How to Choose a Career to Happily Retire From


Sixteen years ago I officially retired from active employment. I was 49 yrs old then. No, I was not suffering from burnout but from office politics. When driving to work each day was becoming a torment, I knew I had to get out while I still had my boots on.

That was the most productive, exciting and fulfilling 18 years of my life. My last job was so much a part of me, or I, a part of it that even now, most of my dreams are still of the things, places, and people that comprised my career.

I never regretted leaving, yet, because of its being so fulfilling and meaningful, I still pine for it. Accidentally meeting the people I worked with for so long gives me total, albeit momentary, happiness.

I got into the job because I had to support a family. Transforming it into a career was a case of serendipity.

How I started was the same way we all start – through employment or something right after graduation. How we retire years later can be any of two ways – happy and fulfilled or frustrated and beaten.

Either way does not happen overnight, but their seeds are, more or less, sowed at the outset of our jobs. Building a career takes a working lifetime and how it ends, at retirement, is dependent on the choices we make along the way.

When I joined that company I was already determined to succeed. In a sense, I already planted the seeds of success. Luckily, the soil I planted them in allowed them to grow to full maturity and bear fruits.

My case is not unique or rare. In fact, according to a survey done by the Arizona State University Career Center, roughly 75% of the overall workforce is satisfied with their career choices.

How about the rest? I am sure they want to succeed as well; to retire from their careers happy. What about you? You are just starting and are probably retirement is so foreign to you that you couldn’t care less.

If that is your career game plan, then you are heading into the possibility of working all your life in a career that you despise.

Time flies so fast that it is often unnoticed, Very soon you will be middle-aged, your choices will be fewer, and your window of opportunity, narrower. If you are not going to build your nest egg now, you will never be able to do it at 40 and your retiring happy at 60 will be as good as impossible.

The question is “How?”

You can devise your own formula or you can get some ideas from the following. They are not easy. But so is making a career you can retire happy from

1. Keep your options open:

The current business climate and the application of technology has given the job market a radical face lift. Redundancies are becoming common, the pink slip is no longer intimidating; and job lines are becoming longer.

On the other side of the coin, it also spurred the creation of career opportunities not available when I got out of college. Now, work can be done at home, In fact, some companies encourage certain types of office jobs be done at home. Work, as it is defined, is now either offline or online.

More and more people are getting into home-based business with nothing but a computer and an Internet connection and lots and lots of imagination, initiative and drive.

These developments give you a wide choice to build your career on. Keep an open mind and look around. Don’t get married to your job. Divorces are always nasty and costly.

Besides, loyalty is a thing of the past, even in corporate Japan. But if you have to move out, do it with caution and for purely career development reasons. Don’t wait until you get tired of your job or are retired due to re-engineering or outsourcing.

2. Experiment:

In most cases, job burnout is not due to work overload but to boredom.

To avoid this, put variety in your work life. Volunteer for cross-training or cross posting in lateral positions within the organization. Get yourself involved in projects or product launchings. These will not only keep you away from being stressed out but will add to your knowledge portfolio.

Should these be impossible within the organization look outside for opportunities that best match your character traits, your knowledge and skills.

Reach down into our core values and dust off your signature talent – that talent you were born with, and see if there are opportunities that can make use of it. Take an inventory of the things you are passionate about and see if you can build a career from them

Go back to your childhood and recall the hobbies you liked to do. Polish them up and market them. Hobbyists will never become extinct.

Keep moving and keep experimenting. After all, career satisfaction is often defined as “the level of overall happiness experienced through one’s choice of occupation.”

It does not say that you have to be a doctor, an engineer or a business man to find career satisfaction.

3. Keep career satisfaction, not compensation, in mind

Though every move you make, every experiment you do with your career must carry with it an upward movement of your income, let not compensation define your idea of career satisfaction.

Studies show that after reaching a certain income level, pay ceases to be a factor in career satisfaction. People who reach that income threshold, $75,000.00 in the U.S., will soon start looking for something to give meaning to their careers.

Rather than be so obsessed with compensation seek a career that provides:

– Freedom of action:

The career I was so fulfilled with provided a very clear definition of my area of responsibility and concern. Within that area, I was the King. Management was only interested in my bottom line results, not on how I did it, when I did it, what methods I used to achieve it..

I had the freedom to revise, edit, write procedures provided these are within what is considered, best practices of the corporation.

I can go out to attend to important personal things, without anybody was watching of my time or over my shoulders.

That is freedom of action.

– The opportunity to grow

Some companies have very dynamic career development programs while others have practically none.

Search those which provide an opportunity for you to grow, improve your skills and talents that you enjoy using and intertwine with your identity.

This is developing an expertise or mastery..

– An opportunity to leave a legacy:

We all want to create something for people to remember us by. A career that allows you to do this will always leave smile on your lips, knowing that you have contributed to making things a little bit better.

These need not be monumental accomplishments (though there is nothing wrong if they are). A simple tool design to increase the efficiency of an operation, a procedure to improve the process, a training program to improve people’s attitudes, or to motivate people to grow, etc..

It’s been 16 years since I last walked the production area of the company I retired from. I can still hear the sounds of the equipment, the mixture of smells from the compressed air, direct and maintenance materials, and the banter of operators. I can still remember the flow of encapsulants and the monotonous rhythm of the automated equipments.

They will always be with me; they are parts of my career which I would like to ponder upon every now and then for they give me much pleasure and satisfaction.

Joseph Dabon

I am a retired engineer who has taken up writing to share with the world my experience in personal improvement during my long years in the corporate world.