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Work after 60: Look at Your Options

Work after 60: Look at Your Options

Society’s script for our 60’s says we walk off into the sunset to spend the “Golden Years” doing whatever we want.  But the checkbook—or the investment account –may be saying “not so fast.”  What do you do instead?  Trudging along doing what you’re already doing is not your only option.

According to Tom Lauricella in Wall Street Journal Sunday, almost a third of American men and women ages of 65 and 69 were still in the workforce in 2011.  Of those 70 to 74, almost 20% were still working.  This isn’t just a sour economy.  Many of these people simply prefer to include paid work as part of their lives.  More and more studies are confirming that people who remain in the work force are physically healthier, less likely to experience early cognitive decline, and have a stronger sense of well-being.  Work is good stuff for most of us.  But it’s got to be work we love.

If you need or want to keep earning money as you age, take a look at your options, your priorities, and your preferences.  Use that information to create a life that includes paid work, but that’s still an authentic balance of what you really care about.

Find work that’s your life calling.  Work at this stage of life is best done for the meaning it holds rather than the paycheck it provides.  Even if you do need the money, find something you believe in if you want to be happy (also healthy).  Doing work you‘re passionate about makes the time you spend at work part of your overall “Good Life” rather than just the means of funding it.

Find work that’s flexible.  When you are good at what you do or are willing to do something no one else wants to, you can often move toward more of a say in when you work and when you don’t.  The first step in getting to this nirvana is getting really good at what you do—which is a lot easier if you love what you do.  The second is knowing what kind of flexibility is important to you.  Is it the freedom to be able to take time during work hours watch your grandson compete in high school debate?  Or is it the flexibility to live where it’s warm in the winter and where it’s cool in the summer?

Sometimes, you don’t even need to change companies to find this.  (Home Depot and CVS were already hiring cold climate employees to work at warm climate stores where they wintered five years ago.)

Another version of flexibility comes from using technology. If you’re available to answer client questions via smart phone or can generate a bid with a laptop and wifi, where you are physically when you do it isn’t an issue.  Instead of shunning new technology, learn to use it to claim greater freedom in how you work.

Combine several small efforts to make the amount of money you need.  We tend to think in the singular about earning a living.  One job.  One paycheck.  In the traditional work force, this is true (at least for now).  But when you want to give your life better balance, combining two or three choice part-time jobs may make more sense.

I have a friend who’s a very convincing Santa.  Every year he returns to the warm climate of his career years to be a mall Santa for an employer delighted with his return.  For the rest of the year, he parlays his teaching experience into paid gigs as a tour guide for people eager to see the wonders of the western US.

Your combination will be unique to you, of course.  Let’s say you love quilting and also love dogs.  You could do custom quilting or teach quilting classes and also run a dog walking business.  Quilting works your mind and your fine motor skills.  Being responsible for those dogs keeps you fit—and feeling that unconditional love animals offer.  And you put money in the bank from both pleasures.

Anything is possible once you step into this foreign terrain called “life after 60.”  But don’t wait until you’re on that stretch of road to figure out where you want to go then.  You have to know what you love and have a pretty good idea of what kind of lifestyle is likely to work best for you if you want to thrive after 60—whether you retire or keep working.

Now’s the time to get started on that custom-designed life.


Keys to Finding a Job after 50

Keys to Finding a Job after 50

Finding a job after 50 is like digging for gold–blindfolded. There’s a ton of advice being offered, much of it by people who are not yet 50.  But what do you really need to be paying attention to? It might help to look at these five things:

Be aware of what you already know.  It’s intimidating to be looking for work again when you’ve been involved in the workforce for a quarter of a century or more.  You feel like a beginner all over again because so much has changed about how things get done on the hiring front.

Assuming that everything you have to offer is out of date is wrong-headed though.  All those years of work that you have under your belt have created a rich basic competence that you would do well to claim in how you present yourself.   You’ve learned to show up on time and get the work done.  You know how to get along with the rest of the work team.  You can relate to a client or a customer because you’ve done so many many times. All those skills are valuable.

