by Susan Spaulding

There’s a “silver tsunami” making waves today. Around 10,000 Baby Boomers will hit retirement every single day, over the course of the next twenty years. But for Boomers, retirement doesn’t mean what it used to! In fact, for many nearing 65, retirement looks less like “taking it easy” and more like “taking on the next challenge.”  

For many people retirement is about finding a new adventure, career, or passion, but starting over is a massive challenge for some individuals, explains Susan Spaulding, author of Recalibrate for Life 2.0. Since retirement may mean facing an empty nest and/or leaving behind a title, connections, an identity, and other perks, it can be really difficult to leave a known quantity to start something new. 

“What’s next?” may not be a practical question but a very real fear for many people at this stage. Psychologically, people are often unprepared for moving on to “something else.” Spaulding reports that many people can’t even imagine what that “something else” would be!

If you think leaving a career is overwhelming, you’re not alone. Fortunately, there’s some good news. Understanding these fears is a lot easier when there’s a clear pathway to unpacking all the uncertainty and ambiguity that comes with starting over. 

If you are looking to change up what retirement has in store for you, Spaulding explains that the key to keep in mind is branding. That’s right—it’s about defining your personal brand.

Spaulding explains that to successfully transition to Life 2.0, it is a matter of changing your personal brand to align with your individual needs, skills, and passions. You’re changing your brand to fit with a new community, a new “market” that aligns with who you want to be and what you want to do. 

So how can you start changing your brand? How can you find some answers to “what’s next?” Spaulding describes four basic steps to get you started:

  1. Take Inventory: get started by identifying your professional and personal strengths. What has given you the greatest sense of accomplishment? What are your passions? What skills have you gained in your career? The goal is to generate a warehouse of ideas that you’ll be able to refine and draw from later. 
  2. Build Your Story and Your Plan: use your inventory to begin crafting your brand story and plan. Start by thinking of a statement that captures the way you want to interact with the world. Who do you want to help? How do you want to help them? How will you use your personal strengths, passions, and skills to serve a need? Once you have a big idea, you can start fashioning a few plans that will put that story into action. 
  3. Explore the Options: once you have a starting point (or more than one starting point!), identify ways to test your plan and your interests. The idea is to test it in tiny ways. Give yourself permission to try something once and move on. Don’t commit to any one path until you’ve given yourself time to test out all your ideas. 
  4. Evaluate and Recalibrate: testing your plans is not a “one and done” proposition. Look back at your experiments and reflect on what you learned from it (note: there is no “failure” here, just learning). Give yourself time to think, retest, and adjust your plans. 

Is this the only way you can rebrand yourself? Absolutely not. But it can provide a solid starting point  which will go a long way to relieving some of the anxieties and fears that come with starting over. If nothing else, this is a way to move into a state of mind where you give yourself permission to try, explore, and test new ideas. For a lot of people, that freedom is something they haven’t had in a long time! 

Written by Susan Spaulding, award-winning businesswoman, consultant, and author of Recalibrate for Life 2.0, Transition Stories for Business Leaders.