Post-retirement comebacks

By Jeff Hasenfratz, Managing director, Mindsight Talent Management Services

This is the final article in a five-part series about career transitions

Returning to work after retiring is now a real possibility

You may well have decided that "retirement" is the perfect time to start your next career and to make it one that is primarily focused on personal development. Many people have made that choice, and why not? As the novelist George Eliot once said, "It is never too late to be what you might have been".

If you've already retired, we'll assume that you're at least in your 50s, are not too concerned about financial matters, and are open to trying something new.

The first thing to say is "Congratulations!" If your plan involves getting back into the workforce, the demographic trends are in your favour. In many developed countries, ageing populations are beginning to translate into talent shortages in the workplace. As a result, companies will be increasingly willing to hire people who have retired but have the energy, attitude and skills to make a positive contribution. Even better, these same companies are more likely to offer the part-time and "flexi-time" schedules often preferred by retirees.

Secondly, since whatever you do will be a substantial investment of your time, you should think very carefully about the next steps. The more certain you are about what you want, and how and where you can get it, the more confident and credible you will appear to others. No doubt you've heard it before, but this is where you need self-awareness.

If you really intend to focus on personal development, decide what that means to you. Who should be involved in the process? Will you be doing something that enables you to make full use of your existing skills, values and interests? How much time do you want to devote to it? Where would you like to be living?

Money matters
Though your post-retirement career won't be driven by financial considerations, still take the time to assess how any change might potentially affect your current situation. Be sure to think through the implications of possible expenditure on retraining, obtaining certification, or additional travelling. There may also be appreciable tax considerations, which could have an impact on how much you actually want to earn.

With regard to your personal development goals, consider if these would be best accomplished through working for an organisation and, if so, whether as a member of staff or as a consultant. In the latter case, you will have to investigate what kind of help you need to make it happen and have an idea whether your work would mainly be generated by referrals or through your own efforts. For some amusing and relevant thoughts on the challenges and joys of being a consultant, glance through Free Agent Nation by Dan Pink and Flawless Consulting by Peter Block.

Alternatively, your development goals may require an approach involving more time alone or with small groups. You may wish to write, do research, coach individuals, meditate, travel, or engage in physical training. Again, you'll want to decide how best to pursue these goals, while integrating them with a form of work that either includes or allows time for them.

Before you take the next step, do yourself a favour and read Rewired, Rehired, or Retired? by Robert Critchley. In this book, the author suggests effective ways of dealing with challenges such as age discrimination (turn a discussion about age into one about ability), learning new skills, and adding optimism to one's own style of communication. He also speaks of the importance of striking the right balance in life.

Whichever route you take to return to the workplace, it will almost certainly involve having to market yourself. In most cases, this will involve revising your CV, networking with relevant people, and interviewing. In Critchley's words, "view yourself as a product". Make sure you know the value you bring to the new role and are able to communicate that value well.

Rewrite your CV so that it legitimately reflects the aspects of yourself most relevant to the target role. Network, in particular, with those whose backgrounds are similar to yours and who are doing what you would like to do. When interviewing or when talking to prospective clients, know the points you wish to convey and do so succinctly.

That's it! Whether you call it post-retirement, realignment or reinvention, enjoy your new career. Stretch out and reach your potential. It's never too late to start.

Points to note:

  • More companies willing to hire older and part-time workers
  • Consider financial implications and personal development factors
  • Take the time to research all your options thoroughly
  • Have a clear self-marketing plan and start networking

    Jeff Hasenfratz ( is managing director of Mindsight Talent Management Services, a consultancy offering retention consulting, executive coaching, and dialogue management services in China. He is a Putonghua speaker and a lawyer by training.

  • Taken from Career Times 18 February 2005
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