In July 2006, I wrote an article on what it was like to start a new career at 50 plus. Today, I got a comment in the form of a request from a reader at that particular blog post. The request is compelling, so it becomes the subject for today’s post.
I need help figuring out what I am going to do with my life. My wife has taken a job in a different state. I am selling my business and going to join her. I am so excited about starting something new or doing something different. My problem is figuring out what to do. I have a very diverse background. I think I might like to start an internet business but I am not sure what to do. I have been the President of a High Tech electronics company. The business I am selling is a Screenprinting and Embroidery business. I have worked for Japanese and German owned businesses as well. I have traveled internationally for both companies.
I tell you this because I want to explain that even though I have a diverse background I would be willing to do anything. I have even considered lawn care or pressure washing decks and I have always considered opening a pub or restaurant. So please guide me, is there an aptitude test for not so new folks like me?
All of us out here know who George Plimpton is or was. If not he’s the guy who tried many many pro sports. I kind of feel like the George Plimpton of the real world. Seriously though I am looking for guidance .
I’m so impressed with the way you describe your dilemma. One thing that I love about what you are going through is that you have an opportunity to reinvent yourself. The experience you have sitting in your arsenal, will support the new direction…often in ways you can’t imagine right now. You say you aren’t sure about the direction you want to move into and that is fine. Sometimes you need quiet time for there to be space for an opportunity to present itself.
The important part of change is to allow the change to evolve. So as you move to your new home in your new state, unless you are really cash-strapped, then take the time to open your eyes and mind to your new situation. You indicate a desire to use your hands or to open a restaurant. What that means is that you want a real change from the situation you are now in and to move into something completely different. Since you aren’t sure what you want to do, then you have an even bigger world of opportunity. Plan on taking one to two months to figure out a direction. There are a few steps that might be helpful.
1) You will find the direction by opening your mind to ALL opportunities. That means talking to people, everywhere, and being sincerely interested in what they are doing. It can be the person who owns the lunch truck, the handyman who comes to fix your sink, the manager at your local new favorite restaurant, the dry cleaner on the corner. After speaking with many, many people, something will hit a note with you. That is what you will explore next.
2) OK. For example, you find a spark in talking to someone like your gardener. You see that he loves managing a small team and building reliable relationships in the area. Find out more. What works for him. What doesn’t. What is his business model (if he has one.)
3) Interview small business owners looking to sell their businesses and find out as much detail as you can about their business models. Eventually one will strike a chord with you. The best model is one that can be duplicated so that you increase your revenue potential by expanding your model. So, for example, a restaurant requires a lot of capital to get through the first two years. How much capital do you want to invest in a new venture? How will you live while you do that? Will your wife’s income sustain the two of you? If not, you might prefer to look at options with very low capital investment.
4) Try it out. Maybe you’ve decided that since you are handy you are going to start a handyman service. You now need to get your first client. You’ll get that client by marketing (using all the skills you used to build your other businesses, but at a very grass roots, field level). You’ll get your first client, your second and your third. And you’ll know very quickly if this is what you want. If not, you’ll move to something else.
You don’t need an aptitude test. All it will tell you is what you already know about yourself. But what you do need is to look at all opportunity and test it on yourself to see if you find a fit. All work is noble. Whether you are the president of a high tech company, or a small pub owner, or a lawn care specialist, if the fit is right, you’ll know.