Thursday, March 11, 2010

The job ends. Listen for the slight sound of the door slamming behind you

For years, I thought about what it would be like to stand among my fellow workers at the newspaper to say goodbye. Of the three events tied to my recent retirement, the work place farewell was the toughest. Those predictable farewell speeches about how much I'd contributed made me feel uncomfortable. The crazy little comments that came out of nowhere about something I said 10 years ago, 20 years ago were unnerving. The good part for me was that the last day of work was a Friday, sandwiched between a party I hosted for work-related people outside my own organization whom I wanted to thank, and a party at my house for close family and friends on Saturday. That made Friday's last day a little easier.
Retirement for me had been coming for more than year. It was a year when a gen-X workmate told me he thought it was time for babyboomers like me to step aside and let his age group climb the responsibility ladder. It was a year when I found my opinion more often discounted in planning meetings. I began to feel dated. It was a year when going to work was not the fun it had been. It was a year when several friends retired and I saw them go happily forward with their lives. Others took me to lunch after I announced I was leaving to tell me how excited they are for me and how good life can be without a big job.
Here's what I experienced in these past several weeks.
- The final two weeks on the job are tough because psychologically, you're out the door. You're planning the next thing. Meanwhile, there's a lot to hand off, a lot to clean up and clean out.
- Don't expect the person replacing you to be too interested in anything you might tell them about the job you're giving up and they are taking on. They have their own ideas.
- Do expect to receive some wonderful congratulatory cards and emails from people who know and repsect you. Some messages came from unexpected quarters and were much appreciated.
- Be prepared for that slight sound of the door slamming behind you. You're leaving while others are staying on in a difficult economic time.  Even though you know retiring was the right move for you, it still feels uncomfortable when you see the organization quickly move forward without you. As a close friend observed, the person I was at work with the job title, the big responsibility is "dead." So when they say retirement is one of the life changing events that scores high on the stress chart, believe them.
- Now that I'm putting together a home office, setting up files and arranging networking meetings, I feel excited, if not energized about the future in a "phased" retirement. That is a retirement where I expect to continue to make a contribution and avoid tapping Social Security for a couple of more years.
This week, the Wall Street Journal addresses the retirement trend among workers 55 to 64.
There are 1.6 million of us. Click here.

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