Some enlightened employers have already begun focusing on older workers as their first source in hiring because of all this.  Experienced workers are more punctual, better problem solvers, and better with customers.  In addition, many of us older workers have critical skill and knowledge sets that simply don’t exist in younger workers.

The trick, of course, is to make sure hiring decision makers know what you know and understand its value.  Your resume, “elevator speech,” and interview responses need to highlight it.

Respect the current lay of the land.  You can’t just assume someone is going to come looking for you though.  There are far more job seekers than jobs right now and that means you have to put some effort into being seen.  To succeed in this “new land”, learn how to use the electronic options that are standard procedure for most companies these days.

Do not tell me you “don’t do computers.”  That kind of thinking is like admitting you “don’t do automobiles” in the 1930’s.  The Electronic Age has been here for decades.  Get into it if you haven’t yet.  A lot of what you need to learn about using a computer has to be done by trial and error.  No matter what age you are, you are going to “feel stupid” at the start.  To get past that, you must go through it.  It’s not that you are “too old.”  It’s that we want to believe we don’t (or shouldn’t) feel like beginners at this stage of our lives.  Not true!  Get to where you can use all the great resources available via the Internet.

Live in the now.  It’s very human to insist on continuing to be who you were in your last job.  Living in the past is only good for Renaisssance Festivals and Halloween parties.  Clinging to your old status, your old reputation, and your old authority is a sorry waste of what you have to offer to whoever you work for next.  Present yourself in terms of what you can do for this new company, not as a footnote in the history of the old one.

Do the next thing.  Finding a job is not a cookbook endeavor.  If you limit what you do to the “recipe” a given job site requires, you’re going to miss a lot of opportunities.  Whenever you complete a task, get a rejection, or receive feedback of any sort about finding your next career rung, ask yourself “What else can I do with this?  Where can I take it from here?”  Those “extra steps” are usually the ones that set you apart, provided a key contact, or identified other openings.

Manage your attitude.  Having a positive attitude is not just a self-help mantra.  When you come across as upbeat and energetic, people are less likely to even consider how old you are.  Conversely, even a little bit of negativity can trigger all the stereotypical thinking about “grumpy old people.”  Besides, life is more fun when you live it happy.  Your attitude is your choice.  Run this part of your life instead of letting it run you.

Finding a job at any age is hard work.  Finding a job in this economic climate is daunting.  If you are over 50, the challenge is compounded by the ageist thinking that plagues our society.  But you are still the one who needs to run the process and make it happen.


Dumbing Down Your Resume

Dumbing Down Your Resume

The idea that you must “dumb down” your resume to be more appealing to younger hiring supervisors is nonsense.  When you have a lot of experience, knowing just what to highlight to showcase your value is a challenge. But young decision-makers are not dumb and “dumbing down” implies a sense of superiority that will probably bleed through in what you write–and in what you say if you get an interview.

You need to tweak it to be the most effective in can be every time you use it.  But that’s about focus and targeting what’s needed in that job, not pretending you are less than you.  It’s not that younger hiring decision makers aren’t smart enough or experienced enough to comprehend things as vast as your experience.  It’s that “your experience” isn’t what the hiring situation is about.  The company’s need is the focus of any hiring decision.  If you want to be in the running to do the work, shape your resume–and your cover letter, interview answers, and any other communication–around how what you can do matches what they need done.

Here are six questions to help you determine if your resume is saying a whole lot less than you think it is:

1.  Are you clinging to words, titles, and descriptions that focus on how great you were then?  Use words that make sense to the company you’re talking to now  instead.

2.  Are you clinging to multisyllabic  or out-of-date titles and terms simply because “that’s what it was called”?  Nobody cares if the title was actually “Managing Regional Partner for Customer Support, Retention, and Attraction. ” Even if that was the title, use the equivalent generic–Regional Marketing VP

3.  Are you phrasing everything you can in current vernacular?  Clinging to the words you used then instead of working from what’s current makes you look old–and out of date.

4.  Are you highlighting what you can do NOW?   A section that summarizes your strengths placed at the beginning of your resume helps with this.

5.  Are you name dropping to make yourself look good?  This plays to the ageist stereotype. Stand on your own laurels….but make sure they are relevant.

