There’s a little-known fact about second act careers that might surprise you: Most people don’t really reinvent their careers for retirement. Instead, they repurpose and recycle their skills in new ways. They take the threads of their hobbies, interests and old jobs and weave them together into new lifestyle-friendly options for the future.
Admittedly, the stories about the attorney turned cattle rancher or the accountant who becomes a farmer make for entertaining press. But in reality, the transformations people go through are far less dramatic.
That’s why it’s important to pay attention to what you already know, do well and enjoy. There are always parts of your work and life experiences – no matter how seemingly insignificant – that can serve as a bridge into a fulfilling semi-retirement career.
So if you’re ready to begin exploring, here are five areas of your life to examine for important clues and insights into what’s next:
1. Professional expertise. All things being equal, it is easiest, and typically most lucrative, to pursue a second act that is in some way connected to your long-time career. With 30 or more years of work experience under your belt, you’ve undoubtedly built up an impressive storehouse of skills, contacts and industry know-how that can be repackaged in many different forms.
For starters, you might be able to downshift into a part-time or consulting role with your current employer. If that’s not possible, you could potentially work on a freelance basis as a consultant, special projects temp, recruiter, or coach. Alternatively, there could be opportunities to share your expertise as an adjunct professor, writer or speaker.
Of course, you’re not limited to doing essentially the same job in the same industry as you did before. There might be just a small piece of your professional life that you want to build upon going forward. For instance, you might really love facilitating meetings, which is a skill that you could mix with your passion for helping at-risk youth in a new role as a director of a non-profit. Or you could pair your accounting expertise and love of reading into a freelance job as a bookkeeper for a local bookstore.
Think beyond the “job box”. Once you start exploring and talking with colleagues, you’ll discover there are countless ways to repurpose your professional expertise and experiences into new income streams.
2. Hobbies and personal interests. Whatever your hobbies and interests – fishing, knitting, cooking, or photography – it really is possible to create cash from something that you would happily do for free.
There are hundreds of ways to monetize your hobby know-how. You can teach others to do what you love by offering piano lessons, cooking classes or golf lessons. You can share your artistic talents by shooting photos at a wedding, painting portraits or selling your woodcarvings at a crafts show. Or, if you’d prefer to work for someone else, you can find part-time jobs at hobby-related venues, such as ballparks, historic sites and arts institutions.
Just remember that simply because you enjoy a hobby, and the people involved with that pursuit, doesn’t mean that running a hobby related business is necessarily any easier than any other type of business venture. The same rules of entrepreneurial success still apply. So honestly evaluate if turning your hobby into your work will be a mistake. Sometimes it’s best to leave the two as separate and distinct parts of your life.
3. Innate gifts and talents. All of us have natural gifts and talents that can be put to good use in a second act career. Whether you’ve got a wicked sense of humor, an enviable sense of style, a photographic memory or a knack for fixing up houses, retirement might be the perfect time to finally let the world get a taste of your more creative side.
There are lots of ways to slice, dice and repackage your talents into second act success. For example, if you have a radio-ready voice, you might find work as a voiceover artist. If you love tinkering with cars, you could fix up vintage models for a local mechanic. Or if you’re compulsively organized, you could earn good money as a professional organizer who helps people sort, clean and get rid of their clutter.
The key here is to acknowledge your natural gifts and talents – no matter how quirky they might be – and then put them to good use as you shift into a second act career.
4. Causes and callings. For many baby boomers, earning income during retirement is secondary to their desire to make a difference in the world. If you are ready to give back in your next act, think about the causes, organizations and missions you care about, and then research ways to use your skills and gifts to meet their needs.
Luckily, the nonprofit world is enormous. It includes charities, advocacy groups, religious institutions, arts groups, hospitals, and associations. The possibilities for finding work in those settings are equally vast and diverse. Nonprofits hire for all different types of job responsibilities and at a wide range of income levels. And contrary to popular belief, working for a nonprofit does not have to involve taking a vow of poverty.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you’re limited to working at a nonprofit. The best way to do work that matters is to figure out what you do best and then go share your unique gifts with the world in a way that works for you. You don’t need to be Mother Teresa to make a difference in the world. You can make a difference by honoring your unique gifts.
5. Local needs and niches. Remember to look to your own backyard for clues about next steps. Every community has unique needs and niches that provide the seed for meaningful entrepreneurial and employment opportunities.
For example, if you live in a place with a large multicultural population, there might be a strong demand for interpreters. Or if your community is filled with young families, it might a perfect place to start a kid’s exercise program, a daycare center or a children’s birthday party service. Likewise, a town with a high percentage of elderly residents could be a great place to open an errand-running service or senior move manager business.
If you open your eyes to the world around you, you’ll discover gaps in the marketplace that you can help fill with your own unique blend of experiences, skills and talents.
This is a reprint of an article that I originally wrote for and published on US News.com.
Nancy Collamer https://www.mylifestylecareer.com/