If you are getting close to retiring and wondering what you’re going to do with your life, you’re not alone. Patrick Sweeney found himself in that situation a few years ago when he retired as president of Caliper, the talent assessment company at Carnegie Center.
As a baby boomer with a long career as an executive behind him, Sweeney had no intentions of spending the rest of his days on a golf course. Instead, he has gone into business in a practice that has always fascinated him: coaching. He had been fascinated with positive psychology since the 1990s, and noticed that many of his fellow baby boomers were in a similar situation to him, wondering what they could do with their lives after their main careers were over. To some, retirement is a fresh start and a chance to pursue long-abandoned dreams.
“I would see a lot of my colleagues, for different reasons, coming to a place where they were either seeing that there was something inside of them that they wanted to get out, or they wanted to do something different, or they wanted to do something when they were younger,” Sweeney said. “They let it go for whatever reason, they went left instead of right, and now they’re thinking, `If I don’t do it now, I’m not going to do it.’”
Sweeney, who spent years as the right-hand man of Caliper founder Herb Greenberg, got together with Chris Chianese, a financial consultant and former CFO of the Princeton Packet newspaper group and founded the Silver Realigning, a coaching company that specializes in helping boomers figure out the career and financial paths of their golden years. Sweeney and Chianese work from their homes, as do other professionals who have joined the company as coaches or financial advisors.
Starting the company was something of a “silver realigning” for Sweeney, who grew up in Morrisville, Pennsylvania, where his father was in the construction business. Sweeney recalls his parents having an enjoyable retirement. He said that people of that generation were often content to enjoy the pleasures of golf, gardening, and grandchildren. However, baby boomers are living longer now, and after golf gets boring, what is there to do?
To Sweeney, positive psychology can help answer that question. He discovered positive psychology after reading the book “Learned Optimism” by Martin Seligman. The book is about how to cultivate joy and optimism in one’s life. “I was just so impressed that I followed Seligman for a long time,” Sweeney recalls. He became a devoted fan of the psychologist, reading all of his books and eventually earning a master’s degree in positive psychology.
Sweeney said that many people lose their sense of purpose when they lose their jobs and that part of what he tries to accomplish as a coach is to help them find a new purpose. “I would ideally try to help the individual not define themselves by what just happened,” he said.
For example, one of his clients was a former business executive who had lost his job. “He figured his experience and everything would help him, but ironically, his experience was just getting in the way,” Sweeney recalled.
The man ended up working as a limo driver to get by. The man wanted to find something more meaningful to do with his life. Eventually he found out about Teach for America, a government program that subsidizes the education of teachers who agree to work in the inner city. The man began a second career as a math teacher, and found the work to be meaningful. “He feels this sense of connection and a sense that he is really doing what he was put here do be doing,” Sweeney said.
Sweeney helps people find new paths based on their talents and interests. Talent assessment is second nature for Sweeney, given his time at Caliper. “Retirement can be a time of reinvention,” he said. “People are reinventing themselves, and see it as an opportunity.”
— Diccon Hyatt
The Silver Realigning, Patrick Sweeney, Chris Chianese, co-founders. www.thesilverrealigning.com