Q I'm about five years away from retirement. I have some ideas on what I'd like to do afterward that would give me the chance to develop some new skills, and wonder what I should do now to be ready.
A: Planning gives you time to prepare, so make a plan and take action.
Take a step back, focusing first on what you'd like in postretirement life. What aspects of your current professional life would you like to maintain? What would you like to move away from? Consider interests you've had and skills you haven't had a chance to use, and think about how important it is to engage them.
Think more about your ideas from the perspective of their fit with your hopes and your vision for yourself. Imagine yourself in new roles. Take note of where they fit and don't seem to fit. If it's because, upon reflection, they don't appeal to you, drop them from your list. But if the barriers are more related to skills or experiences you'd need to be successful, keep them in the hopper for more consideration.
Finally, do a reality check on how much time, effort and resources you want to put into this preparation. This could range from going back to school, to doing independent study, to taking on volunteer commitments that give you hands-on experience. Be realistic so you don't have a mismatch between your hopes and your preparedness. Moving on to additional exploration, have in mind a small set of possible "finalists." For each, make a plan to learn more about it. This could include informational interviews, online research or conversations with career resource centers (yes, even for retirement job changes).
Depending on how much you need to do to be ready, and how strongly you want to move immediately into something new, you're going to have to make a decision.
Once that's done, map out a plan with timelines.
For example, imagine you'll retire in 2015 and know you want to take a year off before you commit to something new. Plan backward from 2016, determining when you need to take steps to be ready. Here's an example: Say you decide you'd like to become a personal trainer. You'll need to take classes and gain certification. Find out how long these take, especially on a part-time basis while you're still working.
Barriers will come up, challenges that may put you off your plan. Plan for them, and also adopt a perspective of resilience. Treat this as an adventure, rather than a "must-do," and be ready to let it change and evolve.
Dreaming and planning will help you be ready for the big change of retirement.
Liz Reyer is a credentialed coach with more than 20 years of business experience. Her company, Reyer Coaching & Consulting, offers services for organizations of all sizes.