You may stop working, but your skills don't

Your Strengths Don't Retire When You Do

by Susan Williams

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Many people dream of the day they can retire. They look forward to that glorious day when they get to finally stop working and just do whatever they want to do with no more bosses, no more meetings, and no more deadlines.

But just because you retire, it doesn't mean that your strengths retire with you. They could actually be put to good use in your new found retirement life.

According to Gillian Leithman, the Founder of Rewire to Retire, the strengths that you had in the workplace can be very well leveraged in retirement. The key is in knowing what strengths you have and specifically deciding how you would best like to use them.

For example, if you were a strategic planner in your pre-retirement career, possibly working with a board in a non-profit to help establish their strategy might be a good match. Or if you used to organize events, maybe you could use your organizational and leadership skills to help coordinate local food drives.

One of the most difficult challenges of using your strengths in retirement is actually figuring out what you really want to do with them.

According to Gillian, one of the biggest mistakes that people often make when retiring is that they assume that they don't need to have goals. In the first 18 months, new retirees will often spend time doing leisure activities but afterwards may become bored. Without any specific goals, what may then unfortunately follow are anxiety, depression, and decline.

Gillian suggests that having goals in retirement is just as important as it was during your career. The main difference is that you are now responsible for creating your own goals and it is now up to you to determine what these are. Ideally, this should be thought about before you retire in order to have an easier transition into retirement.

What also happens is that the goal post for success often shifts in retirement. For example, what initially may have been a focus on earning a paycheck may now be wanting to make a difference in people's lives through volunteer work.

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So, what should you do if you're not exactly sure what your strengths are? Gillian recommends that you complete a reflective exercise with regards to discovering or confirming strengths. She suggests using the VIA Characters Survey, a free online survey that evaluates 24 strengths that we all have. Based on the personal results of the survey, research suggests that if you use the top two to three strengths daily, you will be happier.

Once you know your strengths, you can then figure out how you would actually like to apply them in retirement.

For example, if you have a love of learning, maybe being a member of a book club or attending seminars for continued learning may be something that you would be interested in doing.

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You also need to be careful though. The strengths that may have served you well in your career may not be necessarily as appreciated in other environments once you have retired.

For example, if you were highly competitive and somewhat strong in your leadership style in your career, this may not be a great fit of skills for a collaborative, caring non-profit organization.

So, just because you retired doesn't mean that your career strengths retired with you. Your strengths are something that you take with you that could now be put to great use and benefit to others as you explore this exciting next chapter of your life.

Susan Williams is the Founder of Booming Encore, a website and social media network dedicated to providing information and inspiration to help Baby Boomers create and live their very best encore.

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