Volunteering in Retirement

by Jennifer Landis-Santos, Career & Life Transition Coach

Transitioning from full-time work to retirement can be challenging for many reasons. Most of us are impacted by one or more of the following hurdles:

  • Some people put it off because it is scary to leave a stable income behind.
  • Others procrastinate on taking the leap because they are not sure who they would be if they aren’t working; we relish our professional identity and the sense of security that being affiliated with an organization offers.
  • Others feel unsure about what to do with so much time, little structure, and not seeing their work friends/colleagues regularly.

After taking the steps to transition into retirement, many people find volunteering as a rewarding and meaningful way to spend their time and energy. Volunteering can help provide structure, community, and a sense of purpose to people navigating life after full-time work. Research has shown it makes people happier, increases social, emotional, cognitive, and physical wellbeing, and helps bridge the generational gap in our society.

Some of the many benefits of volunteering in retirement include:

  • Emotional health – reduces isolation
  • Physical health – keeps you more active
  • Brain fitness – constructive ways to spend your time promotes cognitive functioning
  • Improves overall quality of life – increases life satisfaction
  • Helps bridge a generational gap in our society

There are a number of different types of volunteer experiences. Consider which of these you enjoy the most:

  1. Hands-on work – keeps you moving
    • Food banks, community gardens, sports teams, healthcare or hospice centers, animal shelters, libraries, collecting and distributing clothing, environmental clean-ups, physical labor at parks, etc. Also part-time work in retail
  2. Administrative / Organizational duties
    • Charity events, board service, SCORE, house of worship events, advocacy/activism, securing donations
  3. Technology and other professional service skills
    • Technology, financial, marketing professionals can be of service to local service organizations by website maintenance, newsletter development, grant writing, tax assistance, always in demand
  4. People-oriented
    • Teaching, mentoring, tutoring, making calls
  5. Entertainment or events
    • Museums, gala events, theater clubs, etc.

How to find a good fit for your next volunteer possibility:

  1. Think realistically about what you can offer:
    • How many days per week / per month – how to build structure into your life. Organizations will appreciate regular volunteers they can depend on unless you choose opportunities that are more event-oriented, short-term, or “worker bee”
    • How much responsibility and commitment level can you offer?
    • Don’t be afraid to say “No”
  2. Reflect on what you are drawn to:
    • Where does your mind tend to wander?
    • What was the secret fantasy job you thought of? Do you want to try something different?
    • What magazines, shows, websites do you visit? Might there be a connection there for volunteer opportunities?
  3. Which skills/experiences do you want to share with others?

As you evaluate potential volunteer options, assess, and ask questions about:

  • The organization – beyond the mission, goals, and staff, is there an established volunteer program for onboarding and connection? How is the organization overall managed? What is the culture of the organization?
  • Expectations – be specific about the who, what, when, where, how, and why of what you will be doing. Avoid ill-defined job descriptions, making sure you are sufficiently prepared and clear on what is expected of you and vice versa
  • Communication – when you have questions, who is your go-to person? How accessible is that staff person? Is there another volunteer that can help orient and navigate you in the process? Where are your allies in the organization?

How to present yourself during an interview:

  • Do your homework on the organization and the volunteer position – speak specifically to how your skills and interest align with the opportunity
  • Present previous experience
  • Share genuine reasons for wanting to be a part of the organization
  • Ask questions – be an active part of the conversation – show involvement and curiosity
  • Positivity – “I am ready to…”, “I am highly motivated…” “I am highly interested…”, “I really want to make an impact…”

Suggestions to look for your volunteer opportunity:

Volunteering is an opportunity to bring your knowledge, perspective, and experience forward on your terms, connect with others, and kindle a sense of purpose in a chapter of life that allows more flexibility and creativity.

Should you have any questions about volunteering in retirement, please contact your advisor to facilitate a conversation with Jennifer. If you are not yet a Cassaday & Company, Inc. client, please click here to direct your inquiry.


Contact Michelle Tigani

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