Harness your expertise for a fulfilled unretirement

Agenda magazine Agenda magazine

If the prospect of a retirement spent swinging irons on the fairway or doting on the grandchildren fills you with existential alarm, then you are not alone.

‘Unretirement’ has joined the corporate lexicon among those c-suiters who, having left a full-time gig, still crave all the work-derived fulfilment and purpose of a career, whether through a non-exec role, becoming a mentor or even working as an unofficial adviser to a business.

Having spent nearly 30 years running a PR marketing digital business, unretirement is a topic that exercises the mind of Victoria Tomlinson. “People are retiring earlier and, if you retire at 50, you could spend longer in retirement than you did in working life. Playing golf: is that the dream? For many, that lacks purpose and people who have been at the top of an organisation, who have built up lots of experience, want something more meaningful to do,” says the CEO and founder of Next-Up, a platform for individuals moving on from conventional working life.

While Next-Up does some of the grunt work for its members, such as perfecting LinkedIn profiles and writing winning CVs, a key focus is to introduce people who can share experiences of life in unretirement via workshops and events. Here, Victoria gives her top five tips.

Understand grief and be kind to yourself

It sounds histrionic, but read up on the Kübler-Ross model - also known as the five stages of grief. Understand that giving up a career is a natural path and you may experience denial, anger and so on, before you get to acceptance. There’s nothing wrong with you; it’s what you can expect.


Create your personal brand

Many business leaders shy away from LinkedIn, believing there’s more to lose than gain. In unretirement, however, the picture is different. People underestimate the value of the corporate name that has been attached to them, so when they lose the corporate name, they are bereft of a brand and opportunities, and need to create a new identity. Creating a LinkedIn presence is a first, if prosaic, step.


Companies are seeking younger, more diverse board members, and many people reaching retirement might not fit the bill. However, the world is full of opportunities and, even if it means mentoring or starting projects for free, if you get it right you can develop a portfolio of work that calls upon far more skills than those used in the boardroom.

Have a clear plan

While many people say they’re exhausted and want to go cruising before exploring their next steps, this approach risks sucking the wind out of your sails. On your travels you’ll likely need a story about who you are and what you are going to do next, as lacking one will really knock your confidence. You want to be seen as current and relevant, so it’s best to have a clear idea before you take that much-needed break.

Ignore ageism

I don’t think ageism exists. But old-people-ism does exist. And that’s down to the individual. You have to remain energetic, to understand what is going on in tech, to explore new ideas and be solving problems. It’s hard work, but the conversations you have and the aura about you mean more than your age.

For more information about Next-Up's services, visit their website.

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