I am 60, going on 16

If you think your career will end when you retire, read this book. It explores feasible job options and the right approach to land them.

Namrata Dadwal        Print Edition: March, 2010

"Retirement kills more people than hard work ever did," said the late publisher of Forbes magazine, Malcolm Forbes. If you are nodding your greying head in agreement, you should probably read this book. For, not only does author Tamara Erickson empathise with the vast majority of geriatrics who crave work after retirement, she also offers a pragmatic way to kickstart Career 2.0.

Author of Retire Retirement and an expert on generational issues, Erickson's views stem from the belief that curtailing one's career at 60 might have been true a decade ago. It's outdated in a world where pensioners live physically active lives and have acute mental faculties. In fact, she asserts that there are at least 20-30 years of work life left after retirement.

Dividing the book into five chapters, Erickson uses up the first two to build her case assiduously. She justifies the need for the 60-plus population to be productive and for the traditional work system to adapt by stating that the improved technology has brought the world closer and provided more flexibility to work, both in terms of time and place.

In the first chapter, she identifies the four generations in any workplace— traditionalists, boomers, generation X and generation Y. These are classified on the basis of their birth and teen years as Erickson believes each generation is strongly influenced by the changes that have occurred in the world during its formative years. She focuses on boomers, who were born between 1946 and 1964 and are heading towards retirement. She also explains the characteristics of the other generations and how their attitudes have gradually altered the work environment, rendering retirement an obsolete word.

In subsequent chapters, she takes the readers through the various work options available to them and the right approach that can land one good jobs. She rounds off the book by presenting convincing case studies.

The book is peppered with questions that can help determine ways to chart one's future expectations. Erickson lists out opportunities one can consider, from those that pay less to overseas jobs. With the changing work environment and agreeable employers open to flexi-timing and working from home, more options are open to you, she says.

While approaching a prospective employer, Erickson exhorts one to play up one's strengths and explain how the company could benefit from one's presence. For credibility, she cites people who have carved successful careers after being forced out of the rat race.

The book is like a pep-talk that is bound to make you feel younger than you actually are. In fact, the author includes a survey in which the respondents said they felt about 15 years younger than their chronological age. Throughout the book, Erickson iterates that the best time to advance one's career or begin another is after 50 as you are free from family responsibilities (your child-rearing days are thankfully over) and have fewer financial worries. Why waste time brooding over an empty nest, she asks. Now is the time to utilise the skills honed in the previous three decades, something a newbie will take years to do. What has been seen as a drawback is actually your greatest asset, if only you leverage it right. As adolescence is the best time for a person to grow and decide the path he wants to take in life, Erickson insists that middlescence, as she calls it, is the perfect period for a person to replot his career curve.

While most Indians might feel the book isn't relevant to them, given the fact that there are innumerable people waiting in the employment queue, it is a mistaken belief. Numbers do not make up for lack of skill and experience. Also, never mind that Retire Retirement doesn't deal with the Indian situation. Retired people need to breach a psyche that is common across the world. Erickson will tell you how to do it.

Planning the next phase of work
If you want to continue working after retirement, thinking out of the box will open more options.

  • Are you willing to relocate, perhaps to an area or country that is less attractive to workers currently raising a young family?
  • Can you afford to put in odd hours that younger workers with family obligations might not be able to do?
  • What are the 'high-impact' roles within a company in which your knowledge and experience will make the biggest difference?
  • To what extent are you willing to trade income for time?
  • If you're agreeable to experimenting in another field, are you prepared to invest in learning?
  • Are you ready to work in shifts with another 'retiree'? You could share the salary as well as responsibility and have time for yourself.

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