by Wendy Schuman
Wendy Schuman was laid off at 63. As she looked for work, she began to consider what she felt called to do. She realized she wanted to help recent college graduates who were struggling to find work, just like she was after she lost her job. She and her husband founded Grad Life Choices, a free service to help recent college graduates find work. They pair life coaches around the country who volunteer their time with young people who need help. The process of starting something new at an age where many are considering retirement was challenging. It offered some valuable lessons for anyone making the transition to a new chapter in life.
"Since I always assumed I'd be working 'til I dropped, I had never asked myself, "What's next?" But when that time arrived, I found I really did miss having a sense of purpose every day. Here are some key lessons I've discovered through my experience with a 'second act.'"
Read more about her journey to a new career path here.
Pair up with a friend, whether you're doing daily exercise, volunteering, or starting a small business. Having another person to be accountable to helps you stay motivated. I'm not a self-starter, but working with my husband gives me the impetus to keep going. We divide up the tasks according to our different strengths. Also, we're able to bounce ideas off each other and talk through knotty issues. We joke that it's our first joint project since raising kids, but way easier!
Do something that expands your social horizon. As we get older, and especially after retirement, there is a tendency to associate mostly with people we already know and those our own age. I found that getting involved with young adults via our program brings zest to my life and helps me understand and empathize with the struggles of recent grads. In addition, getting to know the coaches, who are universally kind and positive people, has been a great energy boost.
With an open-ended project like ours, there's a tendency to do too much and get overwhelmed. We don't want it to turn into a fulltime job. It's important to set priorities--such as being with family and friends, getting exercise, and going outside (if I don't pay attention, a whole day can go by without my leaving the house!). Since our children and grandchildren live in different states, we set up visits with each of them once a month. A few times a week my husband plays tennis with a group of older guys (they call themselves the Ravens). And I take a walk around a local park or spend 45 minutes at the gym. Sunday mornings are reserved for going to services at our religious congregation. Having more time to read and contemplate is a blessing that shouldn't be absorbed in busyness.
Any new project you take on is guaranteed to expand your mind and stretch your abilities. When we created Grad Life Choices, I had to learn new skills, like creating a website, starting groups on social media, interviewing coaches and grads, and setting up phone teleconferences. One of my challenges has been to learn to listen quietly as young people describe their goals and struggles--without trying to jump in and solve their problems. As coach Deborah Tyson explains, "I see early career turmoil as a rite of passage and something that is required to give them the motivation to look for something in line with who they are. We always know deep down what is best for us. We often just need help uncovering it.”
Now I see how that advice applies to any of us who are seeking to find our purpose after retirement. The answers are waiting for us. We just need to look within.
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