Giving back through mentorship

As eagerly as you may have anticipated your exit from the workforce, you may find that your transition into retirement isn’t everything you dreamed it would be. After indulging in some much deserved rest and relaxation, you might find yourself feeling a bit aimless. Without a steady job to return to, many retirees feel that their new lives lack purpose or meaning. Human beings thrive when they have a passion to pursue or a goal to work towards, and that impulse to make personal progress doesn’t just disappear when we cash that final paycheck.

One of the most fulfilling ways to bring purpose to your life in retirement is by volunteering your time, effort, and experience to another (often younger) human being who could benefit from your insight and knowledge. Whether you have a few hours to dedicate each week or want to make mentorship a full-time effort, there are plenty of people who could benefit from your guidance.

Here are a couple ideas to get you started:

Help a budding professional achieve growth

If you want to maintain the skills you used regularly during your career, you might consider mentoring a newcomer to your previous industry. In addition to passing along the lessons you learned throughout your career, you can also serve as a sounding board for your mentee as they navigate new challenges. In your work together, you and your mentee may identify solutions to complex problems that present themselves as your previous industry continues to evolve. This is an excellent way to keep your mind sharp while simultaneously making a huge difference in the career and life of your mentee.

To find a mentee, you can start by mining your existing professional networks. Ask your previous colleagues if they know of any promising new hires who they think could benefit from the guidance of a mentor. If you need to expand your search, create a profile on LinkedIn to search for recent college graduates in your area who are looking for positions in your previous field. You can also create a profile on a platform like MentorCity, which can connect you with one or multiple mentees.

Once you find someone to begin working with, it is important to establish the goals and expectations each of you have for the relationship. This will also allow you to get to know each other’s personalities and determine if you two are a good fit for one another. You’ll also want to establish healthy boundaries from the outset in order to avoid common mentorship mistakes that could stunt–rather than nurture–the growth of your mentee.

In these early stages, you’ll want to get an idea of how often you two will meet, and for how long, as well as what kinds of support you are comfortable providing. Remember that the ultimate goal of this arrangement should be to empower your mentee, and that prescribing certain actions or holding their hand through every decision isn’t the best way to encourage their continued success. Instead, cultivate your listening skills, and provoke them to work through their own issues by asking challenging questions and providing insight where appropriate.

Remember that the ideal mentor-mentee relationship is mutually beneficial to both parties. Make it a point to conduct regular check-ins with both your mentee and yourself to ensure that you are both satisfied with how the relationship is progressing.

Become a role model for a child or young adult in need

The desire to share the knowledge you’ve gained throughout your life isn’t necessarily limited to your professional experience. If you’d like to have a positive impact on the life of a young person, but you’re not particularly interested in staying “plugged in” to the professional world, becoming a foster grandparent or joining a local chapter of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America program might be a better choice for you.

These outreach programs will require you to undergo an application process and background check in order to pair you with a young person who shares similar interests. While you will be expected to meet up with your assignee on a somewhat regular basis, the time and financial commitment is relatively low.

When volunteering with either one of these programs, you will not be expected to fill in as a replacement parental figure. You also will not be expected to treat your mentee to extravagant or expensive excursions; in fact, the programs themselves recommend taking advantage of lower cost activities when possible. Don’t feel obligated to take your new friend to an amusement park, sports event, or arcade every time you meet up. A picnic in the park, a free concert in your community, or even a simple game of chess are all perfectly acceptable activities that will afford you the opportunity to bond and form a real, trusting friendship that enriches your life as well as the life of your mentee.

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Group Created with Sketch.
Not sure where to start?

Read our quick-start guide for help, including which questions you should be asking as you approach retirement.

Read our quick start guide