Let's Retire the Word Retirement

Man leaping over valley

As someone who “retired” from a full-time staff position in Human Resources to pursue a full-time career as a career coach, I am troubled by the frequent question asked me by colleagues, friends, family, and yes, even some clients about “So, how’s retirement going?” One reason this question troubles me is that my full-time career as a coach has been in full swing for the past twenty years, 15 of which I did as a side gig while working my full-time HR job! In fact, during those 15 years I put as much time and effort into being a career coach as I did in performing my “day job” in HR.

So, to those colleagues, friends and family, and to all of you who have had similar experiences, I say let’s throw out the word “retirement” from our daily conversations. It’s a new world of work out there with an increasing number of people working beyond the traditional “retirement” years of 62 to 65. From my own experiences, and speaking with others who are looking to “retire” from one job to pursue other job opportunities, I am reminded of what one anonymous author referred to as “you are never too old to be hired, nor too young to retire.”

Renee Lee Rosenberg author of Achieving the Good Life after 50

For you “older workers,” it also means taking a more positive view of how others see you in the workplace, and not let ageism (and its associated age discrimination), a former high salary level, or previous positions you held become your issue if you choose to do a different type of work. It’s what my good friend and colleague Renee Lee Rosenberg calls the “reframing of how people see you” in her celebrated book “Achieving the Good Life After 50.”

I agree with many of the career gurus who point out that the world of work is changing to one where more people (including baby boomers) will move from one job to another (one notes the rise in the “gig” workforce) versus people staying with one organization over a longer period of time. In fact, Daniel Pink noted this trend going back to 2001 in his book “Free Agent Nation – The Future of Working for Yourself.” The number of independent workers (the essence of the “gig” workforce) is only getting larger. We are indeed in a new type of economy because today’s job market is very different from the one yesterday.

Retiring from one job may offer the security of drawing on a pension, receiving social security, and other benefits, but pursuing a “post-retirement” job (or career) makes it no less real. In today’s job market it still takes a well thought out job search campaign to land a gig job as it does a full-time position. In fact, those who have “retired” from one position to pursue opportunities in other areas should take their clues from our Millennial workers who embrace a culture where they expect to move through many different jobs or careers over the span of their lives. And they don’t expect, nor will probably receive, a pension so the word retirement makes even less sense for them.

Given these trends in the workforce we simply need to terminate the term “retirement” since it can be self-defeating for the “older worker” who desires to remain upbeat about pursuing new career opportunities, and likewise, for the “younger worker” who already embraces this new work culture, and a reminder that the world of work will continue to change for them as well.

Achieving the Good Life After 50 by Renee Lee Rosenberg

Renee Lee Rosenberg in her book suggests using words such as “rewiring,” “moving on,” “advancing,” and “redirecting” to replace the negative connotation of the word “retirement.” Drawing inspiration from Renee’s book here’s what I propose: Let’s come up with some additional words to replace the word retirement. To get us started, below are a few more words that may best reflect our current working environment:

  • Resurgence (i.e., “I haven’t retired, I’ve resurged myself with a new focus and energy to pursue different job opportunities”);

  • Revitalized (i.e., “I haven’t retired, I’ve revitalized myself with a new job drawing on my experiences and passions”);

  • Reinvented (i.e., “I haven’t retired, I’ve reinvented myself by working at something I’ve always wanted to do”);

  • Reinvigorated (i.e., “I haven’t retired, I’m reinvigorated by my new job”);

  • Resurfaced (i.e., “I haven’t retired, I’ve resurfaced doing my lifelong passion”).

If you can think of other words to replace the word “retirement” put them in the comments box below, and this way we can give the word “retirement” its proper burial.

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