Thoughts on stepping into retirement


Take your departure as a gift, a chance at a new beginning, an opportunity to test yourself a new.

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Since retirement, and a bit of “retirement”, has been trending this past week, I thought maybe there are those who could benefit from my four-day experience on the matter.

The first thing that an employee should do when their employment ends is to move on. This is because termination, by whatever means, is not a recoverable situation. There is no recall, no change of heart, no re-hiring.

It is possible, in a small minority of cases and under special circumstances, for an employee to be taken back by the same employer but only in a different capacity and possibly many years later.

So when you collect your terminal dues, it is a wrap. Take it positively and do your best to cheerfully move on, swiftly and without an excess of emotion.

Many of us have a problem ending our identification with a former, long-time employer. Many years later, some secretly hope that they will be called in to “save” the institution from their “unworthy” successors.

When you are let go, or when you take the decision to quit, there is a critical degeneration of value. Your employer is either not serving a useful purpose in your life or you are not as important as other considerations in your employer’s reckoning. It is a business calculation, not an emotional judgement.

Second, be responsible, don’t go off in a huff. Hand over respectfully to your successor and be mindful of your former employer’s customers.

Go through the process of weaning customers off your services and be a good ambassador for your former employer without the expectation of reward but for the benefit of the colleagues you left behind, the customers you once served and the shareholders who for years paid your salary. Don’t be petty, the world is a big place. When an opportunity to partner with your former employer arises, take it. It’s business, nothing personal.

Third, always travel light. The quest for revenge, settling scores and looking for people who “fixed” you will drain your energy and waste the time you would have used better seeking business opportunities or alternative employment.

And if you really feel that some redress is necessary, don’t obsess, take whatever action quickly and put that chapter behind you. Living a life of bitterness and anger is a bad fate.

New connections

Fourth, give your friends and your former connections a break. Most friendships and business relationships are instrumental, not emotional. They are based on a perception of value. When you leave your employment, your value reduces and many people might not think that there is any point investing money and time in you.

The gentlemanly thing to do is to make it easy for them to fall off, the good ones will hang around. Make new friends and new connections in your new life and keep moving. Don’t be a pest.

Fifth, it’s a new beginning, a blessing to be welcomed or maybe even feared a little. But not fought. To be candid, if you were to place a big Magnum revolver on my temple and tell me: “Go back to work, same office, same routine, or I will promote you to higher glory”, what would I do? I loved the security of the paycheck, I liked (most of) the people I worked with, I’m passionate about my profession, but, I’d close my eyes, screw up the courage, say a quick prayer and dare you to take me home.

Why? There is something wrong with people like me who stay in the same place for a quarter of a century. You never know who you really are and what you are capable of if you never get the chance to test yourself against new adversities and circumstances.

So, don’t fight to leave your happy place, take your departure as a gift, a chance at a new beginning, an opportunity to test yourself anew against the world, an opening to achieve beyond your current circumstances.

Finally, be careful about life after the strict discipline of the office, you could overdose on luxury. For me, the ultimate luxury is being out driving in the sun and having the odd snooze.

After three weeks in the sun, my skin is burnt purple, I slept right through the World Cup and I haven’t seen the new Wakanda movie; I’d fall asleep before the intro is over. I discovered there are snakes in Makandune, big cobras which stand on their tails, and scorpions. This means the idea of basking daylong in the hottest sun in the savannah is temporarily on hold. Luxury is a scam.

And so the last, last, last thing. “Retirement” is not a death sentence (retirement might be, though) so one should expect you would be open to getting back in harness if you get bored, something interesting comes along or if there is no more money in the bank.

“Retirement” is freedom and freedom most times has an expiry date. Exhale, revel, put your money on a good night, as the man sings, then go back and mix it up again.