By Diana Creel Elarde

Retirement. The end of early morning meetings, the day you no longer have to deal with a boss who never expresses appreciation, and a goodbye to the day-to-day pressures of pushing harder while feeling like you are achieving less! It all sounds so great.

Maybe for a couple of years, anyway. More and more retired Americans are considering getting back into the work saddle and are finding a need to leverage their post-retirement strengths. This trend is especially true now that the baby boomers are reaching their golden years. On average, after two years of retirement the focus on leisure has changed and the desire to get back into the work force comes into play for many.

Returning to the work force can be a decision based on several factors.

  • Many find their savings aren’t quite what they need to maintain their life style.
  • Financial responsibilities of other family members may drive the need to return.
  • Missing the daily interactions, the challenge to their minds work environments create.

Some may find their specific set of skills make it easier for them to offer a part-time service to neighbors or people of their community. For example, a former computer engineer honed his skills to provide computer support services to individuals for home-based businesses. Investment costs were relatively low – business cards, a brochure, website, and a membership in a networking group at the local chamber. Initially he found himself doing the work at people’s houses, but as the technology changed more and more he could work remotely from his home office.  Five years into his business, referrals fuel as much work as he desires.

In another case a retired woman executive began teaching part time at a local community college in a related field that was always a passion for her. Not only did she feel she was expanding her knowledge, she loved the interaction with young people.

Find Your Strengths

Knowing your strengths

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There are many, many multi-level marketing opportunities today you could consider. Anything from financial services to skincare and other health-related products and supplements can be found. There are some who do thrive well under this type of program, while others find the continuous promoting of products and recruitment of people for a sales team difficult. One recommendation: check thoroughly to see if the product and/or commission structure will actually appeal to you. And be prepared, for in building any business there needs to be constant development of clients to be successful.

Getting creative and widening your perspective of what you have to offer may be a good step. Many of us tend to think of ourselves as our former job titles – accountant, teacher, office manager. We tend to pigeon-hole ourselves because we don’t know what other words to use to describe what we have to offer.

One tool that may help in the search for the new you is StrengthsFinder 2.0 from Gallup and Tom Rath. StrengthsFinder is a tool for discovering your interpersonal and emotional strengths which are often hidden or suppressed, or just below conscious awareness. It can give you a new perspective on your skills and provide descriptions of your strengths to use on a resume or in an interview.

StrengthsFinder comes from the forty year research work of Dr. Donald Clifton, an American Educational Psychologist at the University of Nebraska, who designed the original assessment and based results on 34 strength themes. His work was further researched by his nephew, Tom Rath, at the University of Michigan. In 1998 their work and their research organization was acquired by the Gallup Organization. They continue to promote and research strengths as they pertain to individual development, team building and overall organizational success. There are numerous educational institutions and corporations nationwide that have had human resources personnel trained in utilizing the StrengthsFinder theory.

The assessment is found in both an online version at the StrengthsFinder website ($19.99 to determine your 5 top strengths) and in a hard copy book, available on Amazon. (Word of advice – if you buy the book ensure it is new, not used. There should be a sealed envelope in the back of the book which will offer a one-time code to take the online assessment.)

The study of strengths in psychology has been incorporated into the Positive Psychology movement started in 1998 by psychologists Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson. One aspect of positive psychology is the idea that if we understand and use our strengths we are able to thrive and expand. The more we give credit and appreciation to who we are, the better we will feel about ourselves – thus happier.

The on-line StrengthsFinder assessment takes about 45 minutes to complete. There are no right/wrong answers, only your preferences. Questions remain open for only 20 seconds so get ready to provide the best “gut” answer you can. At the end of the assessment you will be provided with a host of information, including your five highest strengths.

Find Your Value

know your value

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It is important to read through and understand the strength descriptions provided on the website or in the book, rather than to depend on traditional definitions. Be prepared to have preconceived ideas challenged!

For example, one woman who took the assessment was greatly disappointed because she felt she got only “mom” strengths. Two of her highest were empathy and harmony. But these two strengths are many, many times misunderstood. And some people feel these are weaknesses, not strengths. Yet this is far from the truth. People high in harmony do not like conflict. They are the peacemakers who can pull a team of people together for a common cause because they understand the value of working together. Often people are told they need to embrace conflict, get comfortable challenging others, “stand up for yourself”. Yet the secret many times to getting a group to function or even just co-exist, be it family members or colleagues, doesn’t lie in conflict. Those high in harmony see more value in finding common ground, attracting with honey, not vinegar.

And empathy many times is confused with sympathy. They are not the same. Today in the corporate world the number one quality which gets people promoted is empathy. (For additional information read Who do you promote? 5 Qualities of a good leader and Why We Need More Empathetic and Compassionate Leaders.)

Tied with strong emotional intelligence, empathy provides understanding, but is not excuse-making. In other words, “I understand you are going through a personal crisis, but we still need to keep going.” Empathy, like harmony, can be key to promoting strong work teams.

Strategic is another strength often misunderstood. This is the only strength theme which cannot be taught. It is a specific way of thinking and problem solving. Many times people high in this strength will feel like they are standing in a field by themselves. While solutions are clear to them, others may have trouble understanding the train of thought. Bottom line, if high in strategic you move through problems to find solutions quickly and accurately.

Know Thyself

know thyself

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One exercise to run through is to track your strength themes as far back as you can possibly remember them being present in your life. It is surprising how evident their presence will be in your past and how they naturally were a part of who you are.

Creating a resume using your strength themes is the best way to be noticed. In an interview, the more you understand what you have to offer, the more impressive you can be. An interviewer wants insight into your talents. Bringing up your strength themes can provide an expanded perspective of your value to the organization. Surprisingly some people who have successfully used their strengths in an interview have been offered a different job than they interviewed for in the first place. Others have been hired on the spot as they were clear in what they had to offer. Keep in mind one of the most famous Delphic maxims inscribed at the Temple of Apollo in Greece – Know Thyself!

Other resources for this exciting life change called Retirement can be found in numerous places. Look for local job clubs specializing in those over 50. The AARP website has resources, including on-line job-finding events for seniors, and will list corporations open to hiring seniors. Sites like can also provide new insight and opportunities. Many state and local government websites will also list business opportunities for retirees looking to return.

Author Chris Farrell has written articles on returning seniors, and his most recent book is titled Unretirement: How Baby Boomers are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Communities and the Good Life. The search to recreate ourselves is a wave across the country!

Key points to remember when considering re-entering the work force are:

  • Evaluate your current skills. Can they easily be used to reinvent yourself?
  • Thoroughly investigate new ventures and their required investment in time and money
  • Use a self-assessment tool to help provide insight and self-empowering vocabulary and skills on your next resume or in an interview
  • Do some simple on-line research for potential jobs. Check with your local city or state agencies for any offerings they may have.
  • Don’t forget one great resource for potential jobs: your friends!

Retirements years are no longer being thought of as the “golden years”. Rather they are being viewed through the eyes of experienced people as a great opportunity to redefine their work and worth in the world.

Perhaps it is the time to think about getting back into the work saddle with a new wave of excitement and confidence. Let go of your perceived limits and define once again who you want to be in the work force. Arm yourself with a new definition of your strengths and an understanding of the value you offer employers. You well may be surprised to find the world is waiting to see what you create.

Copyright DElarde, 2018

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