I counsel my clients (who are 55 and up) that if they know how to take care of themselves (proper diet, exercise, lifestyle) they can expect 25 to 30 years of life/work at the level they choose whether at full or part-time work. Work and health go together and extensive research shows that people who “stay in the game” live longer healthier lives. Have you noticed the number of billionaires who continue to work into their 80’s and beyond? It is certainly not because they need the money. They choose to work primarily for one reason; they are doing something that they love which continues to bring satisfaction and happiness into their lives. Most professionals who have had an active and successful career recognize that for them, work is life sustaining. How often have we seen successful people retire without any plans for work and then rather quickly show signs of atrophy? So for many if not most a life without work purpose or passion is a recipe for deterioration.
Increasingly for those 65 and up its not so much about finding a job as it is finding non-traditional employment opportunities that are largely self-generated. Consulting is frequently a way to get started into a more entrepreneurial lifestyle. some of the most common steps to post employee work would be teaching, writing, speaking or fixing/building something. Boomers may not want to work full time although many do for financial considerations. The key is learning how to create a new and different lifestyle which integrates life and work into a completely different pattern from the past. As an example, this new model of what we call “un-retirement” may allow for part-time work they love, travel to New Zealand for “bungee jumping”, volunteer at a local charity, and back to school to study Greek mythology.
We live in a frenetic time of endless rapid change so much so that we can actually observe the disappearance of much of the traditional work we have grown used to seeing in the past. We are witnessing the continual change in the workplace as jobs are being eliminated by technology or sent off to a distant place with lower labor rates. In the united states today we are coming to the end of a more stable and traditional employer/employee model. Twenty percent of the professional workforce is already working as free agents in the so-called “gig economy”. We have more freedom than our parents had as far as employment, but at a price. We are increasingly responsible for our own job security, training/education, health and well being. In a very real sense, we are all “self-employed” , responsible for our own economic well being and captain of our own ship; we can see now that all jobs are temporary with an average life span of two to three years.
When thinking about work in what we have usually called the retirement years. here are some questions we need to ask ourselves:
. Do you have any passion for at least some aspects of your past employment?
. What do you really love to do?
. Are you just going through the motions in your current work?
. Are you listening to your heart in your current work?
. So you have any idea about what you want to do in the future?
. does your spouse/family know what you want to do?
If some of these questions ring true for you, it may be time to take charge and promote yourself to “captain”, that would be captain of your own ship; Take responsibility for your career life going forward. this may mean taking a leap and doing what you truly love to do.
A few years ago a consultant friend of mine told me a story about a client he worked with through a job change. When this middle-aged attorney found his small law firm being merged into a much larger firm, he decided not to go along for the ride with the new firm. My consultant friend and the attorney had several discussions about work and specifically “passion” for work.. Reflecting upon that idea the attorney found himself at a picnic at which a family album was passed around. In the album, the attorney found a picture of himself at about age 18 with his hand on the engine of a hotrod that he and a friend had lovingly re-built. The memory of that occasion in the picture allowed him to reflect on the fact that this was one of the happier moments in his life. So the following week he met with the president of a local antique car club and through that connection was able to purchase the shell of an old “55 Chevy” which he and a friend then installed an engine and restored the car to mint like condition. He subsequently entered the car in an auto show and won first prize in his class. He later sold the car for six times what he had invested in the car. Today he runs a successful auto restoring business in Phoenix Arizona where he turns old 1950 to 1970 cars into museum like automobiles.
Needless to say, he is far happier in his new career/ work than he ever was as an attorney.
So when contemplating work and life in the traditional retirement years here are some things for boomers to understand and think about:
#1) Building relationships throughout one’s life/career is the key to finding or creating work after a traditional corporate career. Networking will always be the primary generator of opportunity. Simply stated networking is about service to others first; Asking a few questions upon meeting and then giving something back before ever promoting oneself; Like an article, a book, a seminar, or the name of a person will lay the groundwork for a possible relationship to grow. Converting a chance contact into a real connection is the way to build mutual respect and reciprocity.
#2) Turning your resume into a “one-page flyer” focused on your core offerings. Put it up on social media and most importantly on “linked in” the premier platform for business connecting. also, produce a blog or podcast with quotes and endorsements from senior authority figures.
#3) Building your “Brand” for the long run, it’s not about the next project but rather the next 25/30 years or more of life and work. your brand is a reflection of what people know and expect from a relationship with you. It is best to create a short branding statement that is easy to remember. Here are some examples; sales collaborator, turnaround pro, the Cincinnati innovator. Focus upon your unique selling proposition.
#4) Approach the market as a professional “resource” not as a job seeker. You choose to be the enterprise as an “interim resource” with projects from two to ten months or more.
#5) Consider the “portfolio career” using your core skills and experience over multiple streams of income like to teach, coach, consult, write, speak, or possible board work. All professionals should have at least one additional source of income.
#6) Maintain a positive attitude in the marketplace and initially try and serve everyone you meet by taking an interest in them first.
Research shows that ‘givers” rise to the top more often than “takers” as confirmed by Adam Grant in his powerful book “Give and take”.
#7) Create your own “business support board” composed of like-minded friends and associates that you have known and worked with in the past. Start by inviting three or four successful individuals to meet for breakfast at a regular time and place each or every other week; Then build the group to six to ten people. A largely informal and unstructured update meeting is best. The group can then proactively promote each other as well as provide business ideas and contacts.
#8) Beyond age 65 it is part of the job to stay in shape both physically and mentally. You must keep doing challenging tasks both physically and mentally. Ilchi Lee in his best selling book “I decided to live to 120” says that living a comfortable easy and worry-free life is not actually what is best for the brain. Most people know that they need to exercise 4 or 5 times a week, stay trim, eat healthy low carb meals, emphasize vegetables and high protein foods as well as some healthy fats (think avocados and olive oil).
Finally, your post-traditional work life can actually be more rewarding than the corporate job you had for so many years. Your greatest accomplishment may be yet to come as many well-known people have become famous after years in “a job”. You see this in the creative disciplines like writing, acting painting etc. Your retirement years can still be productive and maybe more so than you might think. Look at the number of high profile people working into their 80’s and beyond. There is probably more opportunity than ever but in new ways of living and being, as the workplace of today continues to be disrupted while creating the workplace of tomorrow.