Who said retirement means to stop working entirely? These days, the new normal is retirement way past 65. More boomers are working later in life, or will be. Some, in part-time positions. Some full time. For some, it’s a choice. Others, a necessity.
An Associated Press-LifeGoesStrong.com poll released in November 2011 reported that 73% of boomers plan to work in retirement, up from 67% who answered this same question in April 2011. And since nearly half of those polled believe they will live comfortably in later years, it’s not surprising that a CareerBuilder study in early 2012 found that 57% of workers 60-plus said they’ll look for a new job after retiring from their current company.
But this isn’t meant to discourage anyone, just the opposite. What’s happening is simply a redefining of what “retirement” may mean to today’s aging population.
A standing golf date isn’t everyone’s idea of retirement. Some retirees may want to grab a pastry knife over a putter—and get paid for it. Others might want to hang out their own shingle, perhaps leveraging decades at a big accounting firm to open a tax-prep service steps from the beach.
Crunch the Numbers
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After all, pursuit of a paycheck doesn’t have to be more of the same clockpunching routine. Retirement may just be the perfect chance to go parttime at the same company, or try out a dream career missed the first time around. Maybe it means leaving corporate America and joining the ranks of non-profits. For others, contract work may provide desired flexibility.
David Corbett, founder of New Directions, Inc., says Americans at this stage might adopt “a 1099 tax-form mentality,” and think and act with an eye toward opportunity through contract work or self-employment. “It’s not about behaving like corporate soldiers, but rather like entrepreneurs,” said Corbett, author of “Portfolio Life: The New Path to Work, Purpose and Passion After 50.” Corbett offers these tips:
- SHIFT TO NEUTRAL. You don’t have to jump to the next thing right away. Sure, it’s scary to enter a “white space” when you stop working. Taking time for decompression can be just the preparation you might need to recharge and gain new perspective and skills that will make you more competitive than ever.
- BE YOUR OWN MENTOR. Stuck? Not sure what’s next? Retell yourself the story of your life as if telling it to a stranger. What did your teachers used to say about you? Think of all the careers you once aspired to. What did you really want to be when you grew up? Don’t judge yourself. This is data collection, not commentary. Write a “mission statement” for your new career. This allows you to skip the tangibles like specific projects or money goals for now and focus instead on the values, beliefs, and interests you care about the most. Then, find the right market to share that mission.
- USE YOUR WORDS. Verbs, that is. The pressures of social status make you describe yourself in nouns: the titles, labels, roles, and affiliations connected to “career.” But nouns close doors. They peg people. So strip them away and get to your verbs. The challenge now is to dream not about what you want to be, but what you want to do.
- PUT IT TO THE PANEL. Friends, family, and current or former co-workers can be a sounding board. Open the floor to insights and possibilities with no judgments allowed. The goal is simply to create opportunities, and use the feedback to improve your career exploration.
Pull Up a Chair
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As lifestyles change, baby boomers may find their competition now isn’t so much their younger rivals, but their peers. There are resources to help with a job search:
- Each year, AARP, in addition to a section of its website devoted to working in retirement issues its list of the “Best Employers for Workers Over 50.”
- Job-search sites such as retiredbrains.com cater to boomers, retirees, and people planning their retirement. Job boards can be found there. Plus, these sites offer marketing and relationship-building help for professionals transitioning into consulting in their area of expertise.
- Professional social networking sites such as LinkedIn are musts for job-seekers and hiring managers. Second careers are no exception. Older workers may have an advantage over younger competition—they’ve built up a lengthy list of contacts and references through the years. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not, but consider “rebranding” yourself to fit your new pursuit. Help control your web presence with a professional blog on a popular platform, such as WordPress or blogger.com.
- Some career coaches specialize in boomers. Changing Course, for one, is an online resource for people who want to be their own bosses.
- The American Council on Education offers state-by-state information on tuition waivers, scholarships, and course auditing for older adult