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What Retirement Changes — Access

By Mary Lloyd, CEO Mining SIlver

When we are yearning for the brass ring called “retirement” nothing about what’s going on at work seems like it will be hard to relinquish.  The stress level?  You can have it.  The people who aren’t pulling their weight?  What bliss to see them in the rear-view  mirror.

But there are a few things you are going to miss.  One of them is access.  Typically, you’ve spent decades doing this work all week, every week–except for vacation.  You’ve learned a lot about that work.  You’ve solved a lot of problems to get it done.  It’s a content area, where, much as you probably don’t want to believe me, you are going to continue to have interest.  You might even be thinking of “doing some consulting” in that arena.  Or working part-time or on a project basis in it somehow.

None of those possibilities is a bad thing.  But be prepared for one of those little surprises that come with  retirement–your access to information changes.   When you retire, you exit the loop, whether you want to or not.  You aren’t part of trying to get the problem solved so you won’t be privy to new information, be it a new product coming out from a key supplier or the exciting stuff on the horizon that’s laid out in the ten-year plan.

Congratulations on your retirement!  Please wait for the press release about what we are doing now.

You don’t think it will be that way for you, right?  You have good friends there.  They will keep you up to date about what the company is doing.  You are part of the key industry associations.  They will keep you abreast of whatever’s going  Maybe.  At least for a little while.

But as your status as “retired” becomes more accepted,  your access to key information becomes more unreliable.  You have become….”one of them”….one of all the people who are NOT a part of getting the current work done.

If you did a good job of building alliances and maintaining business relationships, you may still be able to tap into the information channel.  But two things will be different.  First, the information you get will not be cutting edge.  Your friends can’t afford to tell you until things are pretty far along–because you are now an outsider.

Second, the farther you get from your work days, the less you will be perceived as a resource or sounding board.   Even if what you know and can do is better than anything they currently have on board, the tendency is to use the people on site to solve the problem.  You hear less and less and your friends who still at work turn to the people in the cubicles near them for advice and help you used to give.

There’s nothing wrong with you or them, although there’s plenty wrong with the system.  The assumption that we lose our knowledge of the content area and ability to solve a complex problem within months of when we retire is robbing us of a huge amount of talent we desperately need to be competitive as nation.  There is so much we could be doing without committing to the shackles of a full time, all-the-time job.

Eventually, the lunacy of kissing off the last thirty years of people’s lives as “unproductive” is going to change.  But it’s going to take time.  So what can you do to maintain your access to the important information about what’s going on in the meantime?

  • Be gracious about sharing what you know. If those who are trying to learn what you did so well know they can ask you questions and get good answers, your image as a resource will remain strong.
  • When you do help, learn all you can about what’s changing. Your value as a mentor depends on knowing how to handle current situations.   Ask clarifying questions to be sure you understand the nuances of the new problem.
  • Whenever someone calls for information from you, get some from them, too.  Don’t be shy about asking about what’s happening and what’s new.
  • Solve the problem in the here and now. Telling someone  facing the problem for the first time “Hell, we solved that by doing ___ back in 1978.” is asking for the door.  The current solution may well be the same as what you came up with then, but referencing it just reminds people that you are not part of the current effort–and not entitled to all the information those in the loop get.
  • Be a mentor. If the company has a formal mentor program, check it out.   Often these programs provide access to information that would otherwise be at your own expense or not available to you as a retiree at all.

Keeping active in the parts of your work you enjoy is a key part of a satisfying retirement  Find a way to keep doing what you love.  Without going to work every day.

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