Transitioning to Retirement

Posted: March 26, 2013 in Change
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China TripI don’t expect to retire for another 10-12 years.  I love what I do at work, those with whom I get to do it, and the company at which my 10th anniversary is coming in August.  I hope to remain here until I retire,  leaving behind an organization that is better in some ways than I found it.  I have every reason to believe that will happen.

At the same time, I find myself thinking from time to time about how and when that final transition will be made from long-time corporate employee to former employee.  I wonder if there will be life circumstances currently unforeseen that cause me to change my plans and leave earlier than anticipated.   Will health issues (mine or another’s) lead me to re-prioritize and change direction?  Will some unexpected, unsought opportunity come knocking at my door that tugs at my heart strong enough to lure me away?  Will my passions and interests shift in ways I can’t foresee, causing me to choose some new, final career unrelated to what I do now?  I don’t know.

Still, as I ponder making a transition at whatever point in time it seems best, here are some considerations that will cumulatively influence that decision.

1. I want to make a positive difference in the work I do.  There is great satisfaction in that my roles for several years have been one-of-a-kind in the company.  I have had the joy of serving as the community manager for our internal social network since its beginning nearly three years ago, nursing it along as it has grown into a 25,000+ member community that is still growing every week.  It is incredibly satisfying to be in a position where I feel that I have the opportunity to influence over time the culture and how communication happens in this 51-year-old company.

Therefore, it would be a challenge to leave this type of position for one with a less noticeable impact.  Of course, there are other possibilities of how one might still make a positive difference, so we’ll cross that bridge if and when we come to it.  The necessity, though, is that I must know that I’m making a real difference in my work, or it will be time to move on.

2. I want to be wise enough to step aside when others around me are better suited to lead in ways I cannot.  I’ve seen too many employees in different organizations kept around out of courtesy, shuffled from one role to the next with minimal expectations because others are too kind or too scared to let them go.  That may keep a paycheck coming in, but it doesn’t satisfy the soul or really do what is in the best interests of the organization.

One of the things I love about working with my current team is that they are all younger than me, from half my age to the nearest still being 16 years younger than me.  I’m the only Boomer on the team with one Gen Xer and four Millennials.  I love that!  I love the energy, the creativity, and the fact that being around them helps keep me young at heart. As our team grows, though, I can’t help but imagine that there will be a time when I think it’s in the company’s best interests to turn the keys over to the younger men and women and let them drive to destinations I would not have considered or known how to navigate.  Plenty of wisdom and an absence of pride are needed to make such a call at the right time.

3. Even though I will eventually retire from corporate full-time employment, I have a hard time seeing myself going from consistently working 50+ hours per week to sitting on my front porch with a newspaper, yelling at the neighborhood kids to “Get off my lawn!”  In short, that just isn’t going to happen.  Whether through volunteering, writing, teaching, ministry or just being an active Granddaddy, it doesn’t seem to be in my blood to live life without a long to-do list and goals to achieve.  Just because I reach some culturally traditional retirement age does not give me an excuse to stop being productive.  There is always work to be done, and I intend to do so somewhere, somehow as long as I am physically able to do so.  It won’t be enough, then, to retire from a role.  I will also have to know what endeavor is drawing me toward it for the next chapter.

Stepping back and looking at the big picture of my life by decades, these thoughts of retirement would not have been on my mind a decade ago.  While I’m not yet ready to consider retirement, I can at least see the doorway in the distance and I’m beginning to wonder what it might be like on the other side.

Meanwhile, there is still much to be done here.

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