New Careers in Retirement
One of the most remarkable trends over the last two decades has been the amazing change in what you can expect to do once you enter 50s, 60s and Senior years. In the past, once you were in your fifties, you were thinking of ‘retiring’ and by your sixties, almost everybody had given up formal work either by choice or because of some arbitrary retirement age, in order to make way for the younger blood coming up the ranks.
Today, modern medicine, technology, necessity and attitude have all aligned and gifted us many more years of productive and constructive life in our older years. Some of us choose to take on a new career, others embark upon an adventure they have always wanted to do. Everybody has a different journey, but here’s the thing – these days when you get into your 50s, 60s and Senior years, life isn’t slowing down, instead life’s adventure continues, and we can see it all around us in everyday life, especially in our working and business life.
Adventurous New Careers
We all have people in our immediate circles who have embarked upon a new, unexpected career direction in their 50s and 60s. For instance, we have a sales team at the Australian Over 50s Living & Lifestyle Guide, where some of the most successful salespeople are in their sixties and none of them had been in media sales before.
People also take on new careers because it was really their passion in their youth, but because of circumstances, they could never follow their true desire. For example our own Chief Editor. Now 62, he was a business consultant and banker throughout his business life, when all he really wanted to be since he was 15 was a writer. He made the switch aged 60.
Patwant Calais a 63-year-old, studied horticulture at university and thereafter had a successful career in the plantations industry. This was followed by another business success in hospitality, from which he exited through a sale of the business. Not wanting to ‘slow down’, two years ago aged 61, he bought some forest land near Grafton and he has been clearing the land in stages and now runs a thriving blueberry farm. His motto is to keep active because it keeps you healthy and away from boredom.
If you get to be 60 or 70, then obviously you have a lot of life and work experience and many of us realise that this experience can be applied effectively in new areas – even in areas where one expects much younger people to be operating and competing with you. For instance, Des Walsh based in Tweed started a web SEO consulting firm in his 60s.
Re-inventing your career every few years is now a regular part of the employment landscape and there are many courses and government initiatives that help you to do this, irrespective of age.
Whilst older entrepreneurs have been around since the beginning of commerce, there has been a recent trend for people in their 50s and 60s, in particular, to start their own enterprises and create their own jobs rather than be an employee. There are two driving factors for this. Firstly, there still exists a wall of ageism that is a real barrier to finding a new job after the magic age of 50. Secondly, many people in this demographic want more freedom and flexibility than the 9 to 5 company job can offer. Des Walsh, now a life coach, is typical of this. He says, “I’d risen through the ranks of the Australian Government service, from base grade clerk to senior executive, where I had been responsible for national policy development, program management and project implementation, and Federal/State negotiations, in areas I was passionate about. I was well paid and had the respect of peers and all those good public service benefits. So why did I “jump ship” and set up in business? Fundamentally, I wanted simply to be my own boss.”
It is not difficult to find people in their 50s and 60s who have started a business. In fact, nowadays the term ‘seniourpreneur’ is a well-recognised phenomenon and seniorpreneurs are common. For instance one of our profiles in this article, Peter King didn’t just start one business in his fifties, he has 3!
Using your Time and Experience to Give Back
Another very common motivation for a career change in your 50s and 60s is the strong desire to give back. People do this in different ways, for instance, 59-year-old Jiri Arnost spent most of his working life of 40 years in key financial, investment and treasury roles. Most recently he was treasurer for the Brisbane City Council.
A year ago Jiri retired and decided it was time to give back to the community. On leaving Council, he began volunteering at the Migrant Centre. He says, “You pick up a lot of skills in a 40-year career that can be used in so many different constructive ways. Those skills can be put to use to benefit the community and it also gives you a sense of satisfaction when you are able to help somebody who has not had the advantages that you have had.”
Recently Jiri started volunteering as a computer tutor for a branch of U3A. “It’s such a good feeling when you can show a grandparent how to use technology to connect to their children and grandchildren who may be thousands of miles away or where you can teach people to be more confident in using computers, tablets and smartphones. It makes such a difference to their lives. It’s fantastic and I’m loving it.”
Perhaps the largest demonstration of the giving back spirit came during the recent Commonwealth Games held in the Gold Coast when the majority of the local volunteers were senior-aged people.
A Gift of Productive Years
One of the great boons of the 21st century for the over 50s has been that health permitting, our social and personal attitudes to retirement have really changed. We can all look forward to productive and enjoyable working and business lives.