The five days I didn't have Internet access at home were painful and strangely wonderful -- just not at the same time. It all started one morning when I went to my desk, coffee in hand, as I always do, to start my day. A few clicks and nothing. No bars. No Safari. Nothing.
Hence, several frustrating hours with our DSL carrier: automated service -- holding -- a technician I couldn't understand -- holding again -- testing the line over the phone -- more holding -- getting disconnected -- only to start the whole hair pulling process over again, and so on. Several hours later it was discovered the root of our problem seemed to be a faulty modem, but not to worry, they would overnight it to us. Hallelujah.
Two days pass and no modem. Panic set in. How will I survive another day without Internet? Email? Facebook? Pinterest? And, heaven forbid, Twitter? Thankfully, my cell phone had Internet, but it was an old model BlackBerry and I nearly went blind from reading the tiny screen. (Just so you know, I've since updated to an iPhone.)
Desperate, I called my DSL carrier -- AGAIN. The technician couldn't have been more pleasant, apologizing robotically with the same line over and over again. "Please" I begged, "no need to apologize, just bring me back my Internet. And hurry!"
So I did what anybody would do desperate for Wi-Fi. I went to the nearest Starbucks. The only problem is I like to work in a place that's quiet and private, like home. Somewhere I can be in my pajamas (but I tell you people it's yoga pants), somewhere I can have my hair piled on top of my head and my funky reading glasses on with nary a stitch of makeup. I can't be caught dead like this. Even in desperate times vanity rears it's well coiffed head.
Thus, I settled on the Starbucks parking lot in a nice shady spot close enough to the building to still be hooked up to Wi-Fi. Not as comfortable as home and way more awkward. I worried people were looking at me like I was crazy, setting up office in the parking lot. The baristas took out the trash, tilted their head, and slowly nodded. "Oh, to heck with this" I said to myself and drove home where I could live like the Amish.
I began to wonder what on earth I did before the Internet? Then I got busy. Here are the things I got done instead: I wrote this post, cleaned out cupboards and drawers and closets and dropped off discarded items to various charities. I returned gifts, organized notes for my blog, set up files, cleaned off my desk, went to the car wash, called friends, found some new recipes to dog-ear but will never try, and so on. I felt freer than I had in a long time.
It was at that point I realized I desperately needed to manage my time better. The Internet had become a huge distraction and alluring enough that I could waste away hours in front of a screen instead of living, or writing, or whatever. This break was a blessing in disguise.
On the fifth day of my newfound freedom, the modem arrived. I considered not opening the box, but at the time I still had a teenager living in the house -- so I caved. I'm embarrassed to admit, within a week or so, I was back to my old tricks. Maybe I should pray for a power outage.
A blog dedicated to reinvention or "rebooting" (ending one career and pursuing a new one), RebootYou offers inspiration and support to a network of "rebooters," with fun resources such as "Ten Good Reasons to Reboot Yourself" and "Rebooter Stories," as well as some concrete guidelines on "How to Reboot."
A popular reinvention theme is using the skills and experience gleaned from years in the professional world to serve the greater good. If this sounds appealing, ReServe can help match you with a nonprofit organization that could use your help; a nonprofit group itself, ReServe helps "continuing professionals age 55+" secure a part-time, flexible position with one of its nonprofit partners, where they will be paid an hourly stipend -- which can remain a short-term project, or can serve as a stepping-stone to second career in the nonprofit sector.
In a similar vein, Encore Careers, a service of Civic Ventures, a nonprofit think tank on boomers, work and social purpose, "provides free, comprehensive information that helps people transition to jobs in the nonprofit world and the public sector." In addition to lots of information on multigenerational workforce issues and inspiring testimonials, Encore Careers provides fellowships to help a few lucky encore-career hunters get their foot in the door in the nonprofit world.
In addition to a wealth of information on topics such as financial planning for retirement and the unique health concerns affecting seniors, RetiredBrains offers a job search engine complete with a "work from home" search category.
Work Reimagined is a social networking site launched recently by AARP. Powered by LinkedIn, it connects job-seeking professionals with potential employers -- companies who have taken the "Work Reimagined pledge" to actively seek experienced professionals -- as well as with each other for support and networking.
Though it targets primarily a younger audience working their way through false starts in their professional lives, articles on topics such as "How to overcome fear and obstacles" and even "How to identify your ideal career" on the "expert advice" page of Careershifters.org can be of use to people of any age making a major career and life transition, and in need of a little motivation and guided self-reflection. For those in the U.K., this organization also offers workshops in "figuring out what you really want and making a realistic action plan."
Experience Works provides training, employment and community service to low-income seniors; operating under the belief that "Older people should have the opportunity to learn new skills and contribute to their communities throughout their lives," the organization offers training to people 55+ who are currently unemployed. Its website itself is a great resource, with advice on combating age discrimination in the labor market ("myths of maturity" and how to counter them), lists of common interview, resume, and job-search mistakes, and a link to the National Business Services Alliance's "Job Match" and "Job Search" tool, which helps older workers assess where their strengths lie and match those strengths with local job openings.
Quintessential careers is another primarily information-based online resource for career-changers and job-seekers, with articles on topics such as how to make the most of a job fair, tips for interviewing, and how to build a personal brand. It also has a special page for the unique concerns of mature and older jobseekers.
There are also plenty of useful sites for people who hope to continue in their current profession into their second half, but perhaps at a slower pace or on a part-time basis: YourEncore is a neat resource for recently retired scientists or engineers, pairing them with projects that will utilize their expertise in the consumer product, pharmaceutical / life science, aerospace / defense, food, chemical and electronic industries. Once they've joined the YourEncore network as an "expert," they can be recruited by "Member Companies" for full- or part-time work on projects of interest in their field of expertise, ranging from days to several months. Volunteers in Medicine helps retired medical practitioners offer their services pro bono to those in need. Score connects retirees from the world of business with budding small businesses that could use their expertise.
Aspiranet, one of the largest social service agencies in California, helps post 50s get started in doing work in the nonprofit sector. The service is also the first nonprofit in America to launch an Encore Fellowships program with Encore.org. The program aims to "provide a unique opportunity to take meaningful action, using skills and knowledge you already have, while learning firsthand about the nonprofit sector and exploring potential work options." Aspiranet provides a list of their 35 programs to chose from as well as testimonials from their Encore Fellows.
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