"Trying to reimagine yourself is harder than most people realize."
My dad knows this better than most. After a life-changing accident, he lost mobility in his left hand and the ability to continue his career of 30 years. Now that he has been cleared to return to work, he is faced with a new dilemma - finding employment at age 54 in a terrible economy with highly specific skills and a disability.
"When you get to your mid-50s, starting a new career...it's overwhelming," he said. "I grew up in an era where when you turn 65, you stop working. I have to wonder, are they even hiring people my age?"
Enter AARP's Life Reimagined, an idea meant to help people who are starting a new phase of their lives. I suggested my dad try out the Life Reimagined Calling Cards exercise to determine some new interests and paths. He agreed (and I documented the process). Be sure to check out our tips for when you use the cards!
Finding Your Calling (Cards)
Once he set up an account, my dad was introduced to the many calling cards that list specific skills, such as "Making Things Work" and "Organizing Things." The instructions said to pick the ones he enjoys. He went through the cards with good spirits ("If I had talent, I would choose Performing Events ... but people pay me not to sing ...") and a clear focus for choosing things he actually likes. *Pro tip: remember, you're looking to make a career from these skills. Don't just pick ones that sound good on a resume! Pick things you like to do on a daily basis.
Once he finished, the next step instructed him to pick at least five of those that he is really good at and loves doing.
"It's making me really look inside myself," he commented as he considered the cards. He also had trouble not letting conventional left-brain/right-brain thinking throw him off as he debated choosing "Analyzing Info" along with cards in the Artistic category.
*Pro tip: don't let "traditional thinking" anywhere near your card choices. This isn't about what anyone else wants, thinks or assumes. It's all about you. He picked eight cards and moved on to the next step - finding his core gifts.
When faced with picking his top five cards, he tried not to overanalyze. He then made it to the last step: ranking his core gifts. "In the effort to be honest, it's hard to know if what I think is something the rest of the world would think too," he said.
After much deliberation, he made his ranking: Adding Humor, Giving Care, Organizing Things, Instructing People, Bringing Joy.
"My calling cards suggest I'm an Artistic personality with a Social side who could also thrive in a Conventional environment," my dad's Life Reimagined profile now proclaims. My inner 8-year-old who always went to dad with math questions was surprised, but this makes sense to grown-up me. Being a TV cameraman required an artistic eye for setting up a shot correctly, and he always needed to work with others (aka he was social). And conventional environment? He's one of the most level-headed people I know. You can't exactly film people in every walk of life without having a regular and steady plan.
Neat. So what did we do next? Scrolled down to Explore Careers, of course.
We went through the suggested careers of Artistic, Social, and Conventional types. A Museum Guide sounded like "a stretch, but would be interesting;" an HR Specialist sounded like intriguing work, but intimidating physically due to the amount typing involved; a Personal Trainer required him being "in much better shape;" and Wind Energy Consultant was dismissed - "too easy." Naturally.
But one of the suggested careers was Academic Adviser. "That's very interesting," my dad said, rubbing his chin. "I wouldn't have thought of that one. Huh." I could see the wheels in his head turning as he considered the idea. And he liked it. I could see why - it's a very social job that requires patience, organization and creativity. Sounds like a winning combination.
We both agreed that going through the calling cards was a very helpful step for him. Not only did it pin down his interests; it gave him a new and specific idea to pursue. Beforehand, he'd only had a few loose ideas. He explained, "The concept of the path being wide open with all possibilities there for you ... some would go, 'Ooo, how great!' And right now, it's really not. I wasn't looking for a new career. I didn't have a Plan B."
So many people are in a similar boat and need to start all over with no idea of what's next. While it's a scary place to be, this blogger is very glad there are resources like Life Reimagined to help.
Have you done the calling cards? What ideas has it given you? Tell us in a comment below!