6.  Are you using jargon?  Communicating in plain language, even if you are in a highly technical field, makes you a stronger candidate.  Jargon changes rapidly, and you can appear obsolete simply because the term you used is no longer standard.    Use as little jargon as you can.  Same deal with acronyms.  Jargon makes those who don’t use it on their jobs feel inferior when someone else does–and that’s not what you want to happen when someone looks at your resume.

This is not “dumbing down” your resume.  It’s getting smart about what you are trying to do with it in the first place.


Writing a Killer 50+ Resume

Writing a Killer 50+ Resume

Crafting an effective resume when you’re over 50 has extra challenges. If you get it right, the whole world knows you’re good at what you do.  If you don’t, nothing happens.

One of the benefits of experience is that you can make difficult things look easy.  That’s a problem if you end up needing to convince someone new that you’re the right person for the job.   People who’ve been effective over the long haul often lose track of what it’s like to not be that effective.   That leads you to talk in terms of the job instead of how you did it.  Working from that perspective presents you as a plain vanilla anybody.  So before you write one word of that resume you really needed to have done yesterday, think through these questions.

What makes you a uniquely valuable hire?  The vast majority of us have an extremely difficult time putting this into words.  That may be because you’ve been taught not to brag or it may be a case of assuming everyone can do what you’re good at.  Either way, your next employer isn’t going to know that you have exactly what she needs until you get the information out there where she can see it.  Your first shot in that effort is with your resume.

The current jargon for what you need here is “personal brand.”  Knowing what makes you a valuable employee and being able to put that in five to ten words is important in a job search.  Ideally, you will have practiced these words enough that you come up with them as if on autopilot when needed, even in an unexpected place like at your kid’s basketball game or in line at the grocery store.   Having the first few words come out automatically makes it easier to deal with the rest of the conversation effectively.

What’s a resume for?  A resume is a marketing tool.  This is not the place to tell your life story or to go on at length about the minutia of what you did in each job you ever held.  Those of us with a lot of experience can easily shoot ourselves in the foot on this. The stereoype of aging that our culture holds associates longwindedness with mental decline.  Use only what’s important and be concise.

What does my next employer need to know most about me?  You will be way ahead of the competition if you write your resume so that it addresses how you can solve the hiring manager’s problem.  The best way to do that is to highlight how you’ve helped your previous employers get what they needed done.  Just mentioning that you served as the liaison with the Building Department is nowhere near as compelling as saying that you developed solid relationships with them and got permitting accomplished quickly.

What are the differences between the job description and how YOU performed the job?  Quite often, these two things get confused by resume writers.   Talking about the job instead of your performance obscures the value of your experience.  The duties of the job are what’s written on a formal job description.  It might be something like “handles walk in customer traffic.”  How you did the job probably goes beyond that in some unique way.   Were you effective at helping people figure out what they needed?  At dealing with volatile complaints?  At keeping track of clients’s preferences so they felt like they were “family” and became loyal to your place of business?

There’s a place for the job description language–in the experience section right under the company and job title listed.   Use no more than two lines for that description.  The rest of the space you allot for that job experience needs to focus on what you did particularly well.

How can I avoid being ignored because of my age?  The first step in this is to be sure you’re not setting yourself up with your own thinking. Are you making excuses for not learning new things (including technology!) because you are “too old?”  Are you telling yourself you don’t have the stamina you need for what you want to do next?  Neither of these things is a given consequence of getting older.  Change you lifestyle and stop telling yourself that you’re old.

In your resume, pay close attention to your choice of words. Use action verbs and short phrases to project energy. Consider an initial section that speaks in current terms–what you can do NOW–rather than putting everything in the past tense a chronological resume requires.  Avoid as many adjectives and adverbs as you can–they bog the writing down.  And avoid obsolete slang and phrases.

Having experience is a plus that has somehow become devalued in today’s job market.   You can’t expect to be valued for the seniority you had at another company.  But you can present yourself as a viable candidate because of how well you did the work.  You can create momentum to propell yourself into your next job by projecting energy and making a clear case for how you can help the next company better than those who’ve had less of a chance to learn how to get things done.


The Power of “Letting People Know”

The Power of “Letting People Know”

When you let people know–what you need, what you have, what you would like to do–you increase your chances of getting what you are trying to accomplish done exponentially.

