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Quitting retirement, and getting back in the game

Former CEO of The Beer Store, Ted Clarke

Tim Fraser/The Globe and Mail

Ted Clarke was eager to live out his dream of retirement after more than 35 years in management roles.

Since stepping down as president and chief executive officer of The Beer Store in Ontario a year ago, he and his wife have made extensive trips to England, the United States and the Caribbean. He has worked to perfect his golf game and get more competitive in his passions of running and squash. In November, represented Canada at the Invitational Masters Squash Tournament in Mexico, winning the bronze medal.

But as fun as freedom has been, the 58-year-old is finding that retirement isn't all he thought it would be and he's on the hunt for a part-time management or consultancy role. "I got a good severance and we have savings, so money wasn't the issue. But I've realized I've got lots of energy left and I want to use it as constructively as possible," he says.

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Call it the one-year itch or cabin fever - it's a syndrome that seems to be hitting an increasing number of former executives who got out of the rat race and are deciding they want back in, says Peter Drake, vice-president of economic research for Fidelity Investments Canada ULC in Toronto, who is tracking retirement trends.

A recent Fidelity survey found that the winter is the time of year when many retired execs decide they've had enough enforced leisure.

"The most popular time for retirement is the spring and that gives people a false sense of excitement, because they can do things outdoors and visit the cottage or work in the garden or on the house. But then the days get shorter, their friends go back to work and the reality sinks in," says Mr. Drake, a retired executive who returned to a full-time role at Fidelity last year at the age of 67.

Money is not a motivator for most returnees, he notes, adding: "Someone who was an executive has been used to doing things daily and getting satisfaction from what they achieve."

Business leaders may think they only want to play golf seven days a week but that thinking often lasts until they get to the point where they can play seven days a week. Golfing or biking is not a full-time occupation and people find they miss the social interaction and satisfaction of having a challenging job to do.

At the same time, most don't want to get back into the lion's den of corporate management, and most decide they would like to do part-time or contract work.

But getting back into a game they've left can be difficult for those who were at the top in their previous careers. "They find out that people are not lined up at the door to welcome them back into the work force," says Warren Lundy, partner with OI Partners-Feldman Daxon Partners Inc., a Toronto-based executive search and career-transition coaching firm.

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"You may have been at the top in your previous career, but getting back into the work force is hard work and I that many former executives aren't willing to put in the effort," he says.

"The reality is they're competing with a lot of younger and highly talented people They have to put a serious effort in to get into the situation they want. and prove they're the best choice for the job."

To make a return to a top-level job after retirement requires clearly knowing what you have to offer and being able to pitch that to potential employees, Mr. Lundy says. "People aren't going to come to you if they think you're retired."

Former executives may also need to rebrand themselves, including taking course to upgrade their skills and accreditations, Mr. Lundy notes. "Many are reluctant to put out that effort because they feel that they would be going backward to have to lay the groundwork necessary to sell themselves in a highly competitive job market."

Still, he says increasing numbers of former executives are turning to him for advice. "What they all have in common is they are looking for more challenge and excitement in their lives and want to feel useful. They still have something to offer."

Mr. Clarke, meanwhile, has lined up a consulting position with a startup company, which requires only a few hours each week. "I'd consider coming back to a full-time role, but I'm thinking more of being a part-time mentor or adviser to one or more companies who can use my expertise."

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"The thing that would be great would be to feel challenged and still be able to say: I'm doing what I want to do."



John Brennan, 52

Previous role: Vice-president of human resources and public affairs for Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan. Left in 2008 after the death of his spouse.

Insight: "Most of my colleagues were still working. When you are not working, you are hanging out with people 15 years older than you are."

Actions taken: Took courses to keep current on legislation and renew his professional designation. "I put together a résumé, which I hadn't done in 20 years, and made contacts … and continually beat the bushes, and went for interviews."

Current role: Started in November as senior vice-president of shared services at pension fund OP Trust in Toronto.

Stu Kistruck, 65

Previous role: Chief executive officer of Pilot Insurance for nine years. Left in 2003 after merger made company part of Aviva Canada.

Insight: "You can get used to leisure, but it doesn't provide enough challenges and rewards, so I'm keeping my eyes open for opportunities."

Actions taken: Was evaluated by a management coach and identified his skills in strategic planning and mentoring. The coach suggested looking for roles in mentoring managers or teaching accounting and leadership.

Current role: Has become a meeting facilitator for a group of independent brokers and mentor for individual members. Also has a position on the governance committee of a Toronto-area brokerage and sits as a volunteer on the board of a seniors' centre.




Percentage of new retirees in 2010 who found the experience more difficult than expected.


Percentage who retired earlier than they had planned.


Percentage of Canadians who have worked full- or part-time after retirement.


Percentage who started a business or consulting firm.

Source: Fidelity Investments

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About the Author

Wallace Immen is an award-winning staff writer for The Globe and Mail whose stories about workplace trends and career advice, as well as about cruising and travel destinations around the world appear regularly in print and on-line. He has worn many hats in his career with the Globe, including science writer, medical writer and columnist, urban affairs reporter and travel writer. More

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