Sharon Sullivan of Sparta, New Jersey, spent 30 years as an ICU nurse before leaving the bedside and segueing into a career as a nurse consultant. At 68, she decided to "retire for real this time," and then a local college contacted her about teaching a class. "I thought, I can do this," recalls Sullivan, and before she knew it, 10 years and several classes had gone by.
The desire to return to work post-retirement is quite common—whether driven by the desire for busy days and a sense of purpose, or just that regular paycheck—and as of 2020, some 10.6 million people age 65 and older were still in the workforce, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics.
Of course, that landscape has changed somewhat since the onset of the pandemic: With so many industries—including healthcare and higher education—grappling with labor shortages and large numbers of people leaving or changing jobs, retirees wanting to dip their toes back into the workforce are now in considerably higher demand. Before diving in, ask yourself some key questions.
What kind of work do you want?
Returning to work doesn't have to mean going back to your old job. Think about how you'd like to fill your days. "I always made sure I could set my own hours and call the shots," Sullivan said of her post-retirement gigs. Deciding on the level of commitment you want is an important first step, says Rob Stevens, a Financial Planning Strategist at TIAA. "The salary and benefits might be nice, but you may have reached a point where you just don't want the stress, especially if it's a job you have to commute to," he says.
Consider how the skills you've honed over the years can translate to a new opportunity. Retired medical professionals, for instance, often find themselves transitioning to teaching roles, sharing their knowledge with the younger generation in their field. Other flexible opportunities include freelance healthcare writing—for trade or consumer publications or pharmaceutical companies, for instance—or (for less of a pivot), temp, part-time or travel healthcare positions. Educators often go on to work as adjunct professors at a college or university, find part-time positions at local cultural institutions or join the corporate world in training or consulting positions, just to name a few.