Updated: Jan 24
When people ask you about yourself do you automatically reply with your job title? Do you think of yourself as “Jane Doe, Vice President”? If you’ve had a long-term career, chances are your identity is tied closely to what you do for work. While you’re in the epicenter of your career you may not realize just how true this is.
However, once you are no longer working full-time there can be a disconnect between who you’ve been and who you are now. This can come as a shock, if you haven’t planned ahead for you will see yourself when you are no longer working. You are in good company, because many of us haven’t given it much consideration. The first few times someone asks you about yourself after you’ve retired you realize it’s no longer simply answered with your job title. We are all more than our work life. Possibly you are a spouse, parent, friend, sister/brother, and a host of other identities. However we still tend to describe ourselves by what we do.
There are many answers to who we are, of course. There is the external answer, typically the job title, and then there is what we value about ourselves that we may not always share. If you are no longer able to claim that job title it is crucial that you reflect on what matters to you now, and how you want to be known. For example, you may be doing volunteer work and it gives you satisfaction to be giving back. Leverage how that makes you feel and find a way to articulate it. You may have hobbies and interests that also contribute to what you value about yourself, so don’t relegate them to merely what you do in your spare time. Incorporate them into the new version of yourself post-retirement.
Giving up that job title doesn’t mean you have to be embarrassed or uncomfortable when talking about yourself. It does mean you deserve to feel positive about how you’re spending your time (and no one gets to judge you for your choices). So give it some thought, and you may uncover some surprising answers.