Get a Job or Retire?

by Cohen, Betty Thursday, February 09, 2012
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With the national unemployment rate currently hovering over 8%, I am still seeing a significant number of clients who are experiencing the adverse effects of suddenly becoming unemployed. Upon losing a job, one possible early outcome of that loss can be the commonly expressed feeling of paralysis or numbness, a sense of being stuck, with an inability to move forward and take some constructive action. For clients soon approaching 60, or for those already in their 60’s, 70’s, or even higher decade of life, another common reaction is the thought that “Maybe I’m too old to even consider getting a new job or career, and I should just retire.”

As a career counselor, when I’m approached with that kind of comment, my response is, assuming you have sufficient financial cushion to give you a choice about getting a next job, it’s time for you to do some analysis and soul searching. And, that analysis should involve asking yourself some key questions and then paying close attention to the answers.

SOME KEY QUESTIONS TO ASK

One: What is the status of your health, both physically and mentally? Are you mentally alert and competent and mobile enough (with or without necessary accommodation) to easily handle an appropriate level of responsibility, so that working will not be a detriment to you or your next employer?

Two: How would you describe your degree of vitality? Are you still pretty energetic and vigorous and able to put in more hours on occasion when needed, or do you find yourself with significantly less stamina and having to move at a much slower pace?

Three: Generally, what is your attitude and ability to acclimate to possibly challenging workplace situations? Are you still receptive to learning something new (technology or electronically related) or possibly admitting that even though you’ve been out there doing what you do best for a while, you may not have all of the answers? How would you adjust to having a supervisor who was a lot younger than you, for example?

Four: At this moment, how truly important and meaningful to you is having a job or career? To help you best answer that question, try to imagine what your life would be like if you knew that from now on, you would have no job or place of work to look forward to going to or focus on as part of your daily activity. Now, that may be hard to picture, if a job or career has been such a vital part of your life for a long time. So, to really visualize this scenario as accurately as possible, it would be helpful to compose a list of what exactly are the positives that you have received from knowing you had a job to do and actually engaging in that work. Then, you will have a much better idea of just how valuable having a job is to you. Earning some money and receiving health insurance will probably show up near the top of almost everyone’s list, but don’t stop there, search yourself more deeply and identify just what other benefits, besides getting some monetary compensation, have you really derived from having and working at a job or career. By the way, if you have just picked up a Post-it note on which to write this list, you may want to stop and get something larger to record your answers on, as you may be surprised at how this list might grow beyond what you expected.

Here’s just a small sample of possible comments that may surface:
  • a. Most of my best and valued friends have been and continue to be my co-workers and other workplace contacts.

  • b. Working at my job has provided me with a chance to be involved with projects where I know my contribution made a real and positive difference.

  • c. I knew I was really appreciated and needed when I was doing what I typically did best at my job.

  • d. What I have done at my job has given me a real sense of self-identity; it has given me a sense of who I really am.

  • e. I’ve always looked forward to having a voice at meetings and knowing my professional abilities were put to good use and my input was valued.

  • f. The kind of work I’ve been involved with has given me such a sense of pride; I know how much it’s helped to improve the lives of others.

  • g. My job has given me a chance to really put to use the skills I learned when I went back to grad school.
When you have finished this list to your satisfaction, don’t forget to consider the negatives to you personally of having a job or career as well. Then, it’s time to draw some conclusions.

If you can answer “yes” to these and similar key questions related to getting a new job or career, first of all, consider yourself lucky because you’ve been blessed to have the good health and vigor you needed to still work at a job or career. Second, commend yourself for having the adaptable attitude you do; and finally, consider yourself among the fortunate, as you are now on your way to making a difficult decision easier. So, when you are ready to move forward, find and enjoy your next job or career experience. (And if you need help in doing so, don’t hesitate to seek the assistance of a career counselor.)

For those of you whose answers didn’t result in enough “yes” responses to encourage you to look for and work at a new job or career, do know that there can be other fulfilling options besides finding and having a job or career to meet your needs. You may want to consider participating in volunteer or leisure activities, or pursuing more education and learning experiences that are compatible with your preferences and needs. These and other possible alternatives may be your best answer; just know there can be a doable and satisfying solution in sight.