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Be Green…Recycle Yourself!

April 2013

This is Earth Week.  I see bicycles everywhere and people making an extra effort to be consciously green.  When I thought about areas where I could be greener or add to the intel about recycling, I realized that as a retirement transition and life planning expert for baby boomers, I could effect a different slant on recycling: PEOPLE.

People – their interests, talents, skills, and experience – can be used, re-used, and recycled, just like a wood product.  Could you recycle yourself? If you are over 50, I am 100% positive the answer is YES.

Reduce Wasted Talent

Bob is a 62-year old retired aerospace engineer.  He retired from Raytheon two y ears ago, and now meets his buddies for golf and poker on a regular basis.  He is healthy and runs a mile every morning.  Bob has a bachelors degree in math and a masters in mechanical engineering.

Cheryl is a retired schoolteacher.  She is in good health and loves to travel.  She used to teach geography, and occasionally pinch-hit for the French and Spanish teachers, since she has always loved languages and is almost fluent in both.  Now, using her teachers’ pension, Cheryl takes at least three trips abroad every year, visiting areas she has read about and taught about, but never seen. 

Reuse Skills and Experience

Schools and tutoring centers across the country are desperately in need of teachers and tutors to help kids with all levels of math.  Bob could recycle his skills with math and science by getting involved with schools and after-school programs in his local area.  If he could devote even one afternoon a week, it could make a difference.  One struggling student who, through Bob, finds the key to understanding fractions or conquering algebraic equations might be a future aerospace engineer.

Thousands of refugees arrive in the U.S. every year without even a passable command of the English language.  Cheryl could reuse her language abilities by teaching ESL to adults in night school programs.  She could also lead tours to places she has become more familiar with since retiring.  Both of these require the unique talents and experience that Cheryl has accumulated over her lifetime.

Preparing to Recycle your Skills

Here is what you can do to prepare to recycle yourself:

1. Create a list of your skills, talents, experience – all the abilities you have developed and honed over your lifetime
2. Ask three people who know you what else you might add to your list (often we omit or dismiss abilities that others prize in us)
3. Highlight those things on your list that you truly enjoy
4. Cross off your list those things that you don’t enjoy
5. Take a good look at your resulting list and name as many uses as you can for these talents.  Think about:
• Who might find them valuable?
• Where might you use them?
• How can you use them?
• When can you use them?

Now it is up to you to determine how much of the time available you are willing to devote to this endeavor.  If you are still earning a living, it will probably be limited, and if you have retired from your mid-life career, you may have more available hours. 

Everyone is good at something they can reuse and recycle.  The older you get, the more you know.  To me, it is the epitome of waste to let these talents lay dormant when there is so much need for them in the world.  So be green…recycle yourself!