What's Your Dream Job?
So many of us jump through hoops to hang onto our work lives for as long as possible. And for so many of us, that working life must come to an end. We win our claim for Social Security Disability and retire years before we thought we would, years before most people do. Yet, though we are no longer able to sustain a conventional 40-hour work week, we are far from being willing to be idle indefinitely, sitting in the lounger with the remote glued to one hand. We still want to make a contribution by using our skills, experience and knowledge, just like we did when we were working. But how do we find such a job?
Perhaps we aren’t thinking of it in this way, but we have a unique opportunity. We don’t need to depend on a job to make ends meet, we have an income we can rely on every month, meager as it might be. This situation can free us to do something we are passionate about, something that engages us that hasn’t involved money in the past.
So before we look “out there” for the answer, let’s first look within ourselves. What do we love? Animals? Music? Growing flowers and vegetables? Helping others fill out their income tax returns? Running your own consulting service? Making decorative arts and crafts such as hand knits and painted furniture? Any abiding interest to which you’ve dedicated yourself could be something to pursue.
Volunteering for a non-profit organization might be a great place to start. If you want to work for an outfit whose mission and values match your own, this kind of activity is a labor of love. It may or may not turn into a paying gig, but your interaction with the paid professionals can work in your favor. Should a paying position open up, you’ve already proved yourself and might be offered the job. Not every volunteer job will pan out this way—funding for paying staff might be scarce, for example—but you’ve gotten your reputation out there among the paid professionals. A paying opportunity might come along from another source entirely through professional networking. For more tips on volunteering, see the reference at the bottom of this page.1
Professional networking in your former career field is another avenue to pursue. If you loved the career from which you formally retired, keep in touch with colleagues and send out the word that you want to do something similar but with a more flexible schedule and fewer hours. Those that might not have had you in mind might think of you first the next time they hear about the kind of opportunity you’ve told them you want. Alumni directories are another potential source for reconnecting with people who shared your interests in college.
If you are drawing Social Security disability and you are aged 18-64, you automatically qualify for the SSA’s Ticket to Work program. Once you sign up, you’ll receive robo-calls periodically about job opportunities of which you can opt out. There are two programs available, one of which has only jobs you can do from home and the other that lists only jobs outside the home. For more information about how to sign up, call toll free: 866-968-7842 or visit the Ticket to Work webpages at: www.socialsecurity.gov/work
Your local Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) provides counseling for disabled people to retrain for a different career. The SSA Ticket to Work program can also work with your local vocational rehabilitation agency. If funding is available, it can cover the costs of training. For example, if you wish to become a medical transcriptionist, DHHS could pay tuition for the certification course. Funding is first come first served, so if you register for this program early in the agency's funding cycle, you’ll have a better chance of getting your training fully covered.2
Realizing our ambitions might take some time. But didn’t it take quite a bit of time to learn about our disease and its treatments, adjust to the changes in our bodies, and pull ourselves through the loss of our jobs? If you need some gentle and nourishing inspiration, I recommend reading Marsha Sinetar’s 1989 bestseller DO WHAT YOU LOVE, THE MONEY WILL FOLLOW: DISCOVERING YOUR RIGHT LIVELIHOOD. Despite having been written 26 years ago, its insights are relevant to our situation and our times.3
How many specialists did you see before finding "The One"?