How This Career-Focused Woman Found Purpose in Retirement

How This Career-Focused Woman Found Purpose in Retirement

She is a trailblazer figuratively and literally.  Fully engaged in her career and one of few women at the senior level of her industry, she made a choice that unknowingly changed her way of life.  How did she manage to switch from an intense, but fulfilling career to a relaxed and rewarding retirement?


Janet 3.0

Janet is an engineering classmate of mine.  Intelligent, driven, and, as with many women engineers of our vintage, a trailblazer in her career.  She loved her work, and as she rose through the ranks to the executive level, her career became all-consuming.  She didn’t mind.  When she declined an offer to move, her first career, Janet 1.0, ended at age 50.

Version 2 of Janet emerged six months later. She took the time to reflect, sought out the help of a career councilor, and despite several opportunities for more full-time work, decided she wanted to do something different and on her own terms.   Consulting, a dog and the beginnings of her volunteer contribution ensued.

“Don’t leap in too quickly.  Take the time to reflect about your interests and goals.”


Her new-found freedom and flexibility gave her opportunities to build new tribes.  She sought out volunteer organizations that aligned with her interests and offered to help.  All she knew is that she wanted to do something for the environment.  One opportunity, led to another and soon, Janet had a whole new network of interesting, engaged people.  “I went from a tribe of geeky male engineers to a tribe of geeky citizen naturalists” she says with a chuckle.

“You can’t sit at home and wait for an opportunity to come to you.  You have to make yourself available to the possible.”


Enter Janet 3.0.  Over time she was invited, nominated, and/or recommended to fill various volunteer roles, usually in a leadership capacity. “I have created almost full-time work for myself, just not paid.”  As she gained experience in the volunteer world, her purpose crystallized.  Janet’s mission is to protect and improve the green-space around Ottawa. She applies her skills, sometimes her own finances, engages her network and remains open to new opportunities to fulfill her purpose … with success!  “It’s very rewarding.”

“I hate the word retirement.  I see it as version 3 –  another life phase of action.”


Navigating the Volunteer World

Janet offers good advice when it comes to getting involved as a volunteer.  “The best place to start is with a group in an area that you are interested in”.  Offer to help. It could be as simple as manning a desk or clearing a trail. Even better, if you have skills the organization needs.  Janet could offer project management and leadership experience.  Try out the organization and give it some time. If its not quite right, try another one.  Diversify. “Have 2 or 3 irons in the fire.”

“First you are an outsider, and then you are gradually accepted into a new network of people. The more people you meet, the more useful, knowledgeable, and effective you become.”


Volunteer organizations are different than work, Janet reminds us. There is no hierarchy, no boss.  People are there by choice and interest and have different skills and opinions.  It requires a different way to draw upon people’s skills and passions than in the workplace. Volunteer leadership is more like people coordination. “I ended up in leadership positions in almost everything. That’s just me.”


Get to Know Your Councillor

If you’d like to get involved with your community, it will likely have a community association and that is a key link to your municipal Councillor. A volunteer project is likely to have better success with the support of your Councillor. A Councillor can open doors to more tribes too.

“Having your Councillor know who you are and know that you are a contributor to the community is helpful.  They can recommend you or nominate you for various organizations.”


Be Open

Janet’s retirement (even though she hates that term) is more than she imagined.  Her involvement with various stewardship and community organizations brought new opportunities, expanded her social circles and helped forge a new purpose. She didn’t plan to be chair of this organization or citizen rep of that, but she was open to the opportunities. She’s making a difference.

“You have to put yourself out there, be open and flexible and seize opportunities as they present themselves.”


Words of Wisdom

Have kind of an idea of where you want to go or be, in the sense of being.  What is your goal?  Then, open yourself up to a whole bunch of possibilities by putting yourself out there.  Everybody chooses a different way.”

Care to share?

One Reply to “How This Career-Focused Woman Found Purpose in Retirement”

Leave a Reply