I'm retired and need a challenge. Any suggestions?

I am 55 and sold my company two years ago. Now I am bored out of my mind. How can I get back into business?

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 25 Aug 2015

Q. I sold my company two years ago. I thought I'd enjoy the time at home with my wife and out on the golf course but I'm bored out of my brain. At 55, I don't think another start-up is on the cards. A few people have suggested non-exec roles but I'm not sure these will be 'meaty' enough for me. Any ideas?

Jeremy says: I'm still surprised that intelligent and successful people (though mostly men) seriously imagine that after about 35 years' working in business, they can go home one Friday night and immediately be happy to do nothing but play golf for the rest of their lives. Life-expectancy tables suggest you've got twentysomething years of playing golf ahead of you. No wonder you're bored.

My theory is this. Many men feel so guilty about enjoying their jobs – playing Monopoly with real money, the challenges to brain and character, the winning and losing, the companionship, the travel, the lure and prospect of promotion – that they pretend to their families (and indeed to themselves) that much of the time they're hating it. And they even begin to believe it to such an extent that they convince themselves they'll love it when they stop. You even had your own company and so will have been more than normally obsessed and engrossed.

I share your doubts about the conventional non-exec route. Some roles can be absorbing but you're often there in a token capacity. After years of wielding ultimate executive authority, to be invited to offer advice from the touchline, which may then be either ignored or resented can be even less satisfactory than doing nothing.

I think you should look optimistically at a similar but much more hands-on function: that of mentoring small, probably local, businesses and start-ups. There are more of them than ever before and many are woefully short on the kinds of knowledge and experience you will have in abundance. Find them - and let them find you - on LinkedIn and other websites. Offer them advice on business plans, dealing with banks, how to qualify for grants - knowledge that you take for granted but is of huge value to them. You should find it both absorbing and rewarding, though probably not financially. Just remember that you're an adviser and resist the temptation to behave like a CEO.

Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. Email him your problems at editorial@managementtoday.com. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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