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Retire Like a Movie Star

Robert Half International

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This summer, fans lined up to see see Harrison Ford don that famous fedora for the fourth time in "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," more than a quarter-century after "Raiders of the Lost Ark" premiered. At the age of 65, when professionals have traditionally transitioned into retirement, Ford continues to act -- even reprising the same role.

With millions of experienced workers starting to think about retirement, many are wondering what they should do next. If you're asking yourself that question, you can find your answer by looking at the stars -- movie stars, that is. Following are examples of how some famous actors are handling this transitional stage of their lives -- and career lessons you can learn from them.

Be like Sly.
Continue down the same path. Since 2006, Sylvester Stallone has reprised not one but two of his most famous title roles -- Rocky Balboa and John Rambo, 30 and more than 25 years, respectively, after each first appeared on the big screen. Stallone, like Harrison Ford, has had a lengthy career and proved he can still perform at a high level. Even upon reaching retirement age, these professionals continue to thrive in careers they've excelled at for years.

If you're near or at the age when you thought you would exit the workforce, but you haven't lost the passion for your job, you may decide to postpone retirement for several years. The key to career longevity is to remain marketable. Throughout your career, keep your skills sharp by volunteering for new projects at work or taking classes in areas where you could use improvement. Your firm may even supplement your training by offering internal courses of assistance with tuition.

If you are looking for a new position, use the decades you've been in the workplace to your advantage. Many employers seek professionals with the strong soft skills and judgment that come with extensive experience. Be sure to highlight these qualities in your resume and cover letter. If you're worried your past job titles will make an employer feel you are overqualified, list your job duties, not the specific title. Just don't undersell your qualifications. After all, if Rocky can keep going, so can you.

Reimagine Dirty Harry.

Use your experience to transition to new areas. Early in his movie career, Clint Eastwood was best known for his roles in Westerns and gritty police dramas. But in recent years, he's made a bigger mark as a director by leveraging the acting expertise he developed. This move seems to have worked out well for him, with four Academy Award nominations and two wins, for "Unforgiven" and "Million Dollar Baby."

If you are not yet ready to retire completely, a natural transition may be consulting. This allows you to extend your career while providing you with the freedom to work where, when and for how long you want. Consulting also gives you the opportunity to enhance your skill set, with different assignments offering exposure to various companies, positions and technologies.

Consider registering with a staffing firm, which will handle the administrative aspects of the business, such as billing clients, for you. The deep networks these businesses have also mean you have access to job openings you might otherwise not be aware of. And many staffing firms offer free training and career guidance. Becoming a consultant may not win you an Oscar, but, like Eastwood, you can continue to find success while working at your own pace.

Channel the Governator.

Reinvent yourself. If someone asked you 20 years ago who you thought would become the 38th governor of California, you probably wouldn't have answered "Arnold Schwarzenegger." But he reinvented himself as a politician, having been voted into office in 2003, more than 30 years after making his first movie.

Nearing the age when many retire, some workers consider changing gears by pursuing a second career. If you're an avid gardener, for example, retirement may offer you the opportunity to open your own nursery or landscaping business. Before launching a second career, consider what elements are important to you in your professional life. What are you looking for: A creative outlet? A chance to give back to the community? More flexibility? Less stress?

Once you've settled on a potential path, talk to people engaged in that line of work to get a better sense of what it entails. These professionals can confirm -- or deny -- your assumptions about a certain type of job, as well as provide advice on how to get started in the field. In addition, your contacts can help you determine which skills you already have that you can transfer to your new venture. For instance, say you are a former teacher who wants to launch a business selling children's games. Your knowledge of this demographic could help you in your marketing efforts.

Keep in mind that it can take several years to prepare for a second career, especially if you need to build new skills, or earn a certification, license or academic degree. The sky's the limit, though -- and if you live in California, you may even succeed Gov. Schwarzenegger one day.

As an experienced worker, you can emulate the varied career paths that Ford, Stallone, Eastwood or Schwarzenegger have taken. If you begin planning now and take steps to position yourself for the right opportunities, you may be surprised where your career leads.


Robert Half International is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 360 offices throughout North America, South America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. For more information about our professional services, please visit

Last Updated: 09/07/2008 - 2:06 PM

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