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Forced into Retirement? Strengthen those Social Ties!

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by Denis Wuestman

There are many things that can go through your mind if circumstances beyond your control force you into an early retirement.    Your first reaction may be to “start looking for another job”. Understandable. However, depending on demand for your skills, you may discover that the job that you were used to doing may not be there for you again. Maybe work, during this next stage, takes a different form. To help with this transition, one of the most important things you can do is to maintain and strengthen your personal network.

The Benefits of a Network

The extent of a person’s social network can play a significant factor in helping guide a successful transition, both personally and professionally.   From a personal perspective, building relationships can help your focus on “what is next” as you talk to others who have experienced what you have. Simple conversations and connections can ease the solitary nature of this phase. Spending time with people you like can also help bring significant meaning to this part of your life.   Finally, potential job ideas can also come from these conversations.

Tip for Maintaining and/or Starting a New Network

If you are in a situation where you recently left work here are some simple tips for maintaining a social network with your professional connections:

  1. Create an “A-list” of the people that you want to stay in touch with. These are trusted colleagues who impact you positively.
  2. Reach out to them to arrange a lunch or a cup of coffee etc.…(I prefer this over lengthy emails and/or phone calls)
  3. When you meet – it’s important to be yourself and not just focus on looking for a job. Put yourself in their shoes. These are your “A” list of key people from your work life and you ideally may wish to maintain these relationships for a long time.   I suggest considering the following but being authentic rules in all cases:
    • Show an interest in their lives, both work and personal
    • Discuss your situation and ask what advice they might have for you
    • If they make suggestions to help you, be honest with them as to if you will follow-up
    • Once you do try what they suggest – send them a note thanking them and tell them what happened
    • Make a point to stay in touch. People get real busy and you don’t want to appear annoying. I recommend practicing “respectful contact” with regards to frequency. This will vary from individual to individual but I found that people, who are interested in you, and you in them, do not mind hearing about your progress.   Progress is the keyword – you are taking actions to move forward and not waiting for them to do it for you.

At the same time, focus on creating a fresh network so you can add some balance to your social circles and your life. This can help you branch out and perhaps uncover new activities, friends and yes, even work.   Here are some ideas to pursue:

  1. Assess the things you like doing that make you feel good. This could include leisure, exercise, helping others, reading, seeing old friends…..
  2. Once you have your list – pick 1 or 2 things that you would look forward to doing with others. Here are some thoughts that may help you:
    • Join a book club
    • Make a date(s) with friends to do something regularly
    • Volunteer at a soup kitchen, school, hospital
    • Look at non-profits in your area and see if the skills you have matched any of the gaps they are looking for.  This may sound like a stretch but I know someone that found a full-time job this way
    • Go out to dinner with spouses
  3. Start taking action. Set a time to discover more or start an activity. The key here is to try something.

Attitude Is Your Friend

Your attitude will ultimately determine the end result.   This next phase is a new opportunity in many ways for anyone forced into retirement, if it is embraced that way. Things may have changed, but this next phase can become a time of exploration and further growth.  Your social network can be a big assist and provide enjoyment and engagement with people you like along the way.


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