Battle pre-retirement career burnout

Dear Joan:
I am a senior manager, with a good company, who most people would say, "has it made." My career has been successful up to now and I'm respected in my company. My pay and benefits are good and I have enough perks to make the job a good one. I've been in my field (Sales and Marketing) for my entire career. I've worked for several other companies but my longest tenure has been my current company (25 years).

I started from the ground up and spent ten years in the field, moved to the home office twenty years ago and have been promoted several times and now I'm the Vice President of Sales. I've been in this position for the last seven years.

The problem is that I'm burned out. All I can think about is retirement. When the market was red hot I had enough money to retire but then the bottom fell out. My family is all grown and my wife and I want to travel. I can't retire without a financial penalty for six more years. I just don't feel motivated and I'm worried that my productivity will begin to slip. Quitting now is not an option. My wife and I enjoy a nice lifestyle but I need my job and retirement benefits. Do you have any advice? I need to do something so I can finish my career on an up note instead of dragging myself to the end.

A whole generation of wanna-be retirees shares your pain. Just a few short years ago, when the stock market was booming, potential retirees thought they could retire early. When the dot coms went bust, a lot of retirement dreams burst.

Six years is too long to languish in your job, counting the minutes. Here are some ideas that will get you moving and help you find inspiration again.

  • Start an ambitious new initiative at work. You know where the biggest problems are and you certainly know where the opportunities are buried. You're just the person to spearhead a change that will leave a legacy.
  • Reconnect with your customers. Get back into the field and recharge your batteries by talking with customers about what they like and what they want you to fix. Not only will you win great points from your customers, it will ignite the spark that got you excited about this field in the first place.
  • Step up your mentoring of new and inexperienced sales professionals and managers. Your deep experience is a rich resource that can help the careers of a whole new generation. Whether you create a formal program or just do informal mentoring, you are sure to catch the enthusiasm from young, motivated colleagues.
  • Consider a rotation into a different area. At the senior level, companies often rotate managers to get a fresh perspective and cross-functional benefits. There may be a new division or department that would benefit from your experience. Express your willingness to try new things to your manager and other executives.
  • Get reinvolved in a professional organization. Often, senior professionals drop out of professional organizations, once their career is successfully launched. A great way to get invigorated is to step back in. Not only will you be able to help some young, fresh talent with their careers; you will learn what's new and exciting in your field.
  • Fill your needs by getting involved in a community group. Volunteer at a literacy organization, a nursing home or a day care center. You will fill your heart and soul when you help others.
  • Take up a new hobby that will interest you now and after you retire. Statistics show that people who spend their retirement sitting on the couch watching TV die early. Make your life worth living now. Don't wait for that magic "retirement" to start to travel and take up interests.
  • Reconnect with old friends and make new ones. Some people establish friendships early in their lives but then let them fall away when the children begin to come along. Take a proactive role in setting up social events with friends now, and these friendships will serve you well after you retire.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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