Finding new purpose: who wants your skills after retirement?

21 August 2018 By Victoria Tomlinson

Finding new purpose: who wants your skills after retirement? image

Retirement. It’s a very odd word. And what does it really mean any more?  Increasingly people expect to stay active and using their skills after working life – but how do you do this and who needs those skills? 

We’re constantly reassured that the economy needs us and that companies can benefit from our expertise. The UK Government is doing great work in promoting fuller working lives, tackling discrimination in recruitment and providing access to training and flexible working practices.

 But that doesn’t mean we have to continue to endure the 6am commute and endless overtime. You don’t have to stay “in work” as you know it to have a fulfilling work life and to use your skills after retirement.


Sharing your skills after retirement

A recent article touched on the value of ‘mentor capitalists’ who are willing to invest their expertise and experience in growing companies.

Finding truly qualified employees can be a big challenge for many companies. Carl Dorvil, CEO and president of a Dallas-based professional services company, made diversity recruitment a priority after one of his own mentors reminded him you simply can’t fit 50 years of experience into 20.

“We want to partner with people who have more experience and are a little bit more mature in their field. They have the relationships and networks that we think can grow our business faster,”  Dorvil explains.

The opportunities are out there – it’s just a matter of finding them.

Planning what happens next 

I recently wrote a blog post about working life versus unretirement and in it I discussed how many of the people we speak to struggle to think about what happens next.

We know that many executives are now rethinking what it means to retire, and the people we speak to want to continue using their skills after retirement but don’t want to carry on in full-time work. Someone I spoke to recently, who was still in a high-profile role, said she was sick of having to implement policies she no longer believed in. Many of our members want to get off the treadmill but have no idea what to do next. 

What they’re missing is that feeling of purpose.

In the 2015 film The Intern, Robert De Niro plays a 70-year-old who becomes an intern at an online fashion magazine after he’s driven mad with boredom after retirement. De Niro’s character, Ben, initially struggles to keep up with technological developments since he retired, but he’s then able to bring considerable skills and experience to the company and its harassed founder. The interesting thing about this film is that Ben didn’t become an intern for financial reasons, but to regain his sense of purpose. In doing so, he found a company that could benefit from his expertise.

Start preparing now

In the course of interviewing nearly 100 people for Next-Up, I have seen a trend emerging. The people who have made a successful go of unretirement started planning what to do with their skills after retirement a long time ago. If you’re reading this and you’re still in full-time employment, then now is the time to start considering what you can offer people when you finish your current role and how you will make that happen.

Like many others I have interviewed, I started thinking about my own non-exec career some 20 years ago. It’s the old story – getting your first role is the hardest and once you have one, then you are interesting for more roles.  It is quite a challenge going from ‘exec’ to ‘non-exec’ mindset, and I know in the beginning I had an opinion on too many things and an instinct to jump in and solve things. Talking to others, there is definitely a skill in learning to be challenging in a supportive way – and it takes time. So starting this learning while you are still working means you can be ready for bigger roles when you leave working life.

You may also find you have skills you haven’t really thought about. Doug Adamson mentioned he was a trustee of a charity and they were struggling with aspects of their office move. As he says, he was no property ‘expert’ but he had leased office buildings for his own business for years and he could help with negotiating the charity’s lease as a result.

Be open to compromise

The successful people we’re seeing spend time and money in staying up to date and relevant. Nigel Wainman belongs to the ICAEW Charity & Voluntary Community Interest Group* and gets papers on the latest legislation and issues and goes on relevant courses – he says it’s a good way to keep up to speed and discuss issues with peers. In fact, you don’t have to be an accountant or ICAEW member to join this group – and it is just £162 a year.

I interviewed a very successful non-executive director in the States and she gets training or a new qualification every year. Even though she was knowledgeable on digital marketing, she got a Harvard qualification in this last year (online) and this year got a cyber security qualification – she noticed that no-one understood much on her boards and decided to fill this gap. And stand out against others looking for non-executive roles!

Keep your eye out for the types of skills and advice companies are looking for and ensure you’re thinking ahead about what you can offer them.

If you can make our November conference, it’s a great way for you to understand trends in technology and meet people looking for your skills – we have 10 tech entrepreneurs, charities and headhunters speaking. Click here to find out more.

Sue Tyrer of executive search firm, The Orcid Partnership, also wrote a great guest blog explaining how to stand out as a non-executive of the future! Read it here.

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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