Posted at 11:27 am

A Bucket List for Your Career: 15 Things You Must Do Before Retirement

“Bucket lists” are a growing phenomenon among people of all ages.  You may want to experience bold adventures – like skydiving or an African safari – before you “kick the bucket.”  But have you ever thought about what you hope to achieve before your career is over? 

From the small successes to the major wins, your job helps to define who you are.  Consciously or not, it factors into your assessments of happiness, purpose, and self-worth.  Some career milestones give us bragging rights – things we’re proud to say that we’ve done.  Others broaden our perspectives, and teach us to appreciate after-hours living.

The following list outlines the Top Fifteen “To-Do” items for every working woman in America.  Which ones will you cross off your list this year?  What goals would you add?

  • Work in the service industry.

Many of us work at bars or restaurants at some point in our careers.  Restaurants are everywhere, and high turnover rates ensure that jobs are usually abundant.  But that doesn’t mean service work is easy.  On the contrary, catering to the general public (while wearing a smile) is among the hardest jobs out there. 
If you’ve chosen to build a long-term career in food service, catering, hospitality management, etc – bravo!  And if you’ve never found yourself waiting tables or working for tips, you need to do so before retirement.  Dining out, sipping cocktails, enjoying vacations: you’ll never truly understand how refreshing these experiences are until you’ve tried to create them for someone else.

  • Take an international business trip.

Business travel isn’t exactly a vacation, but places like Tokyo, London, and Buenos Aires are thrilling even in quick glimpses.  If you’re getting paid to spend working hours overseas, you’ve obviously proven something about your professional ability and your unique skill set.  This is proof worth striving for… and worth treasuring.
Still, we’re not all international business students.  If your employment is strictly local – for example nursing or teaching – an assignment in Amsterdam may be a tall order.  You could modify this bucket list goal by applying for a grant that might pay your way to an out-of-state conference or workshop.  The point of this item is that your insights and professional development are worth an extra investment.  Sometime between now and your retirement, your employer should pay for those things. 

  • Hire someone.

Giving someone a job is perhaps more rewarding than finding work for yourself.  When you help someone secure a paycheck, you’re making a direct and positive impact on their future.  Your vote of confidence could be the one that finally launches that person’s career.  Human resources professionals often get to hire and recruit on a regular basis – lucky them!
If you’re not in the HR field, it’s especially fun to play matchmaker – pairing the right candidate with a position you understand. Experiencing the interview process from the other side of the table can also teach you a lot about yourself, your industry, and your judgment of character.

  • Build your own website.

This exercise is as much about learning web development as it is about learning to chronicle your success.  Shy careerists: don’t be scared.  You don’t have to build a blog full of family photos and daily musings.  Your website can reveal as much or as little as you want.  Use it as a home-base for your resume and any accessories that might illustrate your work.  Showcase the journals you read, the ad campaigns you admire, or the white papers you’ve written.  Link to the blogs you follow.  When you begin to think about how you would tell the story of your career to a stranger, you discover some amazing things – including other to-dos!

  • Speak at your local school’s Career Day.

After five, ten, or 20 years in the working world, we’re all experts at something.  Your experience is valuable.  Whether you work as a street sweeper or an oral surgeon, the next generation needs to know what you do.  It’s far more fascinating than you think.
And speaking to kids isn’t just a one-way street.  As any teacher can attest, kids have powerful insights.  There’s a reason so many fifth graders aspire to be Christmas tree salesmen and firefighters.  They see right through our adult job titles and zero in on helpful, hopeful occupations.  You may steal some important takeaways from a middle school Q&A session.

  • Leave a job gracefully.

Many professionals measure success by charting the roles they’ve obtained.  But resumes can be read backwards, too.  If all your past job titles make you cringe, you may be missing out on one of work’s greatest perks: the fond farewell. 
Of course, no one’s suggesting you should leave a good job just for the practice.  Next time you are ready to hit the road, follow these guidelines:

  • Give ample notice to your managers (two weeks, at minimum). 
  • Make sure open-ended projects are buttoned up or reassigned before your departure. 
  • Circulate a goodbye email to all your colleagues, and supply contact information to the colleagues you actually like. 
  • Graciously accept any offers for a goodbye lunch or happy hour.  Even if you’re bored to tears, it’s always good form to accept a toast and a piece of supermarket cake.
  • If you are unexpectedly let go, you may not have the opportunity to follow these steps, but you can still send individual emails to the coworkers who helped and supported you.
  • Frame your degree.