I’m writing this just after doing some volunteer work at the local library–where I didn’t work much because no one knew about what I was there to do.  Not promoting my availability to do one-on-one job search counseling was a conscious decision.  They were worried too many people would want help and that many wouldn’t get it because I was only there for two hours.  But not telling anyone before the period when I was actually there meant I had a lot of time to read magazines I don’t ordinarily get to see.

It also made me stop and think about how many ways there are to benefit from “letting people know.”

The obvious one is if you are job hunting.  Letting every person who knows your name know what you are looking for is essential.  There really are only a few steps between you and what you need–just as the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon party game suggests.  (Microsoft actually tested the premise–that any two people  in the world are connected by way of no more than six intermediate people–and found it to be very close to that.)  So “let people know” if you are looking for work, projects, internship opportunities, whatever.

Last week, my brother called asking if I needed a new dishwasher.  He had just purchased one he could not return, and it didn’t work in his kitchen.  I did (need a new dishwasher).  Desperately.  One friend described mine as sounding like I was washing bowling balls.  But I had just purchased one as part of a major kitchen remodel and was within days of getting it installed.  I did, however, know of someone else who needed a new dishwasher.  So I called him…and now his family has a nice new dishwasher.

I have a wonderful hiking group that I go out with on Wednesday mornings.  I would still be yearning for the chance to get up in the mountains if I hadn’t “let someone know” that I was looking for a way to hike.

Three very different examples of the same principle:  Good things happen when you “let people know.”  This isn’t a case of “expecting” people to give you what you need.  It’s more like getting your name on the list for the Universe to work with.

Let people know…if you’d like to meet some new members of the opposite sex…if you need a handyman….if you want to wallpaper your dining room with tinfoil and are wondering just how to do that.

The power of community is one of the sweetest things about being human.  You tap into it by “letting people know.”



Resumes for 50+ Job Seekers

Resumes for 50+ Job Seekers

Some resume advice given to those of us over 50 is misguided-and wrong.

At an AARP job fair I volunteered at yesterday, several job seekers told me stories of situations where they had ideal qualifications for work they were applying for, but they didn’t include it, because it was more than ten years in the past. They were under the impression that hiring supervisors were death on seeing anything but their most recent experience.

This is ridiculous. The strongest thing someone over 50 has to offer an employer is the breadth and depth of their experience. It means they know how to show up for work on time, solve a problem without creating a new one, soothe an irate customer, and so on. Negating that by limiting what you can talk about to the last ten years is lunacy.

This suggested strategy is probably stemming from a misunderstanding of advice that you include only the last ten years of experience on your resume to reduce the chances of ageism. There is some legitimacy to that. But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t mention relevant experience at all. It just means you don’t need to list every job you ever had. (Remember when we didn’t have experience and we were desperate to list anything that looked like a job?)

If you are looking for work and have been in the workforce for a while, you need to be both creative and attentive in what you tell a prospective employer about what you can do. A key piece of a good resume writing strategy is to separate your achievements and strengths from the chronology of your work experience in how your format your information. That way, you can mention that you successfully owned and operated a car repair shop, even if it was twenty years ago, for example.

The most important thing to do with your resume is to give the person to whom you are sending it a clear idea of your experience at solving the problems they are trying to address. When you learned that skill isn’t anywhere near as important as that you have learned it.

Experience is GOOD. But knowing what part of the vast amount you have applies to the job you’re seeking is critical. Telling everybody everything won’t work. But neither does not telling the person who needs to know, simply because you did it more than ten years ago.  Use your head on this and stop  following arbitrary rules that well-meaning but misguided unemployment counselors offer.


What to Do if You Don’t Like What You Do

What to Do if You Don’t Like What You Do

With the current economic challenges, having a job is a big plus and keeping it is a must.   But sometimes, the wrong job can be even more emotionally destructive than having no job.   What do you do then?

Those of us who can at least see retirement on the horizon are legitimately even more skittish.  When an older worker loses a job, it takes longer to find a new one.  Plus, once you are on the sidelines for a while, being older means being more vulnerable to losing confidence in yourself and letting go of work by default.  So we hunker down and keep the job we hate.

