A satisfying corporate career doesn’t have to end at retirement

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

Saying the word “retirement” to a business executive in their 60s will elicit one of two reactions: excitement about the future or complete denial and fear.

Much of the anxiety in this last category stems from conflicting visions of modern retirement. For many baby boomers at the peak of a successful career, there’s little rush for endless days of golf, grandkids and fun.

For others, there is a desire to slow down, but not to trade in the prestige, identity and self-esteem that comes with a full-time leadership role. This result leaves many near retirement (and their employers) at an uncomfortable crossroads.

To “get unstuck”, determine your professional heritage

The good news is that thoughtful planning while you’re still employed can help you find a fulfilling and balanced next chapter.

Start by considering:

  • How much income will be needed to maintain your lifestyle in retirement?
  • How much time do you want to devote to various activities, such as part-time employment, service on a board of directors, charity work, family, vacations or hobbies?
  • What are the issues and ideals that are important to support in retirement?
  • What distinct leadership skills and experiences can you bring to your future endeavours?
  • What help will you need to achieve these goals?

The ideal combination of retreat activities combines your personal passions with your leadership skills and experience, at a pace that matches your desire to balance work and personal life.

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

Many opportunities to offer your retired executive experience

When planning your retirement chapter, you don’t have to put your professional life aside entirely. Consider these ways to share your leadership experience and continue to add value:

  1. Mentor other budding professionals. Advising young leaders generates new perspectives for both parties. Consider volunteering as a one-on-one mentorship with a young professional in your field. Look for opportunities through your current employer, your professional network, through professional associations, local colleges, or even national organizations like Menttium.
  2. Spend your free time purposefully. Remember to balance value-added activities with fun and family. It can be tempting to say “yes” to every opportunity; instead, stick to your legacy plan. By prioritizing yourself and protecting your schedule, you have time to explore new avenues and make the most of your new situation.
  3. Join a council. Service on the board of directors of a public or private company is an excellent cornerstone in a leadership journey. Expect to devote approximately 300 hours per year to meetings, committee work, and other advisory activities. Start tapping into your professional network 18-24 months before quitting your full-time job to find the right role on the board.
  4. Serve in a non-profit organization. When you are passionate about a cause, a full-time or part-time role in a 501(c)3 organization channels your leadership abilities in a different direction, while simultaneously having a positive impact on your community. Consider how your skillset intersects with a specific nonprofit’s mission, then tailor your resume and LinkedIn profile to support your goal.
  5. Educate, write or lecture. A career in business gives a deep foundation of knowledge. Once you’ve found your voice, there are several ways to share your perspective through paid or volunteer engagements. Take the time to write the next business bestseller, speak to trade associations, lead community workshops, or pitch your story to local schools. Developing an overview of your chosen topic and a short biography with your credentials will help open the door to opportunities.

Longer longevity and greater contributions

Longer lifespans and more flexible retirement ages factor into decision-making. The 20th century added 30 years to the average lifespan — now 77 — and experts like the Stanford Center on Longevity expect that age to continue to rise. Their new map of life addresses the implications and opportunities of future generations who will likely reach 100 years old.

Americans age 55 or older are now the fastest growing segment of the U.S. workforce, with their contribution to the economy expected to triple to nearly $27 trillion over the next three months. decades. They are capable, independent and driven, and few are ready for a full 180 when it comes to next steps. All of this drives the need to reframe “retreat” with new thinking and more possibilities.

Balance is essential to a healthy and fulfilling retirement. You’ll be ready to move forward with confidence and intention once you find the right combination for your ideal lifestyle.

CEO, 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 business and The Wall Street Journal. His experience includes senior positions at PepsiAmericas, Caribou Coffee and Whirlpool Corp.

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