College is valuable in a number of ways – from the subject knowledge you gain, to the group work strategies and self-discipline you develop.  Your degree, as evidence of that value, should be something your grandkids can inherit and hang on their own walls. 
Half of your coworkers probably can’t even find their college degrees, let alone admire them.  Don’t be one of these careerists.  You spent time and money working toward a major accomplishment; you should keep it nearby and display it with pride.

  • Invite your boss out to lunch.

Just like our personal relationships, jobs begin to feel stale if we don’t give them our daily attention and an occasional dose of passion.  Don’t wait for your manager to ask for new ideas and opinions.  And don’t assume you’ve reached your peak just because you get good marks on your annual review.  Look for ways to do more or be more efficient.  Pay attention to your competitors and their strategies.  When you have some ideas in hand, invite your boss to a business lunch.  Even if your suggestions don’t pan out, your initiative won’t go unnoticed.  And, you’ll be surprised how much you learn during casual conversation.

  • Bring your kids to work – at least once, anyway.

Your kids rightly believe they are the center of your universe.  They have an amazing capacity to take up all of your attention, as soon as you get home every day.  It’s little wonder they have no idea what you do for a living.  Make a point to show them.  If your employer doesn’t observe Bring Your Son/Daughter to Work Day, get permission to plan a visit on a less busy afternoon, or consider dropping by when you’re not on the clock. It’s good practice for kids to start tempering televised depictions of “work” with real-life work settings.

  • Create (and actually understand!) a retirement plan.

If you’re not exactly a financial wizard, you may want to consult an expert.  Start with your HR department.  They should be able to offer basic insights on 401K plans or revenue sharing options that may be available to you. You might also choose to hire a certified planner, or study retirement planning and investing on your own.

  • Spend a week’s salary on something you can wear.

Okay, so this advice flies in the face of that last item on saving.  And you shouldn’t splurge on your wardrobe every month, or even every year.  But if you’ve established yourself in a career field, and your regular bills are paid on time, you should get to indulge in something that adds to your professional profile – at least once or twice in your working life.  A beautiful watch, a designer handbag, a killer pair of heels…  True enough, confidence comes from within.  Confidence plus style?  That comes from high-end shopping.

  • Win professional recognition.

Fans of the television show, The Office, will understand the pettiness of an award like “the Dundie.”  In real life, workplace awards are actually worth fighting for.  Because financial performance is so easy to measure, those in sales-based jobs – Iike real estate – are often rewarded for being top performers.  But other industries recognize hard work and commitment, too. 
Many states host “Teacher of the Year” contests.  Professional journals often accept article submissions from members of the industry; getting published is a major form of recognition.  Maybe you’ll be asked to participate in an interview.  Whether you stand out as “Employee of the Month,” or simply receive a thank you letter from a very satisfied client, you’ll have proof of an A+ work ethic.

  • Bake something for your coworkers.

Don’t wait for a major holiday.  People are inundated with sweets after Halloween and winter parties.  For maximum effect, bring in a batch of brownies on a random Wednesday in February.  Or surprise everyone with a summertime fruit salad. This easy gesture of camaraderie and good spirit is a move that might inspire others to reciprocate – eventually making your workplace a happier, friendlier place to go every day.

  • Learn to speak another language.

Some jobs require bilingual abilities. Other professionals naturally begin to pick up vocabulary words and phrases after frequent interactions with speakers of other languages.  (Think ESL teachers or healthcare administrators.) It’s great to study language to improve your job performance, but it’s also great to study language just for yourself.  Many professionals enroll in online language courses. Even if you never need to speak Italian, or Spanish, or French during your working hours, you might enjoy the conversational ability for your next big vacation to an exotic place!

  • Return your borrowed office supplies.

Let’s be honest: you’ve never gone to a store and purchased a stapler in your life.  So why are there three of them in your desk at home?  Before your last day of work, you should bring back any appropriated equipment – whether it’s a three-hole punch or a mini fridge. If you want a souvenir from your working days, plan on a group photo.
What other things would you like to achieve or experience before retirement?

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