Quickly grow a non-career identity

Many people tie their sense of self to the work they do. If they work for only one employer in their lifetime, they might tie their self-concept to the company. We hear horror stories of Japanese employees who continued the daily routine of dressing up, taking the train to work, and hanging around their old offices. There are similar stories in other countries.

A close friend worked for a certain bank from the day he graduated ‘ it was his one and only employer. After 18 years, he quit. The change was too much for him. Every morning he got up as usual, put on his office attire, walked out of the house, sat in the car, and started the engine. Only then did he realize that he no longer had to go to work. This happened for days before he woke up to the new reality.

To enjoy your retirement you need to break away from your old work-based identity.

  • Even before you retire, see yourself as a multi-faceted person. Besides work, you are a spouse, parent, sibling, member of a religious or charitable group, a sportsperson, etc. If you have only work interests, start to diversify the use of your time. Join other people in activities not related to your career.
  • Talk with friends about your transition. You can get help from those who have already made the change. Help is also possible from career advisors and outplacement professionals – see if you employer can foot the bill.
  • If you are a thinker, allow time for you to process the vicissitudes of your recent life. If you are a high-activity person, plan ahead and get ready to enjoy one or two activities.
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