Is Retirement A Transition? Yes and No
By Karen and Erica
We were chatting with a friend who suggested that retiring was like any other form of work transition, except maybe less voluntary. That got us thinking. Was that right?
Before we retired, our own personal transitions were relatively few, compared to those of friends who constantly moved from one job to another, in different companies doing different things. Once we started work as lawyers, we stayed lawyers. We changed employers a few times, and our work was extremely varied, but we didn't switch over to being investment bankers, or farmers, or fashion designers. We were never part time. We didn't move to the entrepreneurial world either, until we retired.
Maybe that's why it took us a while to figure out what we wanted to do--after we figured out we did not want to be lawyers any more. We had to think about what there was to do--and about the relative limits of that universe. We decided a couple of things: first, that since we were experienced writers with strong points of view, we should use those characteristics in whatever we did, and second, that we wanted a website. Then things started to happen. We had to learn a lot of new things, especially about the internet and social media. We began to network in a different environment. We started dimly to perceive the difference between stock photos and elegant images. And we put down our defenses enough to hire a photographer and to post images of ourselves.
This process was surely a transition, but it seemed like more--like a quantum leap into a different universe. Retirement from a long career followed by a totally different sort of work is far from a transition along a career path. Our careers were a platform to a really different approach to work. Now, we do what we do for ourselves, and in service to a mission we have chosen for ourselves. We are our own bosses, and we define success differently--in fact the process of defining success is ongoing. We have entered an exciting and daunting new world.
And our entry was rough. That's probably because each of us was lucky enough to have stayed in one beloved organization for a long time. Employees of the future are likely to be much more experienced transitioners. They may move frequently, and indeed may have more than one job at a time. And at the end will they retire at all? Will there be an end or will they have hundred year careers full of transitions that are much more fluid than those of today? Or will they retire very young, as robots take over everybody's work, and will their transitions be of an entirely different order?
Whatever we might call our transition, we are rather excited to have unexpectedly catapulted into a crossroads where we can think about what post-career life and work can be for the Baby Boom generation, and talk about it with lots of smart and fun people. A fine way to work, for now.