A Satisfying Corporate Career Doesn’t Have to End with Retirement

If you’re wondering, “What should I do next?” you are not alone.

Saying the word “retirement” to a corporate executive in their 60s would justify one of two reactions: excitement about the future, or total denial and fear.

Much of the anxiety in the latter category stems from conflicting visions of modern retirement. For many Baby Boomers at the height of a successful career, there is little eagerness for endless days of golf, grandchildren and relaxation.

For others, there is a desire to slow down the pace but not trade in the prestige, identity and self-worth that comes from a full-time executive role. This result leaves many approaching retirement (and their employers) at an awkward crossroads.

To ‘get loose’ determines your professional legacy

The good news is that thoughtful planning while you are still employed can help you figure out a fulfilling and balanced next chapter.

Start by considering:

  • What amount of income will be needed to maintain your retirement lifestyle?
  • How much time do you want to devote to various activities, such as part-time employment, corporate counseling, charity work, family, vacations or hobbies?
  • What issues and ideals are important to support in your retirement?
  • What clear leadership abilities and experience can you bring to your future endeavors?
  • What assistance will you need to achieve these goals?

The ideal blend of retirement activities combines your personal passions with your leadership skills and experience, at a pace that suits your desire for work-life balance.

It can be helpful to involve a professional coach, close friend or trusted colleague in the discovery and planning process. In some cases, skilled employers even provide access to “legacy planning” coaches, who help senior leaders transition smoothly to retirement. This support benefits the organization as well as the outgoing executive, by keeping succession plans on track and paving the way for the next generation of leaders to progress.

Numerous opportunities to present your executive experience in retirement

While planning your retirement chapter, it is not necessary to set aside your professional life altogether. Consider these ways to share your leadership experience and continue to add value:

  1. Lead other aspiring professionals. Advising younger leaders generates new insights for both sides. Consider volunteering your time in a one-on-one mentorship with a younger professional in your field. Look for opportunities at your current employer, your professional network, through trade associations, local colleges or even national organizations like Menttium.
  2. Spend your free time deliberately. Don’t forget to balance value-added activities with fun and family. It can be tempting to say “yes” to every occasion; rather stick to your legacy plan. Prioritizing yourself and protecting your schedule gives you time to explore new avenues and make the most of your new situation.
  3. Join a board. Corporate counseling with a public or private company is a good keystone in a leadership journey. Expect to commit approximately 300 hours per year to meetings, committee work and other advisory activities. Start listening to your professional network 18-24 months before you leave your full-time job to find the right board role.
  4. Serve with a non-profit organization. When you are passionate about an issue, a full-time or part-time role at a 501 (c) 3 organization channels your leadership abilities in a different direction, while at the same time making a positive impact in your community. Consider how your skills intersect with a specific nonprofit’s mission, then customize your resume and LinkedIn profile to support your goal.
  5. Educate, write or teach. A corporate career provides a deep knowledge base. Once you have found your voice, there are a number of ways to share your point of view in paid or voluntary commitments. Take time to write the next business top seller, talk to trade associations, lead community workshops or present your story to local schools. Developing an outline of your chosen topic and a short bio with your credentials will help open the door to opportunities.

Longer service life and larger contributions

Longer lifespan and more adaptable retirement ages are a factor in decision making. The 20th century added 30 years to the average life expectancy – now 77 years – and experts such as The Stanford Center on Longevity expect the age to continue to increase. Their New Life Map addresses the implications and opportunities of future generations that will be predictably 100 years old.

Americans 55 and older are now the fastest growing segment of the U.S. workforce, with their contributions to the economy expected to triple to nearly $ 27 trillion in the next three decades. They are skilled, independent and motivated, with few ready for a full 180 when it comes to next steps. This all leads to the need to re-frame “retirement” with new thinking and more possibilities.

Balance is essential for a healthy and satisfying retirement. You will be ready to move forward with confidence and intention once you have found the right mix for your ideal lifestyle.

HUB, Navigate Forward

Anne deBruin Sample, CEO and owner of Navigate Forward, is an experienced HR leader and Career Transition Expert. She wrote for CEOWorld magazine and was published in Fast company and The Wall Street Journal. Her experience includes high-level positions at PepsiAmericas, Caribou Coffee and Whirlpool Corp.

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