Retirement — it’s that time is life we’ve been taught to look forward to when we can quit work, kick back, relax and do exactly what we want to do — all day, every day.
But is that really what you want to do when you retire? Let’s face it, life has changed dramatically since the concept of a retirement first came into vogue during the FDR administration of the 1930s. It’s only been in the last 50 years or so that people expected to retire to a life of leisure.
It’s a dream that many of us were told was a birthright, but now that it is actually approaching for many baby boomers, we’re not so sure we like the thought of sitting in a porch rocker for the next 10, 15, or even 20 years.
The Great Recession, combined with the fact that we are living longer, healthier lives, means that many people are looking for an “encore career.” Retirement no longer means a life of porch rocking, it includes work — a second career that not only brings in an income, it also brings meaning to your life; particularly if you are going to be working for another decade or so.
“Before you begin to think of a career transition you must first develop a clear awareness of who you are, your values, and what you are looking for in a job,” says executive coach and career counselor Carol Watson.
Watson will speak on “Tools for Managing Career Transitions,” on Tuesday, April 24, 6:30 p.m at the Princeton Senior Resource Center, 45 Stockton Street. The single-session workshop is aimed at people 55 and older who are looking to get back into the workplace, either in their previous career path, a new career path, or a retirement career.
The workshop will focus on personal career management tools, why they are necessary, and how to use them. It will also provide an overview of techniques to help people develop a clear direction, establish long- and short-term career goals, and create a plan of action for achieving re-employment.
The event is a part of the center’s Next Step: Engaged Retirement & Encore Careers program. Funded by support from the Princeton Area Community Foundation, the program focuses on people from 55 to 70 who are either planning retirement or already retired. The program offers a broad overview of the various aspects of retirement or major life change. For more information contact Carol King or Susan Hoskins at the Princeton Senior Resource Center, 609-924-7108, or E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Watson is working on a career transition herself. Following a long career in higher education, she is planning to transition over the next few years into a new life as a private career counselor. Her new business is CareerTransitions.co.
Watson has spent her life as a teacher and researcher. She received her bachelor’s degree in economics in 1968 from the University of Akron and a master’s degree in psychology from Stanford University in 1976.
She obtained a PhD from Columbia University in social and organizational psychology in 1980 and an Ed.S. in Counseling from Rider University in 2004. She taught at Rutgers University for six years and has spent the last 23 years as a professor at Rider University, where she currently teaches courses in management.
“My interest in careers and career counseling stems from my own experiences and frustrations as a teacher,” she explains. She found that often when discussing career goals with her sophomore and junior students, their ideas were either unformed or unrealistic. Her desire to help her students led her to the career counseling center at Rider University in 2003.
“I thought if I could take a course or two in counseling I could better help my students,” she remembers. But she soon found that to truly assist someone in planning a career was much more complex and couldn’t easily be learned with just one or two courses –– and so her own career transition began.
“You can’t counsel a person on their career goals without discussing a number of other things. You are never sure exactly what will come up, because the choice of career is impacted by so many other aspects of life. The person’s confidence and self-esteem and their leadership ability are just a few of the areas a career counselor gets into,” says Watson.
What is Success? The first question Watson suggests a person ask when thinking about a career transition is, “What does success mean to me?” Success means something different to each of us, from the amount of money we earn, to personal satisfaction, to helping others or gaining recognition for our work.
“Our ideas of success have changed dramatically in the past 20 years of so,” she adds. “In the past, career success was defined by moving up in a hierarchy. Today, though, most companies have a smaller hierarchy. That means that not only is it less possible to move up, it is also less important to many people. You must develop your own ideas on what career success and career satisfaction means to you, then match who you are with what you like to do.”
Setting Goals. Of course, deciding on a new career is only one of many steps. The second is to develop a plan to achieve that goal. “You must set active goals,” says Watson. “Just knowing what you want is not enough these days. You have to have a plan to find and develop that new career.”
Helpful Resources. Luckily, the Internet has made it easier than ever to find the help needed to make a career transition. Websites are available on a wide variety of career and business topics.
One of the best, according to Watson, is O*Net Online (http://www.onetonline.org/). The government website is a compendium of information on careers and career transitions, from listings of different careers and information on the number of jobs available in each, to information on assessment tools and training resources.
If you are considering a new career path, Watson suggests that working with a career counselor is an excellent way to begin. “A counselor can help you to clarify who you are right now and where you want to go. A counselor can help you to get in touch with your dreams and accompany you on that journey.”