And then the knowledge comes to me that I have space within me for a second, timeless, larger life.
- R. M. Rilke
Boomers see retirement as a promising next phase of life, according to Tamara Erickson, author of Retire Retirement: Career Strategies For the Boomer Generation (Harvard Business Press). Most are looking for a fresh start, better balance between work and leisure and old or new ways to earn income. Some are searching for greater emotional or spiritual fulfillment. And some are returning to the unfinished agendas they hatched in their teens.
“Age 50 or 60 is not a time to begin winding down; this is a time for exploring new options,” says Erickson, award-winning author and president of the Concours Institute. “You need to think big,” she adds.
Sorting out your options
There is nothing like getting a second chance. The trouble is few people give a lot of thought to how they really want to spend the next phase of life.
Erickson suggests the following questions as a starting point:
She provides two handy filters to help you whittle down your choices. The first, which she calls the career curve, can help you sort out how much time and energy you want to devote to work. And the second, the life lures framework, can help you decide just how engaged you want to be. “This time you owe it to yourself to choose something that is truly engaging.” Engagement is about passion and commitment. Your life lures alert you to what is pulling at your heart.
Many boomers in the United States and Canada have told researchers they plan to continue working after retirement age – on their terms. Erickson believes the next few years will unlock a host of potential career-extension options, especially as skill and leadership shortages grow.
Some of these options include:
If you plan to continue working with your present organization, the author suggests you start laying the groundwork to negotiate a new relationship with your employer. Unsure where to start? Erickson provides a step-by-step guide in Chapter 4 of the book.
Middle age can be an ideal time to trade in the long hours or a stressful position to start over. “There’s no time like the present to learn to play the violin, master a new language or delve into ancient history.”
Erickson urges workers to explore their fantasy jobs like working in a winery or in Yellowstone National Park.
She offers the following tips for starting over:
Explore: Launch a quest for people, who think about the world in provocative ways. Pursue new ideas. Travel to new places. Join people who share your values and priorities.
Experiment: Before signing up for a new job or volunteer position, try out the new roles and activities on a small scale. Check out several options. Choose one, and evaluate how well it fits.
In the final section of the book, the author highlights stories of individuals, who uncover passion and purpose after leaving the workplace. Take Howard Hayman, for example.
Hayman worked for a phone company as customer service professional and marketer for decades. On retiring, he adopted a puppy. Soon, he was smitten. Hayman turned his “pet” passion into a second career, becoming a certified dog trainer and behaviorist. Today, he trains dogs for several hours a day.
“The opportunities you choose should fit your own special needs, unique talents and personal passions,” Erikson says.