Associate Publisher’s viewpoint By Tim Lawlor


    By Tim Lawlor Associate Publisher, Ottawa Construction News

    As many long time readers are approaching the retirement or succession planning stage of their lives, I thought this would be a great article to share. I think there are some really solid ideas here and, like writer Eileen Chadnick, I am starting to think about how to test drive my own retirement career.

    Today’s so called retirees aren’t settling for the quiet life. Many are starting new businesses, trying out new vocations or taking on consulting roles in fields where they were once employed full-time.

    Shifting gears at any age takes courage, planning, and in many cases, some trial and error. Investing

    in a new career can be costly – in terms of time, effort and emotional equity. So before changing

    lanes, here are some suggestions about how to kick the tires and possibly even test drive a potential career change.

    Shadow someone

    Find someone who is already doing the work you would like to do who would be willing to let you shadow them for a day – or ideally, longer. Observe, ask questions and see what a real “day in the life” of your potential new career might look like. If you can find more than one person to shadow, you will get a fuller picture.

    Take a course

    If your new career would require some retraining but you are not yet sure whether this is a good choice for you, see whether you can sign up for just a class or two to start. If it feels right, then continue with the program. I did this with my coaching education many years ago.

    Talk to those in the know

    Also on the retraining front, make sure you talk to admissions officers to see whether they can put you in touch with people already in the field, such as professors and graduates. It’s important to connect with such people to hear different perspectives before you dive into something that may not be a good fit for you.

    Start small

    There can be great merit to trying out a miniature version of a new career. If feasible, try working at it part-time, freelancing or pursuing your interest as a side venture. This will give you a chance to get a feel for the work and learn the ropes without committing fully from the get-go.

    Volunteer strategically

    Try out your new career with a strategic volunteer assignment that will expose you to the field you are considering. This will provide an opportunity to try on the work, learn about your field of interest and potentially build up some experience, contacts and confidence in a new area.

    Create your own internship

    If you have the time and resources, you can offer to work either for free or a modest fee to a startup organization or charity for a set period of time. This might lead to something bigger. At a minimum, it will give you a feel for the work and some experience.

    Attend a conference

    If you have the resources to attend a professional conference in the field, do so. This will help orient you to the issues and, if you network strategically, you can make some valuable contacts.

    Network, network, network

    The more people you can talk to in the field, the more likely you are to learn whether this is the right fit for you. Make sure you are creating and seizing all meaningful opportunities to connect with people who can help you explore your potential career further.

    Ask the tough questions

    Think hard about the questions you would like to ask – including the tough ones – to determine whether this will indeed be a fruitful career choice for you. For instance: What are the biggest challenges someone like myself might face? What is the biggest surprise – good or bad – about this field you wish you knew when you started? How feasible is it to get meaningful work in this field if you are new and at my stage of life? If you put your mind to it, you should be able to come up with 20 more questions.

    By investing some time and effort now, you’re more likely to end up with a fulfilling second career than a nightmare retirement.


    Eileen Chadnick (@Chadnick)

    is a work-life and leadership coach and

    principal of Big Cheese Coaching in

    Toronto. She is the author of Ease, a book

    offering strategies to cope in times

    of “crazy busy.” To see more of

    Eileen’s writing please go to


    Tim Lawlor, who hasn’t retired yet,

    is Ottawa Construction News’ associate

    publisher. He can be reached at

    (613) 699-2057 ext. 111 or by

    email at


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