Pursuing Another Job, Then “Unretirement”? The Career Two-Step (revisited)

January, 2016

High angle view of an old spiral staircase.

“I am looking for a new job, and I also want to create a better version of retirement for myself one day.” That is what I hear from my clients who are pursuing a career “two-step”. In light of all that has been written since my original blog post in July, 2012, and with the surge of baby boomers about to exit the traditional job market, it’s time to revisit this topic.

My clients range from their 40s to 60s. Most are in their 50s or early 60s, and anticipate landing another significant job as their first step. They also want to explore what is beyond step one. They want to get excited about step two, and want a better word than retirement to describe it. In this blog I will begin by sharing some of my most popular blogs on career transition strategies. I will then offer “step two” blogs, podcasts and strategies from what public radio commentator and economics journalist Chris Farrell calls “unretirement”, and Irish economist Charles Handy has labeled a “portfolio life”.

In most of my monthly blogs I have written about taking the first step: pursuing and landing a new job. My most popular post about job search while employed is this one: Laying The Foundation For Leaving Your Job. The steps are similar to a job search while in a career transition, but this blog speaks to some of the unique challenges and creative strategies for seeking a new job while still employed. Whether still employed or in a career transtion, I also recommend two other blogs. First read Three Keys to Career Transition Success, then this one about Discovery, Courage and Endurance. Each blog references the strategic, tactical and emotional elements of career change, and includes numerous links to other blogs to help you go more deeply into each of the areas covered.

Now on to step two, how to make the most of the second half of life after your working identity has shifted to retirement, unretirement or a portfolio life. In his recent book, titled Unretirement, Chris Farrell makes a compelling financial, personal and societal impact argument for working longer and retiring later. He makes the case that it is difficult to leave a career early, not only because of financial needs and longer life expectancy, but also because our identity, social circles and sense of purpose is usually tied very closely to our working role and organization. Letting go of a significant job without a predictable alternative income source or compelling new work identity can be very difficult.

So how can one let go of a primary working identity, yet keep some of the key benefits of purpose and a paycheck? A very popular solution to this dilemma is the creation of a portfolio life. Charles Handy coined the phrase in his 1989 book, The Age of Unreason. Handy described this life as “A portfolio of activities – some we do for money, some for interest, some for pleasure, some for a cause…the different bits fit together to form a balanced whole…greater than the parts.” Here is the blog I wrote about this topic in October, 2014: Will A Portfolio Life Become Your Second Half Story ?

To learn more about how unretirement looks and feels, listen to this podcast recently created by Chris Farrell. It starts with a fascinating segment on the life of Alan Page, former NFL star with the Minnesota Vikings. Page transformed his career multiple times, from professional football player to lawyer to Minnesota Supreme Court Justice. He recently retired at age 70. You’ll be inspired by the personal, professional and community aspects of his story. This is the 8th unretirement podcast Chris Farrell has produced. Each reveals the stories and strategies of people moving through their unretirement years, with advisors offering commentary after each story. Here’s a link to all eight podcasts.

I have now connected you to numerous blogs and podcasts to help you shape your career two-step. To reward you for making it all the way to the end of this blog, here is a link to one of my all time favorite movie clips from Billy Crystal in City Slickers. It is a funny, yet cautionary tale, and a one minute wake up call about aging. Happy trails to you. May your next chapters be even better than your last.