Ryan Rodrigues plans to live to 150.
Although just 40, Mr. Rodrigues, who is currently the director of leadership development and recruiting at Rotman's School of Management at the University of Toronto, said that ample research demonstrates that we in the Western world are living longer, and he's right. At Davos this year, Nobel prize-winning scientist Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, who specializes in the genetics of aging, said that those born today may have the chance of living 150 years, and 120 may eventually be commonplace.
So for those of us fortunate to live that long, the question then becomes what to do with all our time, and how do we manage our careers if 60 is now midlife? Mr. Rodrigues's tack is to pace himself career-wise, meaning working reasonable hours even if it costs him financially, and carefully selecting how he spends his time.
"I have chosen career roles and volunteer roles that broaden my network and relationships with other people, including spending more time with my family. This makes me happy and has many long-term professional benefits," said Mr. Rodrigues, who aspires to land an executive role in the next 10 years.
After that, he plans to land two or three more roles at that level in different organizations before winding down his working career and focusing on his volunteer work.
"I was once a Boy Scout and the motto 'be prepared' still holds true," said Mr. Rodrigues.
"Be prepared" is one of the lessons in a new book about living longer, called The 100-Year Life, by Andrew Scott and Lynda Gratton. They observe that each generation tends to live around 10 years longer than the previous one, and while that extra decade may sound like a bonus, few are planning for it.
Practically speaking, it means that professionals now in their 40s may need to work until their early 70s and that requires some insight into the skills that will be relevant 25 years from now.
Meanwhile, younger professionals in their 20s seem to have absorbed this new reality, the authors observe, and are pacing themselves for a longer working career by keeping their options open and making commitments much later in life.
"It is highly likely that those who are currently 18 will have a career that spans 60 years. It's hard to think of any knowledge you can acquire at 20 that can last this long, especially given the rate of technological change. So we believe that we will see a major increase in lifelong learning as people retrain or update their knowledge," said Ms. Gratton. She said educational providers are already entering the market to cater to this trend and some educational institutions now offer lifelong facilities as part of their "admission package."
As for workers aged 65 and over, Mr. Scott said that the number of people in that demographic who continue to work keeps increasing, and that the current three-stage model of life, where you begin with education, then move to work and end in retirement, will change dramatically.
"In our book, we paint a picture of a multistage life where people have secondary and tertiary careers and these are sequenced in different ways depending on people's preferences and circumstances. We are likely to see much more of a continuum of different stages where people choose different work-life balance. Retirement will either be defined as when you finally stop working or when you stop working in a role that is so time-consuming," said Mr. Scott.
That's certainly happening to some degree already.
Sixty-year-old Carolynne Melnyk spent 25 years in education, working mainly in international schools in positions ranging from instructor to administrator. In 2004, she realized her passion for the job had waned and spent four years leading spiritual tours in Peru.
She then returned to Canada and is now starting a new career as a motivational speaker in Edmonton. Ms. Melnyk expects to live to 110 based on family history and advances in medicine.
"Will this be my last career? I don't know. As long as I feel challenged and growing personally I will continue, and when this no longer happens I will move on to something else," she said.
Similarly, at 65, Anne Day, founder of Company of Women, an organization that supports female entrepreneurs, started Full Circle Publishing, a book publishing company. The company only launched in June and she already has eight authors.
What Ms. Day likes about the company is that she can spend as much or as little time on it as she chooses. As for launching a new business at 65, she seems unfazed about the challenge at this stage in her life.
"Being 65 is kind of incidental. That just happens to be how old I am. It's a number," she said.
Leah Eichler is founder and CEO of r/ally, a machine-learning, human capital search engine for enterprises. Twitter: @LeahEichler