7 essential New Year steps for unretirement success

6 January 2022 By Victoria Tomlinson

7 essential New Year steps for unretirement success image

If you recently left full time work (I am avoiding the word retired) and are finding it tough to create the new life you want, this blog may help. For many it is so much harder than they ever imagined. And there is a danger of feeling a personal failure.

The two biggest challenges tend to be a blank sheet – what am I going to do? And once you have decided, then making your ideas work.

So, let’s give you a boost and some tips to restart your campaign.

1. Forget ‘rejection’ and ‘failure’

A group of lawyers recently asked me to help them deal with rejection and failure, when they retire. It was astute of them to recognize things may not be as easy as their careers have been. However, my advice was, strike out the words ‘rejection and failure’.

There is no handbook as to how you unretire. So, look at it as a journey of fun and trying things. If something doesn’t work – learn from it. If it does – also learn from it!

You are only a failure if you make it about failure.

2. Do you know who you are and what you want?

When you first leave corporate life, you may not have much idea as to what you want to do or, more to the point, where you might get opportunities. You need to meet a lot of people and ask a lot of questions to shape your ideas.

While you do this, you may not have much of an ‘identity’. But try and start with some kind of position so people can relate to you and think of others who could help you or roles that might be going. You need to package yourself so others can ‘buy’ you.

You will almost certainly change your packaging as you go along and that is fine. But if you have a clear starting point, people are more likely to be able to help you.

As an example, you might say, “I am looking for ways to use my finance skills – helping start-up businesses, on charity boards or mentoring an FD”. Or you might talk about your data experience and ask which types of companies are struggling most with managing data and its risks.

I caught up with a banker recently, who unretired about three years ago. He said, “I am being much clearer now about what I want and being more upfront about asking if people know of opportunities. I used just to have coffees with no real agenda – not surprisingly I am now finding opportunities coming through when they didn’t with vague coffees.”

3. Are you using LinkedIn?

I still laugh about professionals and LinkedIn. This was really how Next-Up started – senior people leaving corporate life, having hated and avoided LinkedIn and now realizing it was the most important marketing tool they have. And it costs nothing!

Follow this 14-day New Year action plan to make LinkedIn work. And then make LinkedIn a daily habit.

4. Network, network, network

I was chatting to a partner of an accountancy firm earlier today. She said, “We have never had to market ourselves as ‘us’. Whenever I have been networking and trying to win business, it’s always been for the firm, not to benefit us personally.”

Of course, most partners have targets so this is probably not exactly true, but I think most of us know what she means.

Over the years I have helped all sorts of people to network. The biggest challenge is they feel pushy if they try and ‘sell’ themselves. To be honest, I don’t think any sale starts by someone talking about themselves or their firm.

The best sales are done

  • By being really interested in the person you are talking to – what are their problems? Do you know someone who could help them?
  • Doing research before and after to understand issues they could be facing and asking questions around them
  • Being really helpful, without any agenda to get work
  • Building the relationship over time

I think most people are really comfortable to help others – and you need to ask lots of questions to find out what they need and how you can help.

So don’t set out to talk about yourself, but just set out to find out about them.

At some point, you do have to turn the conversation into some kind of, “So you are saying that your biggest challenge is building relations with the local community? I did a lot of this with xyz and the most successful things were abc. Would you like me to chat to your team? See if there is anything I could help them with.”

If you can, the more you can do for free, the more this tends to lead to paid work. Building a relationship and being trusted is the way to get roles in due course.


If you talk to unretired peers and ask how they got their roles, you will find 9 out of 10 times (possibly 99 out of 100), it was from their network.

Unless you have an amazing track record of roles that are absolutely relevant to what you are applying for, I would say don’t do it. It is incredibly time consuming to do it properly and incredibly demotivating dealing with endless rejections (despite what I say above).

You are so much better to work your network. This is where the opportunities will come.

If you really, really, want to apply cold to something, at least try and see who you know in the organization (LinkedIn to research of course!) and try and have some kind of introduction.

You can also get some tips from this blog, Increase your chances of a NED or Chair role.

6. Starting with a blank sheet

If you are still at the point where you really have no idea what to do next, then you might find some tips in this blog, What next after retirement – 7-step process to fill a blank sheet.

7. Treat it like a job

How often have you advised your children or nieces and nephews or friends’ children on careers advice? Have you said, “You need to treat this seriously. It’s a numbers game. You can’t just apply for one thing a week and expect to land a job.”?

It is still a numbers game for you – but this game is meeting people and networking, rather than applying.

You need to be focused and have a plan. Set yourself targets – I know someone who has a target to be in London once a month (I know, Covid makes it challenging but you can set up Zoom coffees) and to meet five people each time. They actually have a full portfolio but know that one or two of their roles will fall off in a few months, and they need to be lining things up for the future.

This may sound like too hard work – it depends what you are wanting. At this stage of life, you have a lot of choices. But if you want to find roles and opportunities, you will almost certainly be more successful if you plan and focus on this.

Whatever you decide to do, I hope this helps and wish you and your families a safe, healthy, happy and fulfilled 2022! And please let me know if anything in here has helped you!

Good luck!

Author Image

Written by Victoria Tomlinson

Victoria Tomlinson is chief executive and founder of Next-Up. Next-Up supports employers with a range of services for directors, partners and employees to help them understand the impact of retirement on mental health and create a plan to use their skills and experience in new ways to ensure wellbeing. A key part of our role is to inspire people with ideas and contacts, beyond traditional expectations. A former director of EY, she is an international speaker on unretirement, personal branding and using LinkedIn strategically as well as on leadership and women on boards. She mentors chief executives and directors, start-up businesses and ex-offenders. Victoria is Honorary Teaching Fellow at Lancaster University and chaired an advisory board for University of Leeds.

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