Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Jay Leno Won't Let Go -- The Beginning of the Boomerang Effect?

Even though he is past the prime of his career, last night Jay Leno came back to NBC with a new prime-time show -- after his retirement from The Tonight Show. Leno is back, and he is right in successor Conan O'Brien's front yard.

As guest Jerry Seinfeld jokingly put it last night, "Back in the 1990s, when we retired, we actually left!"

As I watched this first episode of Jay Leno's second show, it occurred to me that this is indeed art copying life. All across America - in the nonprofit sector and beyond - Baby Boomers are increasingly retirement-challenged.

Some will have trouble exiting jobs due to serious economics challenges. This is real challenge that our society must address by strengthening our social safety net. In the nonprofit realm, which is my greatest concern, we must develop excellent ideas and systems to ensure that retirement from nonprofit careers is viable.

However, other Boomers will not step down even if they could. (Leno certainly doesn't need the cash.)

Unlike their predecessors, it seems, Boomers will forge the 'encore careers' discussed by Civic Ventures. These encore careers, it seems, will be preceded by encore premieres, and, one assumes, encore retirements at some point.

In contrast to Jay, when Johnny retired after his long-term commitment to The Tonight Show, he left with the dignity and finality of the Greatest Generation.

Of course, Jay still has plenty of humor and ideas to contribute to our weeknights, and he can probably make NBC a good little profit. There is no reason he should stop being a productive comedian. In fact, I would think there is much that younger performers can learn from him and his cohort, as he learned from those who came before him.

The key question is: Do Boomers who "boomerang" back into the workforce have to do so in ways that directly compete with their successor generations? Can we find ways to compliment rather than directly compete with one another? Could we actually create new value together rather than cause economic conflict between the generations?

For Conan's sake, and for all of us, I sure hope so.


Glenn said...

Jay never "retired" from the Tonight Show. He left to host this new show. Nor does his show compete with Conan's (at least not in the same time slot). In fact, I think if you looked at the demo you'd find that there is a sizable audience that follows one or the other because they identify more so with the one they follow.

To your question, for those boomers who delay retirement, that means there will be fewer openings for younger gens to fill.

On the other hand, those boomers who choose a second job may actually create new openings when they start up new businesses or create work for others.

anthony said...

The reality is that boomers, knowing they will have increasing difficulty landing jobs as they age, are launching businesses in record numbers to support themselves in retirement. At our website, theunrulymob.com we have begun to write about good retire businesses -- the most recent about why becoming a Moonshiner may be a good retirement move. See http://www.theunrulymob.com/whats-next/encore-careers/never-contemplated-becoming-a-moonshiner-in-retirement-maybe-you-should/

Tony Polk

Rusty Stahl said...

Glenn, thanks for your comment!

You may be correct that Jay didn't retire but left for the new show - I will acknowledge that I did not follow the story closely when his departure was announced. But they did have his first guest on there mock-mocking him for not really retiring, so Iay have gotten it from that.

You are also right that they are not costing for the same exact audience nor are they directly pitted against each other in the same time slot. But the challenge in my view is that not only does Conan have to out-perform his actual competetors but also with his predecessor - the very person who should have smoothed the road for him. (I recall they Johnny had Jay as his guest host increasingly, legitimizing Jay as his replacement leading up to and easing their hand-off. This has a very different feel and it reads as a generational style difference)

I agree Boomers can create great new jobs if they launch new enterprises. I wonder if this will be a phenomenon in the social sector as well as the business arena.

Rusty Stahl said...

Mr Polk,

Thank you for sharing your related blog here! I took a look at what you are doing - it seems very practical and smart. I know some members of your Unruly Mob who I'll be sending to your site.

I noticed one story on your site is about a man who started a foundation as his encore career. This is actually part of the traditional narrative of the philanthropy career -make the money or build content expertise or get your political skills in your first (primary) career, then apply your money, knowledge and/or skills to philanthropy.

I wonder if there won't be a dramatic increase in that behavior in the coming decade.

Of course, at my organization, EPIP, and at this blog, we are thinking about and working with mostly Boomers who have already made a complete first career in foundations and/or nonprofits.

It is difficult to know how many of this crowd will start a new foundation, nonprofit or business, or how many of them will stay put in jobs to get thru the recession, get kids thru college or mortgages paid off. Either way, They are clearly considering options, and trying to find strategies to establish their legacies. Those of us in Gen X and Y have a stake in how they proceed.

anthony said...

A second comment from Tony Polk (I accidentally rejected it and now the site won't let me accept it, so I am pasting the text):

As a new so-called "retiree" myself I have been fascinated at the internal struggles that go on in myself and other regarding how to contribute --whether to volunteer at a local food bank or start a foundation. One reason I have focusing so heavily on www.theunrulymob.com on practical approaches to these things is that from my perspective, the issue is not wanting to help but knowing how to help and finding a practical way to do it. So I am hopeful that as Marc Freedman of Civic Ventures.org, the big proponent of world changing boomers, that this generation will find itself again and indeed change the world even more. Take a look at our piece about the woman who started a microlending program in Africa on $18 grand obtained by selling her second-hand Volvo. It speaks exactly to this issue of, you can do it.