7 Tips for Creating a Purposeful Second Career

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There are three major categories of workers in the United States: (1) Employed, (2) Unemployed, and (3) Not in Labor Force. In the United States, the Unemployment Rate, the number of workers not employed and actively looking for work, has fallen consistently for the past several years. The unemployment rate is low for nearly all military veteran groups, one statistic, the Not in Labor Force, is particularly high for older military veterans.


The Not in Labor Force metric is for people that are still of working age, not in school, not retired, not working, and not looking for work. For military veterans aged 55 to 64, the prime working years prior to traditional retirement at aged 65, is approximately 40% of the population. This is particularly troubling because the non-military veteran, Not in Labor Force population aged 55 to 64 has declined.

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For military veterans aged 55 to 64, continuing to work in the years prior to retirement greatly aids in an effective retirement and helps military veterans remain engaged in society.


Here are 7 tips for creating a purposeful second career:


Find something you enjoy & provides purpose. Most military veterans miss the sense of camaraderie, focus and purpose the military provides. The military is only one possible career avenue that provides purpose. Teaching, public safety, federal service, civil service, local government, and entrepreneurship are other areas that allow people to work effectively as older workers and instill a sense of purpose. If you are in a job that does not provide the sense of purpose, then find something that does.


Don’t work for a bad boss. We have all had a bad boss. I’ve had them, and you have had them. Bad bosses isolate themselves, don’t share information, take the credit for hard work, do not coach employees to success, do not protect their team from executive anger, and seek every advantage for themselves and not their team. It is really difficult to outlast a bad boss. My advice, do not try. If you have a bad boss, leave the company or leave the boss for an internal job move. My advice for employees of any age is simple, do not work for a bad boss. You will never find a good boss when working for a bad boss.


Take any opportunity for new training. Staying current on skills is critical. If you are offered training in leadership, new products, new software, new technology, or a new role that will force you to learn new skills, then take the role. Education is also your own responsibility so read the newspaper, industry journals, or anything else that will help you succeed.


Teach the next generation leadership. Fulfilling a spoken or unspoken role to teach new employees’ leadership is a great way to stay and become inspired. Workers of any generation from boomers to Gen X’ers to Millennials to Generation Z are awesome. But, no matter your age, everyone needs to improve their leadership skills. Take the time to listen, observe, coach, mentor, and teach a new generation how to lead.


Take initiative even in small things. Find ways to take the initiative and invent new ways to perform old tasks. The process of innovation, even in a seemingly simple task, builds and maintains initiative and interest in a job. Initiative is also a great way to be recognized by bosses and peers alike.


Work with & motivate other veterans. Helping military veterans is a great way to find purpose, motivation, display leadership, and help someone else who needs it. Military veterans need help with resumes, networking, job applications, interviewing, and translating military skills to civilian use. Even if you only meet with a veteran one time and help them, you have made a big difference.


Save, invest & reduce costs. Your last working years before retirement are critical to earn, reduce your costs, and save. In a sentence, you must earn, cut costs, and save simultaneously. Working just to spend more or working to not save does nothing to help prepare for your for retirement. Retirement must be a time of low costs and moderate, controlled personal spending. Prepare for retirement by cost cutting, more saving, and earning.


If you are an older worker, stay working because the country, employers, and fellow employees need you. Find work that gives you purpose and find ways to contribute, take initiative, continue to learn, and teach others how to be good leaders. The workforce needs you!


Share Your Opinion – What is your advice for creating a successful second career? Share your top tip in the comments.


Related Information:


  1. Military Leadership Skills During Times of Chaotic Change
  2. Five Ways to Get Over the Fear of Networking
  3. Leadership by Walking Around – Get Out of the Office!
  4. How to Join a New Organization
  5. Planning a Career Change? Military-to-Civilian Career Transition Checklist Tips - Part 1

About the Author: Chad Storlie is a Retired US Army Officer, the author of Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and has published over 400 articles in over 200 publications on military veterans, career advancement, business, leadership, strategy, education, financial planning, and national security topics. Chad excels as an author, mentor, speaker, and teacher showing business leaders and military veterans how military skills make lives, careers, and businesses better. Chad is an adjunct Professor of Marketing at the University of Minnesota – Carlson School of Management. Chad has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University. Follow Chad @CombatToCorp and www.CombatToCorporate.com.


Good Article

Chad Storlie USAA
Blog Author
Blog Author

Thank you for taking the time to comment @kkmenz . Glad you enjoyed it!

Great Job
Regular Visitor

Our govnt killed my two businesses after I retired from USMC in 2011.  I lost everything, including my home, vehicles, and much more.   I went to Law Enforcement academy and got my POST certification, as well as polygraph certified.  But because of the chaotic economy during 2011 - 2016, everywhere l applied I was denied employment, (not just in my field, but everywhere I went to include janitor and maintanance positions on and off base at Camp Pendleton).


I am so very happy to see the direction of our economy, (as well our county), do such a n amazing turn around.  If I wasn't so broken now both physically and mentally, I would love to try again to find some kind of meaning for life at 58.  My life though, for all intent and purpose is over.  However, I encourage all those of my age group, whose are able to start again to do so.  Just existing and waiting to die sucks, but those who can find good opportunity as mentioned in this article certainly could be the option some need.   

Chad Storlie USAA
Blog Author
Blog Author

@Great Job ,

I am truly sorry to hear about your employment challenges.  I would recommend that you reach out to the USO Pathfinder program (https://www.uso.org/programs/uso-pathfinder),  County Veteran Service Officer (https://www.nacvso.org/directory/directory_5.aspx) or the Department of Labor Military Veteran Job Center (https://www.careeronestop.org/Veterans/Toolkit/find-american-job-centers.aspx).  


All three of these organizations help military veterans of all ages find employment.  It sounds like you still have a lot to contribute and businesses need people like you!




New Member

From my work experience within the entertainment industry to working for an education media company now in Austin, TX. I truly recommend anyone from any level in their career to activate on these tips. As a military child, I'm grateful for this empowerment.