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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Looking forward to my “Fun Job”!

A couple of weeks ago now I had the wonderful fortune of running into Bill and Zamie Studt. They are a marvelous couple who introduced me to my dream “retirement job”; driving the Jelly Belly jellybean motor home. They drive all around the East Coast of the US to promotional events, handing out jellybeans and meeting remarkable people.

I say this is my retirement job only partially kidding. I would love the job, but I would eat so many jellybeans I might not fit in the RV! My sweet tooth inspired career plans reminded me that many Americans, like the Studts, find themselves working again after retirement.

They find themselves working again for many reasons: financial, wishing to make a difference, or out of boredom seem to be the most common. There are many benefits to working after retirement beyond the obvious financial gain, such as mental health, staying engaged in society, and keeping skills current. Many retirees find they can take a job purely out of interest or enjoyment, in a way they couldn’t when they were younger raising families.

Many businesses hire workers looking for a “retirement job” for a number of reasons: the worker has many directly and indirectly applicable skills, that don’t have to be taught compared to a younger worker, the retirement worker can often afford to take a lesser salary, especially if the job has some of the other rewards mentioned earlier. Working as a substitute teacher for example, allows a second career largely out of the elements, provides an opportunity to mentor a whole new generation, ensures an income, keeps weekends free, and supplies the local schools with subs when a teacher must be out. As long as the retirement worker is in reasonably good health, and is still mentally active, employers have very little downside.

So how do you find a “retirement job”? Many second careers start the way the first career started, through personal contacts, volunteering for causes and organizations you care about, sending out targeted resumes, and interviewing. The biggest difference for most retirees looking for their second career is they are often in the driver’s seat when it comes to what kinds of job they are willing to accept.

Most retirees have some outside income, even if that income will not completely support them or support them indefinitely; and for many they own their home. They also rarely have children they must support. The degree which each of these factors are true dictate just how picky the retiree jobseeker can be.

If you must keep a job for financial reasons, then planning early is even more important; however, the “cooler” or out of the ordinary a job you desire, will also mean more planning. Jobs abroad, jobs where spouses work together such as driving the Jelly Belly RV, and of course opening a business as a “retirement job” all require more planning. So talking to your financial planner and your family is a good idea before making any decisions, especially if the decision involves running a bed and breakfast in Costa Rica!

However, if done with careful forethought, a second career can be rewarding on many different levels and in ways that may have escaped you in your first career. I wish you luck, but in ten or twenty years, the Jelly Belly gig is mine!

Mark Altman is a speaker and leadership consultant with the Altman Leadership Center. He is an international speaker with two books and a DVD that can be purchased on He can be reached at

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I met Ryan Schoenbeck, my partner in an upcoming leadership event, for coffee the other day to catch up after his trip to Florida. He recounted to me his flight home, on which there were three people in the row behind him, speaking in a vile and negative manner. Of course as he was at 40,000 feet in a 400 mile-per-hour pressurized can, his options to find different company was severely limited. As they continued, he realized their negativity was souring his mood.

After several minutes of trying to ignore this unwelcome exchange, he put on a pair of headphones to soothe his by now sour mood. As he listened to some music, he had an epiphany. How does our mood, the image we project to others, and ultimately the way we interact with those around us affect and effect others?

When a person sneezes, their germs can travel 12 to 15 feet. I find it interesting that this is roughly the distance the normal speaking voice is heard. In our society, it is considered polite to cover our mouth when we sneeze or cough. Of course, this custom developed to prevent the spread of disease.

If a person were to sneeze in public without covering their mouth, everyone around them would at least provide a disapproving look, and someone might even have a few choice words for the offender. I find it both interesting and sad that we rarely take the same care with our emotional health. We insist that others take care not to pass their sickness to us and our families, but we don’t take the same care with our emotional health.

While we might encourage a person to prevent disease by covering their mouth when they sneeze, with a look or even verbally correcting them, we are very unlikely to change their attitude for the better using the same tactic. So how do we inoculate ourselves against unhappiness and a sour outlook?

The first, most obvious way is to look after our own attitude. Are we passing along kind words, positive thoughts, tenderness, beauty, the capacity to dream, strength, a smile? We have plenty to help us, art, literature, music, inspirational and uplifting movies, and the stories of those empowering people that live all around us. My personal favorite are quotes from those who express such an outlook.

We can’t force others to behave in a healthy way, but as we monitor our own behavior, we can choose to associate with those who try to live and express themselves in a loving and positive manner. For those relationships we have that are neither positive nor uplifting, we can choose to be loving and supportive that they may also become healthy.

I wish to leave you this week with the following quote from psychologist and philosopher William James, “The greatest discovery in our generation is that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds can change the outer aspects of their lives.” May all of your lives become what you dream them to be, but if that is not to be, be able to say your life fueled and supported the dream of another.

Mark Altman is a speaker and leadership consultant with the Altman Leadership Center. He is an international speaker with two books and a DVD that can be purchased on He can be reached at

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Living with Loss

Like many of you, I have had to deal with loss of various kinds; jobs, loves, money, and now my most profound loss, that of my father. Before he was diagnosed with cancer, he knew he had the disease, before begin given the news it was terminal, he braced my mother and I for the reality he knew was coming. From the day he was given the formal diagnosis, he lived exactly 30 days.

There are people we run into in our lives that we intellectually know will one day pass away, emotionally you just can’t process the thought of them not being there. My Dad was one of those people. Stoic in hardship and inexorable in his ethos, but a lover of sweets and laughter; tough and rarely bending as a father, he was a natural grandfather. His loss has been difficult for all who knew him.

It is from this frame of mind that I offer the following to help you get through the grief in your life in a healthy, even positive, manner. In the first few days, as your grief is raw, try to get through day-by-day or even hour by hour if you have to. If you can’t sleep well, at least get plenty of rest. Keep your regular schedule as much as possible.

Eating with an eye to good nutrition as well as drinking plenty of water will give you energy and provide your body with the nutrients to stay physically healthy as you heal emotionally. Try to exercise, even if you are just walking, as the exercise will help relieve stress. Try to contact a support group that speaks to your loss and allow the loving people in your life to help you.

After the first few days, you may wish to help with the planning of the funeral or memorial service. If the service was pre-planned, then you can create a roadside memorial or plant a tree/flowers in memory of your loved one. However, make sure you check with local authorities or the landowner before you trespass.

In my Dad’s case, we set up a scholarship fund to send Boy Scouts who can’t afford it, to scout summer camp; however, donating to any cause important to the deceased in their name is appropriate. Along these same lines, performing acts of kindness to people you wouldn’t have usually in the memory of your loved one is a private way to honor their memory. Make sure you thank any medical or emergency personnel who cared for your loved one; they would likely have done so if they were able and even if they wouldn’t have, it will make you feel better.

These last few items really will increase your resilience, so try to do a few of them: volunteer your expertise or services to someone less fortunate, take a CPR or first aid class as it has the potential to help someone in the future. Last, make sure you tell your loved ones how much you love them and what they mean to you.

Life is finite and far too short, so most of us will experience the pain of losing someone important. It is my hope you will use these tips to be proactive and increase your resilience, then to heal when needed so you may more quickly get past the pain and only have left the special memories of your loved one.

Mark Altman is a speaker and leadership consultant with the Altman Leadership Center. He is an international speaker with two books and a DVD that can be purchased on He can be reached at