• June 2014

Barbara Mitchell Takes Us Beyond the Second Act

By Barbara Mitchell
HR expert and co-author
The Essential HR Handbook and The Big Book of HR

Second act? Ha. I am on my third act, and I couldn’t be happier. Here’s why.

Act 1 was my role as an HR professional at giant companies such as Marriott International.

Act 2 was owning my own business—an item that was at the very top of my bucket list. And it came to pass in the late 1990s when I was working on another big goal: writing a book.

While I was researching the book, I reconnected with a colleague who was interested in putting a consulting practice together. So we started talking about how we might bring some new ideas to the marketplace. We spent a lot of time discussing our vision for our business, our values, and what skillsets we each brought to the business (because there is no reason to have a business partner if you both do the same things!).

In 1998, we started The Millennium Group International, LLC, and had a great 10 years in business before selling it in early 2008. Margaret Lack, my wonderful business partner, knew that her husband was going to retire in 2007, so early on we put together an exit strategy. (I highly recommend this to anyone starting a business.)

In Act 3, I am a writer and an independent consultant. I love having the freedom that consulting gives me to also be a volunteer video docent at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and to serve on the executive committee of the board of Habitat for Humanity Northern Virginia.

What will your next act be?

Most of the organizations that I consult with are facing the issue of how to help people transition to their “second act” and how to keep the institutional knowledge within the organization.

One model that I really like for this type of work is the program that The MITRE Corporation has to phase in retirement, and to also bring back retirees for special projects. What a win-win that is for the company and the individual.

Whenever possible, it makes sense for organizations to offer some sort of retirement counseling to prepare people for what is coming—both internally and as they transition out.

I know that when we were selling The Millennium Group International, I had so many ideas of things I wanted to do in my next act that I hired an executive coach to help me focus! That process was so valuable in helping me determine what my next act would be.

I can’t wait to see where my Act 4 will take me. If you’re thinking of what might come in your next act, my suggestion is to be open to the possibilities.


About Barbara Mitchell

Mitchell is a human resources and organization development consultant who is widely known in the areas of recruitment and retention. She has experience in both for-profit and nonprofit sectors and has consulted for a variety of organizations around the world.

She served in senior human-resources leadership positions with Marriott International and several technology firms in the Washington, DC, area before co-founding The Millennium Group International, which she sold in 2008.

Her books include The Essential HR Handbook, and The Big Book of HR. Click here to buy the book.

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