We need to get smart about finding that next thing instead of remaining a victim of the lousy economy anda horrid work situation.

The first step in a good job transition is knowing where you want to go.  If you need to find something else, be sure you are clear about why you need to change things.  Assuming that the reason work is bad is the boss or the company, when you hate that kind of work altogether is a ticket to a repeat of the job angst.  Take some time to think about what doesn’t work about this job and what’s behind that.  You may think your boss is the Ultimate Bossilla until you listen to what you friends and peers are saying about their bosses. 

Learn all you can about yourself so you have some certainty about what would be a great job for you.  Also be sure you’ve gotten to the actual core of why the current situation isn’t working.  If it’s just that the economy has slowed things down, planning an exit is a case of “out of the frying pan and into the fire.”  But if you have lost interest in the work you are now doing, maybe you need a new direction to get your mojo back.  Check this stuff out–don’t just make a bunch of assumptions without getting real information.

Once you have identified the core issues of what’s not working, then you can move to the following:

Identify realistic options for working elsewhere.  Be forewarned, if you need to jump ship, you might end up starting a whole lot farther down the ladder with the new outfit.  This may be the best thing you ever did, but take the time to think about it.  Also think in terms of where you might be able to move within  your current company if it’s really a matter of bad boss or co-worker chemistry.

This step has an unexpected and immediate benefit.  Sometimes when you take a close look at what else you could realistically do, the job you are doing becomes a whole lot more appealing.

Figure out how to be really good at doing what you want to do next.  This may be by taking classes on your own.  It may be by talking with people who are already doing that kind of work.  It may be by applying yourself on your current job more diligently so that you develop skills needed for the next job.  As Thomas Edison said, “When opportunity arrives, many people miss it because it’s wearing overalls and looks like work.”  Do the work to get good enough to be valuable in the new arena.

Build your network to include people with that interest and expertise.    Networking is not about collecting business cards from people you don’t know.  It’s about getting to know people–as friends–who are doing what you want to do.   You don’t have to like them personally or have the same politics to become good business buddies.  But you do need to know them.  The best way to make that happen is with your own initiative.

The smartest thing anyone can do in a down economy is to be helpful in the business context.  If you see an article that someone else would appreciate, send them the link.  If you note a problem developing that a business friend needs to know about, give them the heads up (unless it involves a conflict of interestor insider trading kinds of issues to do so).  Being kind is always in vogue, regardess of what the Wall Street stereotype is played like in the movies.

Keep doing your current job to the very best of your ability.  That is called integrity.  It doens’t make any difference if the whole rest of the world has lost it (which sometimes seems to be the case), operating to the best of your ability will keep you saner, happier, and more appealing as an employee–and a person

No matter how old you are, if you want to work, you can find work.  The best way to set yourself up so that you call the shots with that is to do what you love and be good at it.  So if your current job doesn’t give you that, you may need to change.  Do that with a plan.  Do that with a solid base of knowledge to draw on.  And do that with integrity.

Job Insurance –Being grateful for what you are doing

Job Insurance –Being grateful for what you are doing

Having a job is, in and of itself, a reason to be thankful. Very very thankful. But gratitude is one of those things that easily gets lost in the stress and bustle of actually doing the work and having a life simultaneously.  Try not to let that happen.  Be grateful for the work you do.


Well, for starters, it’s just plain dumb to take a negative attitude toward anything.  There’s plenty of research to support the claim that thinking positively keeps you healthier.   It’s a better way to live.  Period.

But thinking positively about your job no matter what you’re doing is also an important part of your overall strategy for staying employed as long as you want to.  Being positive about your job means you will do it better.  Better performers are the ones to keep–and promote.  Better performers get noticed and wooed by other companies.  Grateful people are easier to work with and to have working for you.

So if you want to stay employed, put some effort into being positive and upbeat, even if  you do have a heavier work load than seems fair.  AND:  Don’t start telling yourself it’s “not fair.” That kind of judgment is just negativity in a self-righteous wrapper.  It doesn’t make any difference what’s “fair.”  It’s your job.  For the time being, you want it, you need it, and the more gratitude you can have for it, the easier it’s going to be to do it.

