PROFILE: IF YOU LOVE WHAT YOU DO AND CAN CONTINUE IT ON YOUR OWN TERMS…HOW WONDERFUL TO CONTINUE MAKING A DIFFERENCE
How many people can say that they started a new late-life career at age 63—not many. And yet, that’s Rachel’s story. “Not only that,” she admits with a smile: “these years have been the most satisfying of my professional life”. At a time when most people are playing bridge, golf and going to lectures, she is productive, making a difference in people’s lives and is incredibly fulfilled—with control over her time as well. It’s just a very compelling story, I think.
Rachel has a broad based background in education and social work. At the same time, she wasn’t afraid to try new things, broadening out to educational policy research and college admissions. She was very happy in all those endeavors and would have continued…and then her husband decided that they were moving out of state. Not only did she have to pack boxes…she had to pack up her career and start again at age 60! Having spent a year in her new home in Florida doing nothing productive and feeling “totally out of it with no purpose”, she knew that action was required!
Based on her educational background, as well as college admissions work, she targeted college counselling as an ideal career. Networking saved the day and she identified a woman in another city who wanted to expand her practice to the area where Rachel lived—and was willing to train her to set up this new office. And so a new career was born. Most importantly, she was very good at it, developing an excellent practice and following. So, after three years working for the other person’s company, she set up her own practice. With word of mouth and referrals, she was a sought- after consultant with a thriving practice, typically counseling upwards of 20 high schoolers during a school year. At the same time, as a recognized practitioner, she was a leader in industry trade associations. And don’t forget—she started doing all this at age 60 and started her own business at age 63!
Ok…I’m not going to divulge her age. But suffice it to say that she’s been at this for a while and is one of her only friends who is still working. Admittedly, Rachel has slowed down. The good news about her career is that she controls the spigot and can dial it up or dial it down. In addition, while she’s still very involved with trade associations, she is slowly relinquishing some of those responsibilities as well. Having been in the field for so many years, she’s been able to minimize the travel demands of visiting colleges. The important fact is that SHE IS STILL AT IT.
Rachel is so gratified to be “truly helping people” and ecstatic that she has control over her life and career. To her, “it would be frightening to get to a point in her life where she is not productive.” In fact, she’s busy thinking about ways to stay involved if she were to give up her practice of taking on students and families as clients. She talks about going to the local library and counseling kids there or running a Q&A program for high school students. Alternatively, she’s talking about writing as well. Bottom line, to Rachel, a life or bridge and golf might be fine “for others….but not for me. I need to be productive and to use my skills to make someone else’s life better. My social conscience is just very strong.” And when I ask her how she keeps it going and does she have any regrets. “I’m just not ready to give it up,” she responds, and concludes “What threatens and frightens me is….DOING NOTHING.” And that about sums up this productive, fulfilled woman with a very strong social conscience.