Walking Guide

Empty Nesters Find Purpose and Motivation

What will you do with your time once your children leave the nest? You may not have thought about it, but a new career path could be your best option. The years of parenting are spent focusing on other people’s needs, often with little time for self-reflection. Career exploration is a wonderful opportunity for self-discovery and personal growth. It is a time to reinvest in you and learn about the resources available to you.

Here are a few exercises to get you thinking about what you have to offer and ways you can expand your options.

Career Interests
Over time you have developed opinions as to what you are "good at." These personal opinions are relevant but rarely do we give ourselves enough credit. It is time you think outside the box. Think about the activities and job categories that interest you, regardless of whether or not you currently have the skills, or even have experience in those areas. Write down your responses to the following questions:

Action Steps:
  1. If you could do ANYTHING, what would you do?
  2. What are the characteristics of your ideal job? Examples - working with children, being outdoors, independence, etc.
Skills Inventory
It is helpful to take inventory of the skills you have that will be useful across a variety of work settings. Think about all the invaluable experience you have accumulated – parenting is itself a highly-skilled "career."
Personal traits – attitudes and characteristics such as empathy, diplomacy and ability to delegate.
Knowledge-based – technical knowledge or job-specific information that you have acquired through paid and non-paid experiences, such as bookkeeping, child development and scheduling.
Transferable skills – skills that you’ve acquired through experience, such as planning, organizing and writing.

Action Steps:
  1. List 7 achievements you have experienced in the past few years in the context of parenting, work, volunteering, hobbies, coursework, travel, or special projects. For each achievement, list the skills, abilities and personal traits that were most important in making each of the experiences meaningful for you.
  2. Once you have completed this list, look for patterns in terms of skills, settings, or types of people involved.
Networking It is always important to build and maintain your social networks, especially when you are contemplating a career change. Your existing social networks can be invaluable in helping you during this process. Do you have friends, family or acquaintances who have been through similar transitions, or who might know about the fields you are considering? Perhaps they know someone who does. 

Action Steps:
  1. Nurture your existing network. Schedule a get-together with one friend or acquaintance per week. It’s a great way to keep in touch and it will give you a chance to talk about what you are working on and learn about other people’s experiences.
  2. Expand your social networks. Look into local networking and volunteer opportunities, as well as membership in professional organizations related to your fields of interest. Join online networking communities, such as Ryze.com and Company of Friends, which offer free membership, special interest groups and real-life monthly meetings.
By taking inventory of your many existing resources and building new ones, you will be better prepared for any career path you choose. Now that you have time to focus on yourself, you have a great opportunity for self-discovery. Enjoy the journey!
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Member Comments

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I am retired and loving it! I worked for the Board of Education for 40 years. I feel that I have paid my dues. Report
Retired from a highly stressful job that took everything out of me. Both in-laws took ill and we cared for them. Moved to another state and volunteered for awhile until I figured out exactly what I wanted to do. Turns out long-distance hiking settles my soul! Hiked 700 miles on the Appalachian Trail last year and will finish the trail in the next couple of years. Both body and soul are happy and content. Report
I took these steps when I was in my late 40's. I finished my bachelor's degree, then got an MBA. Had a great job in management until our location was closed. Was never able to find any job other than low paying jobs paying barely more than minimum wage. Ageism is rampant and blatant. After 4 years I have finally accepted that this is probably where I will be until I retire. However, I now am focusing on what I want without any regard to how others will perceive of me. I'm growing out my grey hair and loving it! I don't care what other people think of it! I'm reading a lot without worrying that people will think I'm a nerd. I wear comfy clothes instead of tailored. I'm still figuring out who I am versus what others think I am. It is a different type of freedom. I still miss the money I used to make plus the challenges of the job but I'm learning that is not everything. Report
BORNTORUN62
Just reaching this stage now. Not an easy transition! Report
Volunteer. Many people and organizations need your skills. Do something for someone else. Travel. Read. Garden. Help with your grandchildren. Returement is wonderful. Report
My husband and I are in our early 70s but still are responsible for the well-being of several elderly relatives. In both our families we tend to live to our late 90s and beyond. Our elders sacrificed to nurture us, so we don't have too many disagreements as to our need to look after them. (Sure hope our own kids feel that way.) Report
Retired. Had plans, but life ... gave me a grandchild to raise. I am the oldest "parent" at the school. Report
I am looking forward to the empty nest when we do not have pets in the house any more. I had just felt like I had the last of the dog and cat hair ferreted out of all the corners when Dearly Beloved started jonesing for cats. Swine Cat gets into everything and is a general pest. Report
We had elderly parents in our home 23 years, my Dad 12+ years, Pop's Dad 1 year, and Pop's Mom, we helped care for her 11 years. While I cared for my Dad I did childcare in our home, 3 and 4 babies or preschoolers, hours were 7:30 to 7:30, 12 hours a day, 5 days a week. After my Dad went to our heavenly home, Papaw came down with lung cancer and both parents moved into our home. When Papaw went to our heavenly home, we began to travel, but when we were home, we cared for Mamaw 11 years. To fill my spare time during the following years, I picked up writing through blogging, and art with acrylics, oils and watercolors. And I love spending time with our grand and great grandchildren. Report
TOMATOCAFEGAL
retired. had plans...they fell through. stay busy volunteering, reading, and exercising, rearranging. Report
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I am retiring in less than 5 months. I have no children but I am planning to volunteer for charities I don't have time for when working full time. Report
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Walking Guide

About The Author

Mary Guarino, Ph.D.
Mary Guarino, Ph.D.
Mary Guarino is a life coach who helps people evaluate and improve their lives and relationships. She holds a doctorate in lifespan developmental psychology and a coaching certificate from the Institute for Life Coaching.