Planning Your Second Act

August 21st, 2012 by Andrea Bennett

A career coach weighs in on changing your career course – after retirement.

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

We recently wrote about the rise in the number of Americans postponing their retirement, whether out of economic necessity or personal fulfillment. Regardless of whether you delay retiring from the career you’ve always held, you may be one of the many who decide to reinvent post-retirement – by transforming your avocation into a vocation.

Nancy Collamer, M.S., a career coach, speaker and author of the coming book “Second-Act Careers: 50+ Ways to Profit from Your Passion During Retirement” (Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA, January 2013) recently wrote a guest post on AARP about how to figure out what your passions might be (if you don’t already know which are marketable). We touched base with her recently about how to plan your own second act.

How far in advance should people start to think about a semi-retirement career?

The sooner you begin to explore, the more time you'll have to consider, evaluate and test possibilities. While you are still employed, don’t forget to take advantage of company-sponsored training programs that could prove beneficial as you prepare to transition into a new career direction. Consider taking some courses offered through your local community college (many of which now offer programs specifically targeted at the 50+ crowd) as a relatively risk-free way to explore new areas of interest.

How is planning for a semi-retirement career different from other types of career planning?

When you think back to the last time you planned your career (junior year in college?), it’s likely that your decisions were based more on practical concerns, like paying the rent and putting food on the table, than on your personal hopes and dreams. But now it is time to switch things up, and instead of allowing your career to dominate your life, it’s time for your life to take center stage. Consequently, you’ll want to spend as much energy focused on your lifestyle goals and objectives as you do on choosing a new career direction.

Is it best to try to find work that is related to your current expertise, or is completely reinventing really feasible?

There is no one right answer. If you have a clear direction in mind, or a hobby that you’d love to turn into a more full-time pursuit, now could be the perfect time to turn your dreams into action. After all, if not now, when? But if like many soon-to-be retirees you don’t really have a driving passion, I encourage you to try to find some way to stay at least marginally connected to your current profession so that you can use your old job as a way to segue into a new industry. For example, if you’ve been a corporate accountant who has an interest in landscaping, you could teach accounting at a community college (while taking some landscaping courses on the side) or you could offer to do some freelance accounting work for some small local farms.

The news about boomers working into retirement is generally negative in tone, but you maintain that there has never been a better time for people who want to work on a part-time basis. Why?

While it’s true that the outlook for boomers who want to work on a full-time basis looks pretty bleak, the opportunities for people who want to start their own businesses or work on a flexible basis have never been better. Technology has completely revolutionized how, where and when you can work; you can use your kitchen table or local coffee shop as your corporate headquarters. Never before have so many possibilities for creative entrepreneurship come together in the right place at the right time.