Finding Your Best Career Yet — After Retirement
Imagine waking up every morning looking forward to doing whatever you most enjoy. This may not be easy. Caught up in your current career and raising your family for so many years, you may not even remember where your true passions lie.
But the approach of retirement doesn’t mean your chances of having a career you love have passed you by — quite the opposite. It’s a great time to rediscover your passions — and some new ones as well.
Start by listing every job you’ve ever had, and noting what things about each you enjoyed the most. Maybe it was managing employees, mentoring young workers, talking to customers, carpooling, surfing the Internet, or just chatting at the water cooler. All of these hold clues to your core passions. You may notice one or two aspects that appear repeatedly in various forms.
Reviewing Your Greatest Hits
When reviewing your career, look for moments of greatness — when you knew you had hit your stride and felt as if you were, as they say in sports, in the zone. Identify what made these times so wonderful. If you were part of a team, what role did you play? What skills and personality traits came alive during these endeavors? Did you take risks, master a skill that had previously intimidated you, or demonstrate courage or persistence? Think of these peak moments as the greatest hits of your work life.
Now repeat the exercise for how you’ve spent your leisure hours. Think about what motivated your interests or what activities gave you the most pleasure. What kind of people have you most enjoyed spending time with? Your choices in the first 50 years of life can inform and inspire your blueprint for what comes next.
Then, recall your childhood. If you can, hunt through some of your old report cards, letters to and from friends, or diary entries. What did you dream about doing with your life? Remembering those first hopes and goals can provide invaluable insight, especially if you feel that your dreams have been obscured by the struggle to survive and raise a family.
Stating Your Vision
Envisioning what you want to do is the critical first step toward realizing your dreams. It can be helpful to write down a vision statement. This should be one paragraph summarizing what you’re good at, where your core passions lie, and how you plan to fuse the two in the years ahead.
Here are some sample vision statements:
I’m a terrific salesperson, and I love selling people things that will make their lives better. I intend to find a small to midsize real estate or insurance company where I can have a blast by turning on all of my selling engines and making a good living in the process. However, because I also enjoy playing golf and fishing, I will only work three days each week!
I’m an accomplished executive who gets great satisfaction from fixing problems and helping employees achieve great things. It doesn’t matter if it’s with a Fortune 500 company, my church, or the Red Cross. I intend to find a series of organizations that will let me jump in as needed.
I’m a caring and successful manager who is well-organized and enjoys working with people from varied backgrounds. I get frustrated by bureaucratic organizations. So I intend to help entrepreneurs in my community develop and manage viable businesses. And because I’m a woman who grew up poor and have discovered that I’m most appreciated by women with humble beginnings, I will focus on highly motivated young women from the inner city.
Throughout my life, I have worked in an office, but during my free time I have always enjoyed the outdoors. I’m going to find a way to get a job — even for less pay — where I can spend all of my time outside, surrounded by nature. Maybe I will volunteer at the local campgrounds or state park.
Although I have been a bookkeeper my whole life, what I really like to do is take care of other people — especially older adults. So I will seek a job where I can help others as an elder-care provider at a local senior center or assisted-living facility.
There’s one more step in this search for what makes you tick. As much as you can, you should reach out to those family members and friends who have insights into what you do best and love most. Explain to your loved ones that you’re trying to rediscover your core passions and fashion a new career or later-life pursuit that will keep you fulfilled. Ask them to share the moments when they believed you were the most excited or happy. Then sit back and listen.
From these insights, craft a plan of action. Your new career can be about much more than just earning a living — it’s an opportunity to shed your old life and become exactly who you want to be by working at what you enjoy.