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Career Counseling Case Study – Going Back to Work After Retirement

Sandy, 54, took a Life\Work Design™ course to find an encore career. She had taken the course years earlier during her work career. Sandy’s formal work experience consisted of six years as a CPA and auditor in a global public accounting firm and twenty years as a corporate finance executive with responsibility for treasury and investor relations.  Throughout her career, she embraced supervisory and managerial responsibilities.

Now she knew Life\Work Design™ was just what she needed to get her retirement life on track.  She’d been retired for three years and wanted to use the summer to determine what she’d do in the fall. But she felt like she was perusing the menu of a new restaurant: knew what she did not want, but had no clear idea of what she did want.  She knew one thing: that she wanted to take control of her entire life.

After the course was over, and after more work on her materials, Sandy knew herself much better. Crucially, she had the spark of an idea about what she wanted to do for her encore career. She’d been interested in civics and the political process since high school, and had considered a career in government before a college advisor directed her to business. She rediscovered that she had a passion for learning about and sharing her knowledge of government as a way to encourage the active involvement of people in shaping the world. She thought she might turn this interest into some sort of real work in a retirement career.

After a surprising presidential election, in which neither she nor anyone she knew had taken an active role, she sought out her local League of Women Voters. She wanted to connect with others interested in influencing government through the political process.

Sandy’s next task was to review the material she had prepared during the course and determine whether her skills and goals were appropriate to this type of role. Some of Sandy’s material follows:

  1. Goal (in part) … inspiring women and/or students to take an active role in the world around them, especially by encouraging civics education, political awareness, and activism.
  2. What Needs Doing? “Our schools are not doing a good job of teaching civics or current affairs. Many adults don’t know the basics about government at the local, state or national level.  Most people complain but don’t take an active role in influencing political decisions.  And government service is not seen as a worthy career.  I believe I have the knowledge, the experience, and the passion to inspire others to become active in public life.”
  3. Top Clusters – in priority order
    1. Teaching and engaging adults in government
    2. A “change agent” skilled at finding a better way to reach a goal
    3. Excellent verbal and written communication skills
    4. Networking on a professional level
    5. Decisive, analytical problem-solver
    6. Self-taught proficiency with the personal computer
    7. A team player willing to fill voids and give appropriate feedback
    8. Strong financial skills (accounting, corporate finance, personal finance, investments, grant-writing)
  4. Ideal Job Specifications – To work with a successful, well-established organization in a position that offers the following: project-oriented work with long lead-times and freedom to set my own pace; a 21st-century technology environment supporting the ability to telecommute; market-based compensation; and excellent paid support services for all work-related needs.
  5. Ideal People Specifications – Intelligent and ethical colleagues who are: politically liberal or open-minded; committed to the mission of their organization; creative, outside-the-box thinkers; and conscientious and dependable. Clients/target audience: bright, curious, ambitious women and/or students who care about, and can be inspired to take a more active role in, the world around them.
  6. Geographic Preferences – Not a big issue as long as telecommuting is available, but preferred travel would be to:
    1. Washington, D.C.
    2. New York metro area
The key is to get organized before you start! Click To Tweet

Sandy planned a Subsequent Survey for her area of interest. The key was to get organized before she started. She was armed with her Clusters and Talking Papers, but knew little about the players in her new field. She spent two weeks researching on the internet, mainly Googling phrases such as “inspire women,” “inspire students,” “public service,” “civics education,” etc. To keep track of the organizations and information she identified, she set up a blog to which she posted web-links and articles, and wrote down her thoughts and ideas.  She also talked with friends who gave her some leads. Next, Sandy identified several organizations to survey and set a specific time limit. She allowed herself three months (July – September). She hoped to identify at least one project to work on in the coming year by October.

She began by arranging phone meetings with the directors of several organizations whose missions focused on women in public life or women’s leadership. Setting facilitated these meetings by networking with people she already knew and leveraging their connections.  She learned that state and local colleges and universities are likely places for organizations interested in engaging people in public life. She also learned about a program sponsored by Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics called the NEW Leadership Development Network whose mission is to encourage and support political leadership education for college women by partnering with educational institutions across the country. And she learned that Rutgers’ Institute for Women’s Leadership shared her belief that the baby-boomer generation could be a powerful force for effecting social change.

Upon completion of her survey, Sandy felt that her home state of Florida would be a perfect place to start an Institute for Women in Public Life or to bring CAWP’s NEW Leadership Program. Neither existed there. Second, she knew the Institute for Women’s Leadership was interested in having her personally bring Life\Work Design™ to its constituents, specifically because of the strong Douglass College connection she had maintained since her graduation. And third, she thought it might be possible expand Life\Work Design™. She could use it to inspire women like her to become active in the world around them by helping them gain the tools to become effective forces for social change in their encore careers.

She considered incorporating these last two ideas into a formal proposal to the Crystal-Barkley Corporation. She also thought it might be possible to find a partner to start up an Institute for Women in Public Life in Florida, or work with CAWP to bring a NEW Leadership Program to her state. However, it was unclear about how much time it would take to bring either to fruition.

It was now time for her to answer some key personal questions:

  • Q: In what geographic area would she be happiest?
    A: She was unwilling to relocate; she must be able to telecommute.
  • Q: How much time was she willing to invest in her encore career?
    A: She wanted discrete, project-oriented work that could be reassessed on a year-by-year basis.
  • Q: Was she willing to take on additional training in order to obtain her desired position?
    A: No.
  • Q: What level of compensation was important to her?
    A: All her out-of-pocket expenses should be covered. In addition, she wanted an opportunity to generate financial support for organizations that shared her mission.

With the answers to these questions and knowing what she did about the field, Sandy was ready to approach her first choice with her proposal. Sandy had worked with the CEO and co-founder of the Crystal-Barkley Corporation when she first took the program. Now she reconnected with her the second time. Given this connection, she called her and said she would like to speak with her about an opportunity she might find of interest. The CEO agreed to meet with Sandy two days later.


Read more: Career Counseling Case Study – Finding a Job After Graduation

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