The one thing job hunters have a love/hate relationship with is the fact that being employed sucks up the lion’s share of most days. Think about it: during your first 20-odd years of existence on earth school fills up so much space that it becomes an end in itself. Then, employment dictates, for the most part, what you do with your time all day. Especially in the case of long tenure on a job, identity becomes tied to that job. You begin to define who you are by and derive your sense of meaning from “what you do”. Then comes some calamity, like an extended illness, a layoff or retirement.
Loss of a job, then, means loss of identity and, worse, loss of meaningfulness in life. Suddenly, it’s endless summer: you have to actually schedule your own life–not just a few hours or a week-end or the annual 14-day vacation. There is just too much day at the end of the list of ideas for fun things to do. Then, it’s not fun any more. Having so much “empty” time become oppressive.
Many find the “set adrift” feeling of being responsible to yourself alone intolerable. It forces thinking about purpose–especially if the job search is longer than 8 weeks. Many Baby Boomers are discovering that the “eternal play” retirement fantasy is in reality horribly boring. Scarce finances is not the only thing driving the decision toward later retirement. There is the need to apply talent to find solutions, to be connected, to have a sense of purpose and meaningfulness also driving people to take on an “encore” career or to decide not to retire at all (I’m in the last two lots).