Contemplating a Second Act? 3 Key Things to Consider

This is a guest post by Nancy Collamer, M.S., a career coach, speaker and author of the upcoming book Second-Act Careers: 50+ Ways to Profit from Your Passions During Retirement (Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA, Jan 2013). Nancy is an expert on how to create income without a 9-5 job, and her advice has been featured in numerous national media outlets.

In my role as a career coach, I am often asked how people can figure out what to do as a second-act career. There are many different tools and methodologies, but most of them take time to understand and execute. In this post I’ll share with you a deceptively simple — but powerful — reinvention exercise that you can get started with today.

All you need to do is to answer three questions — “What types of activities do you most enjoy?” “What do you find most meaningful?” “What are your strengths?” — and then look for the overlap between your answers. Doing this will help you understand both what you can do and enjoy doing and find meaningful – the three elements critical to crafting a fulfilling second-act career.

Sound interesting? Let’s get rolling.

1) What makes you happy? We all experience happiness in different ways. Some people feel happiest when they hike outdoors, while others feel most content enjoying a family dinner or solving a challenging crossword puzzle. The little moments in life like cuddling with our pets or savoring a great piece of chocolate can bring us joy as well. Think back to the times when you were most connected with your life energies and creativity. What were you doing? Who were you with? Where were you?

Action item: Make a list of your favorite activities and pastimes.

2) What do you find most meaningful? Just as happiness is a matter of individual preference, every person finds meaning in different ways. Perhaps you derive great satisfaction when you engage in political debate, help your grandchildren master a new skill or volunteer for the school board. On the job, you might have been most motivated by mentoring a younger co-worker. In your free time, you might find your most meaningful moments while traveling, attending worship services, designing scrapbooks or listening to music.

Action item: Make a list of the activities, causes, values and personal relationships you find most meaningful.

3) What are your strengths? Your personal strengths are the skills, gifts, talents and innate qualities that make you shine.  Some strengths, like a capacity for languages or technical skills are easy to identify. Other traits, like empathy, patience or a quick-wit, are more difficult to quantify, but are equally important to acknowledge. You might even have some “strengths in training” that show signs of potential, but need a bit of nurturing and attention to fully flourish.

Action item: Make a list of your greatest strengths, skills and talents

EXERCISE: After you’ve completed the three lists, look for the commonalities between the lists. Then, make a list of the things that you really enjoy doing and do well and find meaningful (note the emphasis on the “and”!). Play around with the lists and begin to brainstorm ways you might be able to incorporate your favorite motivating strengths into your next act. As you do, you will be far better prepared for the next step in the reinvention process — to search for job opportunities that best match your unique set of motivating skills, interests and talents.

Find information and resources from AARP on re-careering when you’re over 50, and check out this video From Inside E Street: Encore Careers are More Than a Trend.