Career Tips

Late Career Job Search, Part VIII: Life After Work

By Lisa Parker

“Retirement at sixty-five is ridiculous. When I was sixty five I still had pimples.” – George Burns

George Burns was a true gem. I love the above quote from him because it hits on an important point. Those nearing retirement years are still youthful in many ways with lots of time left to do meaningful things with the talents, interests and skills they possess. George lived to be 100. His fans, me included, gained so much from the 35 years beyond the tender age of 65 he spent sharing himself and his gifts with the world. Imagine what we would have missed out on had he exited quietly into retirement?

In truth, George Burns never had to address retirement because his occupation was his calling. His professional life complimented his natural self completely. George the professional and George the man were so similar shutting down his life’s work at 65 would have been tantamount to shutting down him. The Alumni Career Services team at Michigan State appreciates that about him because we strive to find ways for that to be true for the Spartans we come in contact with.

Not everyone ends up being a George, however. For the many Americans who aren’t in the same situation, retirement is the time in life when the professional side of them, that was necessary to provide for the needs of their families, finally takes a back seat to their personal calling. It’s no longer about a paycheck. It’s about fulfillment.

When I speak to professionals who are in a position to retire, but want to find a way to keep busy, the most common desire expressed is to find a way to do something meaningful. What does that mean though? Do they want to volunteer for a special cause? Do they want to mentor up-and-coming professionals? Do they want to roll up their sleeves as consultants and help lead a start-up through those painful first years?

No matter the answer, it’s important for retired professionals to register the ball is officially in their court. They’ve amassed decades of skills and contacts they can now put to use without having to rely on their ideal purpose aligning with the immediate needs and economic limits of an employer. With the ability to do things on their terms, the probability of satisfaction is higher than ever before. Social and professional risks can be taken. Notice I didn’t say financial risks. The key becomes breaking away from the narrow mold of a professional existence so a broader view of community and world can be achieved and options, once outside their field of vision, can now come into focus.

A few weeks ago I spoke with an 87 year old alumnus, we’ll call him Jack, who is preparing to launch an internet training business. He spent his professional life dabbling in a variety of areas and always enjoyed helping other people learn along the way. Jack isn’t sure how profitable the business will be, but he’s got plans for it to be a success. No matter the dollars generated, he knows his efforts will touch people beyond his immediate reach. Every day what he is doing will matter to someone which, as it turns out, matters a lot to him. He’s gotten a head start by working with individuals in his community in person and was actually calling me to refer a young lady, who happens to be 57, for career guidance.  She’s stuck, you see. She’s inspired by Jack and is having a hard time nailing down what she wants to be when she grows up. Jack and I both know the problem. She’s buried in fears of starting over, when starting over doesn’t have to be part of the equation at all. Jack is doing something different with his gifts and interests, but he’s not being something new and he’s certainly not starting over. The retired Jack is still Jack, he’s just better.


Lisa joined the Michigan State University Alumni Association as Director of Alumni Career & Business Services on May 1, 2012. Her primary focus is to develop effective networking and resource channels for experienced alumni interested in professional development and job search strategy assistance. Additionally, Lisa works directly with corporate, education, foundation and government partners seeking to attract qualified talent, retain and develop good employees, and establish collaborative relationships in line with their established goals and objectives.

With 15+ years’ experience in third party recruiting, Lisa offers a balanced understanding of both employee and employer perspectives.

Lisa is a firm advocate of the networking process and considers it a vital element in a successful job search. In addition to helping job seekers develop and best utilize networking contacts, Lisa shares her knowledge and insigh-gained aiding corporate recruiting efforts-to give Spartan job seekers an edge in terms of lead sourcing, resume presentation and interview strategy.

Among Lisa’s notable accomplishments: Prima Civitas Foundation Scholar; Michigan Works Association Volunteer of the Year; Pink Slip Mid Michigan Planning Committee; career content blogger.



  1. Andrea Czech Brown 10 October, 2012 at 15:46

    Thank you for your postings. I am returning to the workforce after 7 years of raising a daughter and am finding it extremly painful. I worked in investment securities for over a decade and trying to return to a field I love is difficult. I would enjoy communicating further but through email. Andrea

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