The cornerstone is being happy you have it.

I can hear your “yes but’s.”   The “You have no idea what I have to put up with” rebuttal seems so justified.  But it isn’t.   How awful the job is or isn’t is not the deciding factor in whether you can be grateful for it.  Deciding to grateful is.  Your attitude toward your job is 100% up to you.

There are offices who manage to do the impossible day after day because the people who work there believe in what they are doing and are happy to be doing it.  There are other offices with more flexibility, pay, and perks who are full of complainers and unmet business goals.  Which kind of place are you creating with your own attitude?  How much negativity are you buying in on without realizing it?

That’s another piece of this you need to pay attention to.  Getting sucked into a negative group mind set at work happens so automatically that you don’t even know it’s happened.  You just end up going home grumpy every day and start to dread the next one–unless it’s the weekend.

Work is never perfect and there will be days that don’t go at all well.  You can still be pleased and grateful you have the job.  You can still be cheerful.  You can still do your best to do the work as well as possible.

Even if we don’t need money, we end up working at something.  It’s a basic part of being human.  If you are doing work, make sure part of how you approach it is to be grateful.

Work is good.  Be grateful.

Why We Need to Recalibrate Our Sense of “Old”

Why We Need to Recalibrate Our Sense of “Old”

On his 80th birthday, Hugh Hefner said “80 is the new 40.”   In an article last summer, Sunset magazine proclaimed “100 is the new 70.”   Author and CEO Bill Byham titled a 2007 business book  70: The New 50. The numbers are fun, but so far, it seems in terms of the way we see it as a culture, 50 is still “old.”  We need to revisit that.  We are shooting ourselves in the collective foot big time.

The dictionary lists nine different definitions of the word “old.”  When we talk about “old” people, are we talking about “worn” or “experienced?”   Our continued success as a society hinges on which we choose.  Because 50 is not “worn” so much as polished.   We are throwing away really good stuff–and then paying to keep it somewhere else.

Seventy percent of the physical problems we blame on aging are actually the result of lifestyle choices.  It’s not your age that’s keeping you from doing that bike ride.  It’s that you haven’t walked farther than from the couch to the refrigerator in the last five years.  Excusing our bad habits with our birthdays is a downpayment on a long gloomy death spiral.   Most of us are going to live to 80.  Thirty years of assuming we can’t do what we want because we’re “old” is pretty tragic.

Businesses who assume 50 is “old” are squandering some of their best talent, too.  Instead of helping  the experienced workforce get comfortable with new technology, they look for ways to usher them out the door.  Instead of building multi-generational teams that capitalize on the full range of talents and skills available, they shove the experience in some corner where the younger workers can’t learn from it.  They literally watch needed expertise walk out the door into retirement without ever asking, “Any way we can get you to work for us on a more flexible basis?”

A recent issue of Wired magazine included an article about taking your job on the road–in your RV.  It wasn’t written for “old” people.    But it sure looks like a good marriage of “retirement” and staunching the experience drain.  The irony of the current business mindset is that while companies continue to assume that experienced workers want traditional retirement, they are creating flexible work arrangements to attract Millenials as their replacements.  The “new kids” want  to work when they want wherever they want, responsible only for the end result rather than showing up every day.  It’s called ROWE–results only work environment.    To offer such options to new, inexperienced workers–who probably won’t reach the level of productivity the older workers have for ten years or maybe much longer–and NOT offer it as an alternative to retirement is painfully short-sighted.

As a business, there may also be room to retain the experience you already paid to develop in creative ways that take less than a full time salary to accomplish.   How can you marry new technology with old savvy to get the best bang for your labor buck?

And then there is the little matter of government entitlements.  When someone retires, they go on everybody else’s payroll, via FICA taxes.  Social Security comes out of our collective wallets, not “the government’s.”   So when we expect people to be “old” and to retire around 62,  we buy in on taking care of them, in terms of Social Security checks, for an average of about 18 years.

