Disrupted Career Pathways and the Working Retirement Trend – 10 Tips to Manage Transitions

Work arrangements and career pathways have not remained untouched as advances in technology have disrupted industries and daily life. Career paths are no longer linear or have an expiration date of 65+ years at retirement. Retirement itself is no longer a guaranteed life of rest and leisure or “declining economic contribution, as many have had to experience “working retirement”. Depending on your context, with longer lives in advanced economies, there has arisen a need for retirees to remain economically active for longer.

This has disrupted the patterns of life and active career planning and management is now clearly a lifelong commitment. Having a greater understanding and practice of the career management competency – “changing and growing throughout life”, is therefore important to focus on today.

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Working Retirement – What is it?

Longer careers and what others call a “working retirement” is a trend that is emerging as a result of the changes digital transformation is causing in the world of work. In the past, one spent almost their whole life in full time employment to one employer and career progression was linear until retirement. Once you were in senior leadership or had spent more time in an organisation, you had “earned the right” to relax a little bit in terms of career ambition. Learning and development was commensurate with the pace of changed responsibilities and there was no pressure for upskilling or reskilling at the pace of change we experience today. Furthermore, once someone retired, it was understood that they were no longer economically active and their life focus was to relax and focus on social roles. What is happening today, even though contextually different, is that people’s careers are longer and going beyond 65+ years, giving birth to the term “working retirement”.

Disrupted Career Pathways – Key issues

Jack X (not his real name) always visualized himself being in full-time employment and having enough time to prepare for retirement. Therefore finding himself “transitioned” from her role to join the unemployed in her mid-50s was a challenge for her. This was due to changing organizational models, new required skills due to much-needed digital transformation, the rise of “super jobs” that combined various skillsets and high competition for limited jobs. He had invested time in being established in his field, he had achieved high levels of responsibility and he thought his specialization would help him maintain his position. This was not the case. He is therefore grappling with a major life and career change has he has to build on what he has and also start something new.

Jane Y (not her real name) worked hard for a long 65 years, retired even though she still was economically active and found herself with continued family responsibilities, in addition to looking after herself. To manage, she has started two entrepreneurship projects, for consumption and survival. This is because in developing economies, with high youth demographics and unemployment, many parents like herself or siblings have had to continue carrying the family responsibility for longer. The reality is that opportunities for economic independence keep on shrinking for the younger generation. Furthermore, with declining public sector spending by most governments across the world, the burden of care has fallen on economically active individuals or individual social protection strategies. This has meant disengagement or a slow separation from formal work to a life of rest and leisure with family or time for community work is not possible. https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/at/Documents/human-capital/at-2018-deloitte-human-capital-trends.pdf

Both Jane and Jack have had their self-concept and sense of stability at this life stage destabilised. Donald Super, in his career development model (1953) points to how, self-concept, which is a collection of beliefs you have about yourself, how we want others to see us and how others see you, changes with each life stage and role as this is influenced by experience. https://careerprocanada.ca/applying-career-development-theory-2/

The disruptive changes to the linear path of lifelong career progression outlined by Donald Super have caused a huge strain on older workers…mainly Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) and Generation X (born 1965-1976).


Strain has been in terms of destabilized self-concept (beliefs linked to capacity, self-esteem and ability to manage situations), limited ability to cope with digital changes quickly, limited responsiveness to demands for reskilling or upskilling, ability to reinvent their careers and compete with younger and digitally savvy adaptable employees, age discrimination, managing inter-generational tensions and dealing with the realities of unending family responsibilities. How then are people expected to manage?

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Managing Career Transitions – Disrupted Career Pathways and the Working Retirement Trend

Nancy Schlossberg’s Transition Theory (1989) offers a useful framework to help internalize and manage these career and life transitions at specific moments. “Transition theory is the analysis of life changes and strategies to measure or control severity of the transitions. This theory states that life is characterized by an ongoing series of transitions (changes in roles, relationships or routines) that have varying degrees of impact on different individuals. Success is dependent on how well individuals are able to cope effectively with the change.” https://careerprocanada.ca/applying-career-development-theory-2/

There is a direct connection between life and career transitions. There are many that we all go through during a long career that are important to consider.

  • Life transitions – from birth to decline as proposed by Donald Super
  • Life traumatic events
  • Starting a new job
  • Promotion and growth
  • Role or job changes
  • Taking up an education commitment
  • Ceiling roles – disengagement and unfulfilled
  • Job loss – voluntary resignation or involuntary situation (fired, retrenchment, retirement)
  • Long-term unemployment
  • Forced retirement
  • Working retirement
  • Starting a business venture

The list is not exhaustive, and you can add a few of your own. Nancy proposed the 4-S model to describe the four parts to a transition:

  1. “Situation – a transition is triggered by a situation
  2. Self – the individual copes with transition using their strengths and experiences
  3. Supports – the people and resources available to help deal with transitions
  4. Strategy – a plan to get through and past the transition”


SOURCE: http://www.loveyourcareer.org/understand-yourself/32-career-counseling-tools/career-development-theories/26-career-development-theoriesS

You can use this 4-S model to reflect on a past or current transition, and make use of the following tips as well as part of managing them.

10 Tips for Managing Disrupted Career Pathways and the Working Retirement Trend
  1. Mindset shift. This is the new normal. Strengthen competencies linked to managing change, being adaptable and leading self/personal management.
  2. Declutter your Career Story and CV – streamline your expertise and new areas in line with trends.
  3. Identify core strengths – innate abilities; hard won technical expertise and soft skills to package and market yourself in new opportunities.
  4. Develop multiple career pathways – look for companies that are making an effort to tap into the older talent pool (50s, 60s and 70s) using adjusted career longevity models. https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/at/Documents/human-capital/at-2018-deloitte-human-capital-trends.pdf
  5. Practice lifelong learning – continuous upskilling as well as an investment in reskilling; keeping in touch with trends is key.
  6. Get structured career transition support – work with a professional Career Coach or Advisor.
  7. Strengthen and expand your network – both the social and professional one for support.
  8. Build your profile and brand to coalesce around a few areas – note the importance of online presence and engagement.
  9. Take advantage of new trends – the gig economy, flexi working, telecommuting, portfolio careers, increased focus on entrepreneurship etc
  10. Build resilience you are in for the long haul – so focus on wellness especially mental, emotional and physical health; manage stress and seek help.

In conclusion – technology, changing workplace arrangements and high unemployment has had a commensurate impact on career pathways, length of careers and a changed context of retirement. How you prepare for, equip yourself and manage those career transitions will be the difference maker in the long run.

Want to hear more! Join me on the weekly Thursday CAREER TRENDS and WELLNESS Webinar focused on the content in this blog. It is at 12PM-1PM GMT or 1PM-2PM Joburg time. Connect via Facebook Live using: http://www.facebook.com/EnnieCareerCoach/ 

Individuals: If you need support on how to utilise this career information for career transition management, career planning, job search, career progression or CV/resume review, whether currently employed or not, get in touch using the e-mail address provided. Also share and follow this work.

Ennie pictureWritten by: Ennie Chipembere Chikwema, Career Coach and Learning Expert

E-mail: ennielifecoach@servicesgalore.co.za

LinkedIn Profile: https://za.linkedin.com/in/ennie-chipembere-chikwema-81a30910a

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/EnnieLifeCoach/

Twitter: @EnnieChipembere

Date published:  18 July 2019


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