m told retirement is fun in the beginning but can get old (no pun intended:). In the meantime, laughing supposedly increases your body’s production of HGH (human growth hormone)—so with all that laughter in our department, maybe working here really is making me younger. If that’s the case, look out Millennials—I’m on my way back to being 30-something.

Have a great rest of the week!

Until next time,