Have You Been Thinking About Your Last Big Gig?

Being a woman of a certain age (yes, old enough not to be specific), I have been thinking a lot about how I want to craft my last big professional gig.  It has been a productive 35 years (Yale School of Management reunion 2 weeks ago), both professionally and personally; lots of success (as well as other kinds of experiences), fascinating people and an amazing amount of learning.

As I close out my latest gig of the past five years, becoming a start-up entrepreneur and CEO, I am thinking hard about what I want to do for my “last big professional gig”.

In an age where you can find information about anything and everything on the internet, remarkably, I have found little written about this potential event in a person’s, particularly, a woman’s life.  When you google “gig”, all kinds of useful information about hard drives and throwing events come up – but nothing useful for a woman of a certain age who wants her next big gig to leverage all of her skills and life experience, stretch her in new ways, enable her to give back and finally provide a meaningful sense of fulfillment and satisfaction.

Next, I searched “capstone experience”, which gets a bit closer but which is primarily focused on academic contexts.  The Boyer Commission (1998) defines the capstone experience as follows: “ All the skills of research developed in earlier work should be marshaled in a project that demands framing of a significant question or set of questions, the research or creative exploration to find answers, and the communication skills to convey the results to audiences both expert and uninitiated in the subject matter.” To me, it feels too limited by a narrow definition of the activity, the isolation of completing the work on one’s own and the implicit one-way communication.  It is an alternative “exam” to qualify, not a life-enhancing experience with benefits for others.

Finally, I went to the ultimate source – my girlfriends of a certain age.  Many of my friends are in very different places – reveling in retirement and grandchildren, finishing the arc of a long, single profession, or comfortably, easily shifting more of their time and attention to their favorite charities and social welfare activities.  But, amongst my friends, my professional and personal acquaintances and their friends and acquaintances, I have discovered an ever-growing number of women who, like me, are thinking hard about their last big gig.   Whether a personal or professional change has prompted this consideration or a big birthday, we are all asking the same question – What do I want to create for my last big professional gig?

I hope that if you are also interested, you will join this conversation and contribute to the thinking, learning and progress for yourself and others.  Here are a few of the questions that I have started talking to other women about….

  1. What are the strands of my professional life that I want to draw into my last big gig?
  2. What do I want to accomplish with my last big gig?  Professionally?  Personally? For the world at large?
  3. What will give me the sense of satisfaction and fulfillment that I want from my last big gig?
  4. How open am I to trying something completely new, wild and woolly?

What are you thinking about?

Mary Wallace Jaensch


  • Kim Gould

    Reply Reply October 12, 2013

    Mary what an interesting topic! So much of women’s lives still remains unspoken and unshared, and I was excited to read your thoughts on what you are experiencing. Thinking back to my mother’s and grandmother’s generations, the only ‘capstone’ was having to cope with a newly retired husband and enjoying the grandchildren. This idea of carefully considering how to put the icing on the cake of a successful working life feels so delicious. Mind you, I’m still trying to work out what I want to be when I grow up!

    • Mary

      Reply Reply October 12, 2013

      Kim – thank you for joining the conversation and sharing your thoughts – I love the idea of “icing”, always my favorite part of the cake!

  • Mariana

    Reply Reply November 10, 2013

    Yes, such an interesting topic Mary, close to my heart as I have been blogging lately on our 3rd chapter of which I have named them the juicyyears. Not sure if I am up to a last big gig, but I think we are on the same page, so I am interested in the conversation with you (found you via my friend, Kim).

    • Mary

      Reply Reply November 10, 2013

      Mariana –

      Love the “juicy years” and would be delighted to connect. Let me know what makes the most sense – please feel free to contact me directly at mwjaensch@gmail.com to organize what works best

  • Mary

    Reply Reply January 17, 2014

    I also most identify with the scarecrow – thinking that if I had a that was bright enough to find the answer, all would be so much better – when it fact the Tin Man looking for his heart and the Lion looking for his courage are probably closer to finding a path to create a more satisfying LBG.

    And while there probably is a certain amount of pulling the pieces of our current realities apart to work toward designing a satisfying LBG, not sure that it requires a complete falling apart (even if sometimes it can feel that way). It will be interesting to hear about other people’s experiences and to look at famous examples to discern the different paths. I do like the idea of seeking our childhood innocence, love and trust as a way back to finding our deeper purposes.

    Thanks for the comment.

  • Mary

    Reply Reply April 25, 2014

    Thank you – will be launching a more extensive website soon. Please send me any things that you are thinking about as well.

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