Workzone: Fitness can fuel your ‘second act’


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Making a dramatic career shift in middle age usually requires financial stability in the form of more-than-adequate savings, or a working spouse who’s at low risk of becoming unemployed anytime soon.

Beyond a financial cushion, however, those pondering so-called “second acts” or “encore careers” might do well to join a gym or take up yoga or meditation, says Kerry Hannon, a Washington, D.C.-based journalist and author of “What’s Next? Finding Your Passion and Your Dream Job in Your Forties, Fifties, and Beyond.”

“When you’re physically fit, it gives you a confidence and an optimistic outlook. ... And change is superstressful. So give yourself permission to step away from the madness.”

In the updated edition of her 2010 book, which chronicled the stories of 16 people who changed careers in midlife mainly for personal fulfillment, Ms. Hannon has added a chapter that advises readers to become physically and spiritually fit as well as financially stable as they embark on new ventures.

The new edition is due out Tuesday in paperback for $15 from Berkley Books, a division of Penguin Random House. Besides revisiting subjects from the first volume, it features four new stories about people who have taken the plunge into new careers. There is also an addition on becoming an entrepreneur and raising money.

A Fox Chapel native who graduated from Shady Side Academy, Ms. Hannon has specialized in personal finance and career issues as a staff writer and contributor to national publications including USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and Forbes.

Among the “What’s Next?” subjects with Pittsburgh connections who appear in the latest edition are Tim Sheerer, owner and operator of la Cappella restaurant in the Waterworks Mall near Aspinwall. A former Wall Street investment banker, Mr. Sheerer turned 40 shortly after 9/​11 and realized he wanted more hours with family, including time to coach his children’s sports teams. He moved back to his hometown, bought a franchise restaurant, then opted out of the chain and opened his bistro as an independent owner.

Others are Cliff Stevenson, who left a lucrative career in mortgage banking to become a social studies teacher in Hampton; and Diane Rhodes, a graduate of the Ellis School in Shadyside, who retired at 49 from a management job with AT&T in New Jersey and became an ordained Episcopal priest.

The best transitions to new careers take about three years, said Ms. Hannon.

“Start working on it three years before you actually do it. Do some moonlighting, or volunteering to add the skills you need. It doesn’t happen overnight.”

During those years of advance planning, consider the benefits of physical exercise and spiritual reflection, she advises.

“Get some kind of fitness program in your life. Go walk your dog. Swim. I’m not saying you have to run a superquick mile or lift all kinds of weights.”

Finding a spiritual escape, Ms. Hannon said, can be signing up for a yoga class or volunteering with a project where you are able to restore your perspective about the anxieties of your day-to-day career.

“Opening a new business or being the new kid on the block really requires an inner calm.”


Joyce Gannon: jgannon@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1580.

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