Retired executives can forge a purpose late in life through a second career. Those looking to stay active, keep learning, and share their knowledge may consider some of these second career paths:

  • Leadership coaching
  • Teaching
  • Writing a book
  • Serving on a Board
  • Volunteering

Aging executives are seasoned leaders with a lifetime of learning and experience under their belts. They understand many of the ins and outs of leadership, have tasted success, and know how to attain it. They have a lot to share with younger generations. Many have skills that can make a difference for others.

In many ways, it is a perverted turn of fate that they have to retire when they are at their professional best knowledge-wise.

Many aging CEOs are not ready to retire.

Taking a Step Back

Past a certain age and having achieved financial stability, one may consider taking a step back. The long hours and the constant pressure will take a toll on even the most capable and committed executive.

As I have pointed out in my leadership development books, retiring executives represent a brain drain they must somehow mitigate for organizations.

Comprehensive leadership development efforts on the level of the entire workforce are a potential solution. Some organizations go further and try to retain the services of retired executives to some degree.

Many executives may opt for a change of scenery and use their transferrable skills in settings they haven’t yet explored. Here are five possible career paths retired executives may consider:

1. Leadership Coaching

To plug up the brain drain that executive retirements can cause, retired leaders can pass on their knowledge to the younger generation. Whether they do it strictly for their organization or make a career out of it, leadership coaching is the best way for retired executives to make a difference and give back.

Coaching high potential employees in an organization or providing executive coaching services to young entrepreneurs can be equally rewarding.

Leadership coaching can help people and lend fresh purpose to the life of a retired CEO.

2. Teaching

Like leadership coaching, teaching carries many potential benefits for all parties involved. From the perspective of the retired executive, teaching can:

  • Provide a satisfying way to give back
  • Help stay young by connecting with fresh minds and helping budding careers
  • Help stay in the loop and up-to-date on what the new generation values
  • Create opportunities for rethinking and dusting off known concepts and perhaps discovering new meanings in them

3. Writing a Book

As the author of several executive coaching books, I am aware of the value and direction writing can provide to one’s life.

Writing a book is a great way to ensure that one’s experience and knowledge gain a palpable, durable form. Through a book, retired executives can transfer their knowledge to countless people worldwide, helping others on a larger scale than they could through in-person executive or business coaching.

Writing a book can be a noble and productive undertaking. 

Writing books gives one direction, a goal, and the flexibility to work as much as one deems suitable.

4. Serving on a Board

Nothing is more satisfying than using the skills one has built up over a lifetime to help a worthy cause. And serving on a board is a great way to share knowledge and make a difference where it matters.

Retired executives can use their networking skills to secure a seat on the board of a public or private company. They may want to opt for a nonprofit organization, however, if they feel connected to the cause it represents.

Retired leaders looking to serve on a board should understand why they want to do it and what they can give the organization.

5. Volunteering

There is no purer way to give back to your community, organization, or cause, than through volunteering.

Volunteering allows retired leaders to make a difference, help others, and create a purpose for themselves. One doesn’t have to be retired to volunteer, but retirement creates opportunities in this sense that may not exist otherwise.

Whether they have a desire to keep learning or are accustomed to making a difference, retired leaders can forge a purpose through a second career. Extra income won’t hurt post-retirement, as it can ward off the stress of financial uncertainty that can ruin a retirement.


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