Most  people retire in good health.  They are still capable of doing great work on something in which they believe, particularly if it’s a customized arrangement.  Instead, the invisible wall of ageism goes up around them.  The culture assumes they are washed up, worn out, and useless.   We pay them to “get out of the way” when they weren’t in the way in the first place.  And once they’ve retired, we make re-entry into the labor market, even if highly qualified, damn near impossible.  It’s like we are afraid “old” is contagious.

And it doesn’t stop there.  Once people start being “old,” they buy in on the stereotype.  They need more medical attention.  Much of it wouldn’t be necessary if these capable people could remain engaged.  But when the only person who’ll talk to you is your doctor, you talk to your doctor.  Once Medicare is part of that person’s setup, we are all pay the bill.

We need to revisit when “old” starts.  I’m voting for somewhere around 95 or maybe 98.  Many of us can keep going all the way to the day we die if we just have the opportunity.  People over 50 have a lot left to offer and a lot left to do. As a culture, we need to give them the chance.

“The Perfect Job”

“The Perfect Job”

Day before yesterday I met the guy with the perfect job.  He found it after he retired.  He drives a sand rail.

For those of you not blessed with sand dunes in your local vicinity, a sand rail is specialized lightweight vehicle that skims the surface of a sand dune–similar to but more sophisticated than a dune buggy.  It’s an open vehicle made largely out of pipe.  Typically they have more power than rental ATV’s you can ride on your own.  The only way we could get on one when we were looking for this kind of adventure was to “book a tour.”  Bob–the guy with the perfect job–was our driver.  He had a great set-up for himself that made for a great experience for us.

Bob retired as a lineman and climber for the local power company a few years ago.  A few months later, he was approached while waiting in line at the grocery store–by a stranger!  He’d been driving the Oregon Dunes since he was nine and had been active in the local club most of his life.  Dune buggies are a part of who Bob is.  He drives them WELL.  Plus, the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area had been his playground for a long time.  He knows where he is in all that white sand.  The stranger had learned all this because he had asked around in the community when he bought the business.  Bob had been involved for so long that “everyone” knew how good he was at driving.

So why am I writing about Bob?  Well, he’s living the best fantasy of all–having someone pay you to do what you love.  He gets to drive a sand rail all day with someone else covering the cost of the vehicle, fuel, and insurance and worrying about the maintenance.  And he gets a paycheck for doing it.  Sweet.

But the guy who offered him the job was a big winner, too.  He has an employee experienced enough to know to check the oil before he heads for the dunes.  (We made a detour to the shop area to add a quart before we headed out.)  He has a guy whose enthusiasm makes whoever gets in the rail more ready to have a great time.  And he also has a guy who makes the ride a whole lot more fun simply because he projects an easy confidence–because of all that experience.

Do you think I would have been able to sit calmly–worried only about laughing with my mouth shut (to avoid a mouthful of sand)–as we careened around steep, massive dunes–if a seventeen-year old had been driving?  No way.  I would have been frantic the whole time, waiting for the kid  to turn the thing upside down doing something unintentionally reckless.  Bob was a different story.  I relaxed enough to enjoy a very wild ride because it was quite clear he knew what he was doing.  (He’d survived doing it for a long time!)  Too often the benefit of experience gets lost in the background.  Bob’s driving and my resulting good time made it wonderfully vivid.

So what’s the point of all this?  There are two things to learn from Bob in terms of how the rest of us do retirement.

  • Experience has value.  Be confident enough of what you know to value yours when you think of what you might want to do next.  It does make a difference, but, unlike Bob,  you may have to be the one to point out why to the person you want to let you use it.
  • The better you are at knowing what you like and honoring that in how you live all along, the easier it’s going to be to find your own”perfect job” once you retire.  People know Bob is good with dune buggies.  Those people passed the word to a stranger when he was looking for exactly what Bob is good at.  That is networking at its easiest.

And let’s be very clear about one last thing.  This WAS a wild ride.  A great adventure that I would have missed entirely if I hadn’t been lucky enough to have someone like Bob driving.  So I was a winner here, too.

We are good at so many things when we get this far in life.  Doing the ones you really like to do makes for a much more satisfying retirement.  “Perfect job” stories might become delightfully common as more of us seize opportunities to do what we love for someone who needs exactly that done.  Thanks for the great example, Bob!