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What Is Your Elevator Retirement Pitch?

By Patti Hart for Next Avenue

Who am I now? Do I matter? Am I relevant? Does anyone see me, or have I been "put out to pasture?"

These are questions many of us consider when our lives move from full-time employment in a structured environment to a post-career stage with more flexibility and many more options. Finding a quick way to describe yourself to others during this new phase of life can have a meaningful impact on your confidence and the way others categorize you.

In the book my husband Milledge and I wrote, "The Resolutionist: Welcome to the Anti-Retirement Movement," we call this activity "Developing your Elevator Pitch." (Being a resolutionist means embracing a lifestyle through your willingness to learn and grow post-career.)

Often, looking in the rearview mirror is much too common at this stage of our lives. That's because our careers gave us a sense of identity and a narrative that made it easier to be understood.

Redefining Yourself

But if you were still working full-time, you wouldn't define yourself by what you did many jobs ago. You would share your current activities and interests. The same holds true at this stage, and that's the reason to create an elevator pitch for retirement.

It is now time to step away from what has given you the self-worth and confidence so integral to your life and your success and instead embrace your new activities as relevant and interesting.

This can be quite basic, like "I am reading the Amazon Top 100 books of all time" or "I am restoring a historic home." Or it can be more far reaching, like "I am working to shift the conversation about racism in our country" or "I am fighting for human rights for the incarcerated."

Nothing is too big or too small to include in this kind of elevator pitch. Take pride in your new work and your contributions. Even if you are not focused on grand philanthropic exploits or bucket-list items, you will find that you are more interesting than you ever imagined.

Our Friend's Elevator Retirement Pitch

We found great inspiration from one of our good friends, Brad Smith.

Brad has had an immense impact on the business community, in particular the technology sector. His most recent leadership role was as CEO of Intuit, a role Brad describes as a "role OF a lifetime, but not FOR a lifetime."

Soon after Brad stepped down from his corporate role, he began defining his new path forward and his associated "elevator pitch." After much thought and discussion with his wife, Alys, he settled on a new way to describe himself.

What could be more inspirational than this retirement elevator pitch he devised? "I am a champion for the overlooked and underserved, a warrior for human dignity and human potential, seeking to level the playing field of opportunity for those with the hunger and the grit to try."

Our own retirement elevator pitches were along different lines and consistent with the things we have committed to; they're evergreen and will change as our focus shifts.

When we decided to shift from revisiting our past to shining a light on our current selves, we both developed a brief description that we thought would adequately describe our interests and endeavors.

We practiced our new pitches on one another and then marched off to our first event where we would no longer define ourselves as a former CEO and tech executive (me) or banker (him), but would instead share our new stories.

After giving this elevator pitch a few times, I discovered how passionate the public was about which actor was the best Bond.

My husband's pitch: "I am currently focused on three different organizations where I am the chairman: an investment bank, an oil and gas distribution company and a nonprofit that is eradicating poverty. I am close to my lifetime goal of visiting one hundred countries and I am writing a book."

I moved away completely from my past business dealings and shared, in my pitch, my commitment to energizing the arts community in San Francisco and seeking equality in sports through my work with the U.S. Soccer Federation, while indicating that I was in the middle of watching the entire James Bond film collection in chronological order.

My New Elevator Pitch

After giving this elevator pitch a few times, I discovered how passionate the public was about which actor was the best Bond, which football teams people followed and how critical the arts are to our communities.

I stopped asking myself, "Have I left the best of me behind?" and I realized I hadn't. I was still doing important, relevant and impactful work — and having a little fun as well.

The process of describing yourself is an ongoing exercise. You are not static, and neither should your pitch be. At this stage, your life is more dimensional and dynamic. Don't feel the need for it to be impressive.

We are who we are, and sharing your authentic self will drive conversations, friendships and activities that are authentic as well.

One real advantage of having a well thought out elevator pitch: it gives you confidence to enter unfamiliar situations, hold your head high, and wear your status as a Resolutionist as the badge of honor it is.

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