Like many kids, my 11 year-old’s career aspirations seem to change direction like the wind. For a while she has wanted to be a police officer.
Then she learned how to roller skate and I told her about carhops. As a 4th grader, she thought making a living by delivering food on roller skates was the greatest thing ever. She did her career day speech that year about wanting to become a car hop.
More recently our daughter decided she wanted to be a TikTok or YouTube star. We talked about the steep upward climb to obtain influencer status, so is considering becoming a news anchor instead.
Sitting at dinner the other night, my daughter declared she had found yet another profession to pursue. I responded by asking her how she expected to fit all of this in during the course of her lifetime.
The Days Are Long, But The Years Are Short
Having a child, I’ve come to realise the days are long but ultimately, the years are short. And many of the clients I work with forget this as well.
Countless clients tell me they spend their days doing mundane tasks. They feel they’re on a hamster wheel accomplishing very little. This is not surprising. For many of us our days are taken up with tasks that don’t really move the needle.
Many clients tell me they cannot believe they are still working in the same job. They say things like, “I figured by 40, I would be doing X,Y,Z. But I’m 42, or 45 or 50 and haven’t gotten anywhere close.” They reaffirm the years are short and pass by quickly if you don’t pay attention.
The Eulogy Exercise
MBA programs, Leadership courses and Business Schools love having their students do the Eulogy Exercise.
The idea behind it is that we all live two lives. The first life is the life we live before we realise the life we want to live. Once you understand what you really want, you make changes and live your second life.
What would you want someone to say to honour you when you pass away?
A eulogy is not typically a biography or a resume or list of accomplishments. It’s more an overview of who you were as a person and how you lived your life.
What does work have to do with our eulogy? If you live to be 80, you spend 26 years sleeping and 13.5+ years at work. You also spend 11 years looking at screens for non-work related reasons.
The Retirement Resume Exercise
Instead of doing the Eulogy Exercise with new clients, I have them write their Retirement Resume.
This gives them the opportunity to think about what they want from their work and career, but also other aspirations, such as travel. Or big goals such as starting their own business.
Sometimes this is a real challenge for people, particularly for young people.
Clients in their 30s and 40s often enjoy this exercise. It gives them quite a bit to think about.
If writing your retirement resume seems like too big of a task then pre-write your resume for five or ten years from now.
How do you write your Retirement Resume?
List the job title(s) you want to hold.
Bullet point the responsibilities you have in those positions as well as your achievements and accomplishments.
Use Your Retirement Resume to Plan Your Career Trajectory
Now that you know the job (or jobs) you’ll hold over the next 5, 10, 20 years, what do you need to do to get there?
Do you need a degree? Or a certification? If that is the case, when are you going to get it?
Figure out what steps you need to take in order to get the qualifications for that future position. Whether it is experience, education, or something else, if you list the boxes you need to tick, you can work towards accomplishing those important milestones.
Enlist a Support Group
I used to be a professor. At one point I was supervising 6 PhD students.
Even though they were all at different points in their studies, I organised weekly meetings with the entire group. At first glance, you might think this didn’t make sense because the third years were doing final revisions on their dissertations and the first years were trying to find their feet.
But it worked out perfectly because they learned from one another. The new PhD students would ask the 3rd years about classes they should take and advice on how to handle tough situations.
When the final year PhD students were applying for jobs and practising their presentations and doing mock interviews with me, the younger students were observers and gave feedback.
The best thing about this arrangement was these 6 PhD students formed a support group for one another. They served as a resource to each other while they were still studying. But after graduation, the kept in touch and held each other accountable. Almost a decade later, they still bounce ideas off one another.
And they remind each another about their retirement resumes. Years later they have referred back to this.
One of them recently spoken to another and asked her if she had ever written her book. She hadn’t.
But that question struck a nerve. Not long after they spoke, she contacted the group to let them know she’s working with an editor and looking to publish in late 2022.
Get a group of friends or colleagues together to write your retirement resumes. Share them with one another. Become a sounding board, but also an accountability system for one another.
Focus on Deep Work
Pre-writing your resume also encourages you to invest in deep work. Deep Work is a book by author Cal Newport.
We live in a chaotic world with lots of distractions. As a result, most of us spent our time doing surface level tasks, like e-mailing, that don’t make much of an impact. Instead, we need to become focused on accomplishing what Newport calls deep work.
After my clients write their retirement resumes, they frequently revise their habits. They focus more on tasks with a higher ROI that can help them accomplish the goals, positions, and career advancement they want.
Be sure to check out next week’s episode to about job hopping and job expiration dates.
For more information on Deep Work by Cal Newport, visit: https://www.calnewport.com/books/deep-work/