This article was originally published in Rethinking65

As we work with clients throughout their primary career, the emphasis is often on making money and advancement. I’ve advised friends, colleagues and clients for years when considering promotions or job changes to think about the step beyond this job offer. The focus is on advancement – where will this job take you?

However, as we leave our primary careers – either by choice or by circumstance, the emphasis often shifts. After you’ve been focused on building wealth, the goal can turn from money, power and advancement to purpose. After a decades long successful career, we can be tired of the grind. Some of us are cynical about the corporate world from which we’ve had great success. Whether we loved our career or were starting to lose our “mo-jo”, it’s a major transition to leave one’s primary career. Few of us want to do more of the same, often we want to do something different with their skills and talents.

Many of my clients say things like, “I want to do something that is more gratifying” or “I want to do something to give back and help others — something more meaningful” or “I don’t want to work for the money, I want to make a difference” or “help the greater good.” They say it in different ways. You can call this purpose.

Merriam Webster dictionary defines Purpose as “something set up as an object or end to be attained – intention.” This intention replaces the drive for power or high pay. They have a chance now to be purpose-driven in their work.

Merriam Webster dictionary defines Purpose as “something set up as an object or end to be attained – intention.”

For some clients, the word “purpose” or purpose driven can be overwhelming. I’ve dealt with numerous people who get stressed out in trying to figure out their purpose. It makes it feel as if there is one perfect thing, and none of us do well when perfection is the goal. Instead, I focus on “passions”.  Most of us typically have several passions and this makes it less daunting.

To help figure out purpose or passion takes a combination of Analysis and Action. Too often people get stuck analyzing and never take action. My role as a financial advisor is to be a coach – ask good questions, be patient, provide resources, and encourage. Validate what my clients are experiencing.


Step One: Analysis

As we determine “what’s next’ after our primary career, identify your values, passions and strengths to help pull together and synthesize your thinking. Much of this is self-discovery and should not be rushed. Take time to reflect.

Values – There are several assessments available to clarify values. To me, values are a key building block to understanding your “purpose” or intention.

Two tools I use:

  • provides an online card sort tool that is challenging as it forces one to hone in on five values. Believe me, this is difficult. In years past, I’ve used a deck of value cards and encouraged clients to set them out on a table initially, then come back to it in subsequent days. The tactile nature and ability to reflect, walk away, return, and modify is beneficial. That said, the online tool is easy to use.
  • also provides a value clarifying tool that takes it a step further to have clients link their values with their current life – how their highest priority values show up in work, relationships, community, leisure and other activities.

Passions –  Passions are joyful things in one’s life. What makes you light up? What do you easily get energized about?  Think back to your childhood and then on through your life, and build a list of those items that are joyful to you.

I recently found a Passion Quiz – a list of 10 questions originally developed by Janet Bray Attwood and Chris Attwood, Co-authors of The Passion Test: The effortless Path to Discovering Your Life Purpose. A couple of my favorite questions:

  1. When I was a kid, I dreamed of____________
  2. If I take a week off work, I would spend it__________
  3. Most people don’t know this about me, but I really enjoy_____________
  4. I am the go-to person when my friends need_________________________
  5. The closest I come to a runner’s high is when____________________

Complete these questions, then come back to it to see what else jumps out. It’s also important to think about who – who/what you want to help or work with. Is it younger leaders? Teenagers? Young kids? The Elderly? The environment? Animals? Be specific.

Strengths – I’m a big believer the in the StrengthsFinder tool (now called Clifton Strengths), from the Gallup organization and Tom Rath’s book Strengthsfinder 2.0. If you haven’t already have taken this assessment in your primary career, do it now.

You can either go online or purchase the book. Now is the time to think about your strengths and how to apply them in this next phase.

This analysis phase can take weeks, if not months. There is little value in speed, instead it beneficial for the client to give the exercises time and come back to them. This process is often self- validating and cathartic for clients. Once you’ve identified your values, passions and strengths; challenge yourself to identify a few ways you may be able to honor these areas. Ask someone who know you to help you brainstorm. Possibilities include:

  • Teaching
  • Consulting
  • Interim C-level work for not for profits
  • Working within entrepreneur programs as a coach, teacher, mentor
  • Corporate Board work
  • Not for profit leadership roles in causes they care about
  • Coaching – I’ve had several friends become golf coaches at the high school level – to teach kids the sport they love
  • Pet-sitting
  • Drivers for senior living communities
  • Yoga instructor, fitness trainer


Step Two: Action

With some clarity about who you are right now and what might excite you, its time for action. Small steps are preferable to over-committing too early.  A couple ways to explore:

Interviews – Build a list of people who might be doing similar work. Then meet with them.

Ask your friends and former colleagues to connect you with other people they know who might be worthwhile for you to meet. You should be asking key questions about these roles – so you can see the good, the bad, the key challenges / frustrations, what is “success,” etc.

Sample – If possible, you should try to “sample” the area you are most interested in. You can volunteer without pay for certain organizations, or perhaps shadow someone doing the work.

For example, if you are interested in becoming a yoga instructor, perhaps start taking action to obtain necessary certification — a good way to test if it really brings you joy. If you want to consult or do interim C level work, network enough to get one project. I’ve seen friends and clients volunteer for organizations like SCORE – that supports local small businesses, and then end up taking paid roles because they love using their skills and values to mentor and help these businesses succeed. It’s gratifying in ways their primary careers may not have been.

The key is – don’t overcommit. Try something and commit to a specific timeframe or project. Who knows where it will lead! Prepare yourself that it may take several attempts to find one that works for you.

Leaving one’s primary career is one of the most significant transitions people make in their lives. Take time for both analysis and action. Enjoy the journey.

Joni Lindquist, CFP®, is a Principal at Aspyre Wealth Partners in Overland Park KS. As a career coach and financial planner, she partners with clients on their life’s journey to live the life they want. She finds it rewarding to help them advance in their careers, manage life transitions and clarify and reach their life goals. This article was originally published on the website