As you know, the realisation that I am facing at least another twenty seven years of working has recently hit me. That means I have more of my working life left than the twenty years I have been working since leaving university.
Frankly, it should be depressing… but is it?
If anything, what this exciting journey can lead to is a wealth of new opportunities. It affords time to change careers, to revisit and freshen existing skills and the ability to develop new ones. Perhaps it will even allow more people to take career breaks, returning with plenty of time to still make an impact on their career.
But to do this, we must be willing to change. We must say yes when opportunity knocks.
But how do we do this?
Volunteering is an excellent way to prepare for the future. It can give you an opportunity to keep unused skills fresh, create new ones and build your network of contacts and promoters. I have an interest in communications for example, so I volunteer for a charity as a Publicity Assistant. It also helps keep my stakeholder engagement skills fresh, which are used rather narrowly in my current employment.
Mentoring is also an exciting opportunity to grab when it presents itself. Many employers and public sector organisations in particular, have formal mentoring and coaching schemes. A good mentor can help you develop skills and knowledge; a good coach can help you work out how you want to use them and the direction you want to take your career. But you don’t have to rely on a formal scheme to benefit from this. Some of the most successful people will have had a mentor and are happy to pay it forward. Approach individuals in your organisation who you admire (and outside for that matter!) and ask if they would mentor you in a particular area, or at the very least allow you to shadow or observe them. You may get even get lucky and be the first in line when a development opportunity or job comes up in their teams in the future!
In doing all this, don’t be afraid to nurture the other parts of your life. After all, wouldn’t we all like to make a living from our hobby? Mine is writing and after self publishing a collection of short stories and wrapping up my first novel, I’m looking forward to the challenges that will spring from these.
Grab opportunities to get better at your hobby, whatever it may be. Question whether you could make an income from it. By networking with authors, editors and publicists I’ve met some great people along the way and learned a lot. If this doesn’t lead to a full time career, I’ve definitely enjoyed my free time and will have something to keep me occupied in retirement – dare I say a little extra income too!
Of course, there are challenges around working for longer, and we must all take into account implications for pensions, health, childcare and other commitments. But sadly, these issues aren’t going to go away anytime soon. Isn’t it true that as soon as you resolve one problem, you stumble across another? We need to take time to consider these – we can’t all throw caution to the wind of course.
But in the meantime my message is this, when the universe presents you with an opportunity: SAY YES.