Strategic Conversations with Barbara

Preparing for Your Next Act: What you Need to Know

The boomer generation is heralding a new workforce phenomenon called “the working retiree.” Research shows that three out of five retirees return to work after six to 18 months an unprecedented occurrence that has significant implications for both employers and boomers.

I specialize in working with boomers who are approaching or who have transitioned into retirement. They often use common phrases as they explore what’s next in their work lives: “I’m anticipating another chapter,” or “I’m ready for one more inning.” Their words describe their anticipation and eagerness to remain vibrant and engaged through work, in spite of having retired.

Baby boomers are appreciated for their dedication and career longevity. But this trait has kept many boomers focused on their respective jobs for decades, unaware of best practices for effective career transitions. Consequently, they are now at a loss about how to explore and prepare for their “next act.”

While specific job-search strategies have changed over the years, one thing has remained constant: the importance of identifying and productively tapping key contacts. In this case, the phrase “it’s who you know” still rings true.

Networking is a common buzzword among job seekers, but it can mean many things. From chitchat over wine and cheese at community events to what I call “strategic conversations” that include specific outcomes and requests for introductions from targeted connections—this type of networking done well is still the most effective way to uncover job opportunities.

But first things first: Before requesting introductions, you need to have a focus and a target. Today, classified ads are practically obsolete, and job titles are numerous and not always consistent in describing the same position. Focusing your job search on specific titles is ineffective and likely to limit your options in today’s marketplace. Instead, put the emphasis on your skills and the value you offer, and target the organizations that could benefit from your experience.

Ensure the best outcome for your next work chapter and be prepared to confidently put your best self forward in the following ways:

  • Verbally: Articulate a clear and concise statement of your skills and be able to demonstrate at least two examples.
  • Virtually: Create a complete and well-crafted LinkedIn profile that conveys your professional value and brand. This important social media channel is the one that 97 percent of hiring managers turn to first when scouting for talent.
  • In Writing: Develop a resume and cover letter that show impact, not just state the tasks you’ve completed in each position. Keep the resume to two pages or less and communicate who you are in the marketplace with a strong headline. Include only the most recent jobs (10 to 15 years), and do not include the year you graduated from college.

As you contemplate your next act, keep your priorities in mind. Be prepared to find an employer that offers work that is in alignment with this stage of your life. You’re entering into uncharted territory, for yourself and for your generation, as you explore a new way to retire and still remain engaged in the workforce.

Psychoanalyst Carl Jung seemed to foresee this shift as he proclaimed that change was required to live into our second half of life: “You cannot live the afternoon of life with the program of life’s morning.”

Barbara Babkirk is a Master Career Counselor and principal at Heart At Work Associates, an innovative career counseling and outplacement firm in Portland. She is committed to strengthening Maine’s workforce by guiding individuals to positions that align with their skills and life stage priorities, and has particular expertise working with the baby boomer population. Contact her at [email protected]

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