Tips for switching careers in later years

More and more Baby Boomers are deciding to either postpone retirement or take a completely different career path in their later years.

According to Statistics Canada, the number of working people aged 65 and older has recently increased to about 629,000 from roughly 177,000 in 1976. That's a huge increase and a trend that's not expected to fizzle out any time soon.

So what if you're one of those people who want to keep working, but do something totally different? What should you think about and where do you start?

"First of all you should think about doing something you not only love, but something you feel passionate about," says Kate Dack, a certified retirement coach, clinical counsellor and the founder of Retirement Coaching Canada. She helps people develop "energizing retirement visions," during cross-Canada seminars and long-distance coaching sessions. "This is about the opportunity to optimize this chapter in your life."

Kate says there are roughly seven to 10 core needs for people living in North America. That includes things like having a sense of purpose, a sense of autonomy, making a contribution, the need for growth, for variety, a level of certainty, freedom, status, self-expression, spiritual nourishment of some kind.

Identifying your top three core needs is a good first start. Maybe in the past your job had to bring you a certain level of status, but that's not so important now. Perhaps having more freedom is more important, or a sense of purpose.

It doesn't matter whether you're looking for a new job or creating your own new business, Kate says the process is essentially the same.

older-worker-3The next step is to identify your skills – "skills which you may well have been developing your whole life. But most importantly, identify the skills you enjoy using the most," advises Kate. "What we're most skilled at isn't necessarily what we're energized by the most."

Kate has seen a lot of Boomers over the years transform their work life and priorities. One woman, who was a very successful financial advisor, decided to free up a huge whack of time to become a full-time foster parent. "She devoted her heart and soul to it," Kate recalls.

Kate also advises you "try things on" before jumping into something whole hog. If you've dreamed of opening a jewelry store, first try working in one to see how you like it. "See if there's a way you can downsize that dream where it's still energizing and can still contribute to your overall satisfaction in a major way."

"I knew a couple in their late 50s who used to work in the movie industry before they decided to open a store," recalls Kate. "It was the cutest storybook store in a heritage building with baskets of organic produce outside and they made lattes. What they discovered was it was also a lot of paperwork and unpacking boxes. Two years later they said, 'whoa, this is way different than what we thought – and we're really tired'."

It's also important to assess the financial implications of becoming an entrepreneur. "Only build a new business with discretionary income," cautions Kate, "since there's only so much time to recover any losses and new businesses come with a very high risk. Some don't make a profit for five years." (Needless to say, you also have to do a formal business plan, which as Kate puts it, "is just Business 101.")

Regardless of what path you choose, aligning your priorities with your time can open doors, expand your heart and make the later years some of the most rewarding.

"Baby Boomers are looking at their retirement years very differently," says Kate. "They have a sense of purpose and a need to feel connected. There's certainly no disengagement going on here."

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