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It's Never Too Late to Love Your Job

Increased autonomy will frequently lead to increased satisfaction

Go beyond the day-to-day

Sometimes, of course, a job is just a job. The satisfaction comes from the add-ons, like mentoring and volunteering on projects outside the scope of your usual responsibilities. Look more broadly around your organization and see how you can get involved, says Betsy Werley, 57, executive director of The Transition Network, the New York City-based nonprofit networking group for women over 50. "Be part of a mentoring program, move beyond your day-to-day duties, and find ways you can be part of something bigger."

Werley followed this route herself seven years ago, jumping from her corporate job at JPMorgan Chase to the nonprofit world. Before joining The Transition Network, she became involved with the Financial Women's Association, a nonprofit group for women in the financial- services industry. "As I was looking to change careers, I realized I had done a lot of work helping women and girls with their development. Now it's my full-time job," she says.

Herb Johnson, 60, has spent his professional life in the tire industry, logging 35 years at Michelin, where he was formerly director of the brand's motorsports division. Now he's director of community relations, responsible for making his longtime employer a better corporate citizen.

"I'm in the giving-back stage of my career," says Johnson, who has reinvented his job without changing employers. A health crisis several years ago, when he was diagnosed with type-2 diabetes, led him to look closely at his professional life. "I realized there is a greater purpose for my being here."

Johnson's career is a world away from the place it was a few years ago, when he spent most of his time roaming international raceways, consulting with engineers and drivers, and talking to the press about Michelin tires. During Johnson's tenure as head of the company's racing program, Michelin-shod cars took first place at the 24-hour race in Le Mans, France, among numerous other victories, and he was immersed in the details of racing-tire compounds and tread designs.

Now the pace has slowed, and Johnson is more likely to be found lending a hand to build new homes with Habitat for Humanity. Or he may be meeting with elementary school administrators near his home in Greenville, S.C., about a program he spearheaded, the Michelin Challenge Education volunteer mentoring program, which enlists company employees and retirees to provide mentoring in math, science and reading at public schools near 14 Michelin facilities nationwide.

Changing focus didn't mean downshifting to easier work. "Working with a race-car driver's ego is a little different from working with a nonprofit," he says. "The biggest problem now is finding the resources to make a difference. In racing it was about selling tires. This is about selling hope for the future of our children," Johnson explains.

The most satisfying part of his new role? "Getting up every morning and knowing I have an opportunity to help some person who is less fortunate than me."

Kerry Hannon is the author of the new AARP book Great Jobs For Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy…and Pays the Bills (John Wiley & Sons).

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