I met with a prospective client this week who’s personal introduction included the term: “second act career.”

Interesting to note, if you google the phrase you will find a definition that suggests these initiatives start later in life, after retirement or changing occupations.

That is not how I would describe this individual who was in their 30’s with a successful career as a lawyer.  After practising family law they were looking for a new challenge.  A change in direction with a connection to the community, perhaps a whole new career.  They currently had a solid foundation but found themselves at a stage in life with an interest to explore new and innovative ways to use their skills and expertise. 

Fantastic…creating a new definition that would build on current success.

We decided to create a list that would include all of the things they enjoyed about their current role and compare those skills to lifestyle expectations. It turns out that they truly enjoyed the sport and fitness industry, sooooo, we began to look at opportunities that would establish a market niche and new direction.

Would you define this change as a second act career?

Personally, as they were continuing to offer services that included their core competencies I would describe this as a new opportunity.  If they had decided to become a personal trainer or perhaps open a gym you may then consider the traditional definition.  


What about the issue of “later in life”?  One would assume the description to include someone of a certain age, perhaps in the category of 50+. Not so in this case, they were in the prime time of their career.

Change and transformation is not time sensitive but rather based on goals and lifestyle choices.

I do, however, know a number of individuals who have in fact started new careers or businesses after retirement.  They usually begin as a part-time commitment which at times grows into another full-time venture.  

A common theme is a passion for the work!

I’m not sure when we self-identify with the term “second act career” that age is a determining factor.  I have met a number of people who are between the ages of 35 and 50 who have in fact started a new career, successfully changed direction and are now happier with their new career choice.

What I find inspiring is the courage it takes after your five to ten years onto a career path that we find the passion to pursue something completely different.

There are certain qualities that are inherent to the performance of these new and emerging leaders.  The skills are best described through emotional intelligence or EQ:

  1. Optimism
  2. Independence
  3. Reality Testing 

One may also argue the list should include social responsibility. These qualities contribute to our ability to pivot or change direction with confidence and build the resilience to fulfil both personal and professional goals.

Perhaps the real question is not how we define a second act career but what skills we need to successfully navigate change and transformation at any age?

I’ve made a note that you may also find noteworthy: 
“Celebrate your passion, live with purpose and support your core values by navigating the business of your business.”  These fundaments will ultimately lead to our long term success.

How would you define a second act career? 

Trish Tonaj is a Master Coach Practitioner, and Certified Coach Trainer offering keynotes and workshops on Mentorship…breaking barriers, starting new conversations and creating a new definition for success.