Coaching into Retirement

Question MarkHere’s a question I received from a fellow coach. I hope you find it, and my reply, useful.

I have been a coach for about twenty years, long before coaching became popular. I had been a manager who was introduced to coaching and then set about undertaking courses before finally became a self-employed executive coach. I am 60 and my pension starts in three months time. Whilst I want to continue coaching for a couple of days a week I am now seeking new pastures. I wonder if it is possible for someone like me to find the right kind of work/life balance that will allow me to add value yet only do this on a couple of days a week. Am I being indulgent? The financial side of retirement and need to earn money is not an issue so this may seem a simple question where the answer is yes. However, for some reason I am questioning myself which may seem strange. 

Here’s my reply:

You have reached an age where the work you have put in and the monies saved are coming back to look after you. It sounds as if you have managed to avoid the disappointment that so many people are feeling at this time in relation to challenges with their pensions. Given this you are in the best of positions. Sixty is still young; sixty year olds today are probably more like the forty year olds of yesterday, full of energy, life and able to continue to experience the love of learning.

Without the financial pressures that most of us have to consider, you can truly begin to think about what adds value to your life. You may decide that you still love being a coach but maybe now you can think more carefully about which type of clients you want to work with. I imagine, as you have been coaching for twenty years, you will have good networks and this will allow you to pick and choose the individuals you wish to coach. Having said that maybe you have spent your time in the corporate culture and now that monies are not an issue may want to branch out and think about coaching clients from different sectors. For example, young people, those with specific developmental issues or with particular challenges. If this is the case, then you will need to research your market – who would these clients be, where they are and what can you offer and how. If you chose a different client group you may need to adjust your terminology and way of presenting to gain the credibility you would like to have to meet the needs of such a group.

When I read your question, it made me wonder whether your concern is not so much about the practicalities but about changing your status from a full-time coach where you are established, to having more time on your hands and wanting to find the meaning and purpose that comes when we all reach one of the milestones of life. Retirement is considered one of those milestones.

You have worked for many years and for the past twenty as a coach. Now you are entering a new stage in your life cycle. Regardless of how intelligent, able or personally aware, you are facing what we all face at some point and that is re-assessing who we are and what meaning and purpose means at a given time in our life. Your last sentence “this may seem strange” is what made me wonder whether this is not so much about the practical aspects of retirement but more about your transition to a different sense of who you are and what you offer.

All helpers, whether coaches, counsellors or psychologists often find it hard to accept that we are only fallible human beings. It is sometimes difficult to recognize that we may need the help of others when we have spent our professional lives being the helper in whatever context. It seems to me that retirement has two areas to consider. The first is financial and you seem to have sorted that one. The second focuses on the question of “who am I now?”, “what do I want to do?” and “what will give me meaning and purpose?” If the second area is the case then this could be the time for you to seek coaching for yourself. Coaching that will focus on helping you identify where you add value and whether you want to continue doing the same type of coaching or branch out. For example, your skills could be invaluable to young entrepreneurs from the organizations such as the Princes Trust. Someone like you could add great value to those starting out. I get the feeling that finding a direction and feeling valued is what is important. At the end of the day all human beings, at whatever life stage they are at, need direction and a sense of meaning and purpose.

Even if you are only coaching part time, you will still need to continue with your Continued Professional Development to ensure you keep fresh and up-to-date. However, maybe you can now think about different types of CPD depending on those types of individuals you decide to work with.

I wish you well as, providing you stand back and consider where your offering can add value, to whom and more importantly how it will give you a sense of satisfaction, you can truly enjoy the life ahead of you. Not only that but you can continue to add value to all those you work with.