Retirement & The Loss of Community: My Experience

Mar 05, 2019

Once you decide to retire, your community of colleagues, clients, partners, strategic partners, and your general business network changes—and by changes, I mean it disappears. But in reality, they didn't go away you did.

When you get to that time in your career to leave your company and "retire," you are deciding to leave your professional world behind. Whether it is a voluntary or forced retirement, this loss of community can be devastating.

As I wrote in a previous post, there is a massive loss of identity when you retire. Along with that comes a loss of community that you might not have adequately prepared for.

After all, this large circle of friends, influencers, and mentors may have been a part of your life for years—maybe even decades. Some of these relationships may have extended into your personal life as well. They may have spent time with your family, perhaps even vacationed together. To walk away from these relationships takes courage, and with it comes a set of emotions that you need to deal with. Not everyone is prepared for this significant change in their life.

These relationships, while durable and long-lasting, were started because of your business relationship. I call this a situational relationship. Yes, you met through your network, you nurtured these relationships and, depending on your style, you may have positioned yourself as someone who brings value to them and their organization. This feeling of helping others is one of the main drivers of human happiness.

During your career, you may have taken on several roles: problem solver, inspirational leader, relationship builder, creative thinker, and more. All these roles brought you happiness, a feeling of belonging…a feeling of being needed.

When these relationships fade away—and they do fade fast—you are left with a feeling of emptiness, loss of purpose, loss of being needed. After being involved with so many people daily, filling 40+ hours a week helping solve problems, create opportunities, and generate social interchange, it is a dramatic full stop.

About one month after I retired, I was walking through my old office building when I ran into a client who I worked with for over 15 years. Over the course of our relationship, his company grew and I was an integral part of counseling him and his leadership team throughout their period of growth. Our relationship deepened, and we developed close personal ties and deep ties in the business community serving on boards together.

During my transition, I made sure clients like him were handed off to my replacement, made all the proper introductions, and worked hard on helping to create a relationship between my client and the new team.

But I was not prepared for what transpired during our meeting that day.

At first, it was surprising—both of us caught off guard seeing each other—then big smiles, the traditional handshake, and cordial exchanges. "How have you been? You look great. You look relaxed…retirement must be treating you well." Then after this exchange, catching each other up, he said, "Don't be a stranger—stay in touch. Lunch one day would be great." Then he turned and walked away.

At first, I thought maybe he was late for a meeting as we have always stopped and talked much longer in the past. A chat about business, perhaps an open project we were working on, and always about family.

Then my mind did what most brains do, and I started to think that perhaps I did something wrong—maybe things are not going well since I left the firm—all thoughts that I knew better how to control.

That evening, I sat down to do some journaling about my day and I focused on this encounter. Here is what I realized.

First, I realized we had a situational relationship. What I mean by that is we met in our business community. I approached this potential future client about doing business together, and over time, that happened. Then our relationship deepened over the next 15 years, but it was always around the premise that we had a mutually beneficial business relationship. There is nothing wrong with that, but that was our main reason for spending so much time together.

Second, I had done a great job transferring this relationship to my teammates, and it was them, and not me, in that business relationship now. I did not want—and could not expect him to—continue to call me with questions and advice.

And third, I was the one who decided to leave my company; my client did not leave me. That was the choice I made.

These relationships that I built and nurtured during my career served me well, and I served these relationships well.

As I journaled and thought more about this, it has worked out perfectly. I successfully made the transition into this new stage in my life. And I also made sure that all of my client relationships were transferred to my teammates: a win-win for everyone. The problem for me is that I have lost contact with these relationships. This contact was sometimes daily, and now that is not the case.

As you leave your career and go through this transition, it's essential to have the mindset that this is supposed to happen. It’s part of the process and you must embrace it and accept it.

The key to success here is having the discipline to go through the process of looking at all of these relationships and deciding which ones you may want to continue. That is on you and not on the other people.

At our company, markhamrollins.com, we have developed a tool to help you with that process, walking you through a reflection of current relationships, deciding which one to invest and grow, limit or maintain, or fade and dissolve.

To begin reflecting on your relationships, start Your Retirement Game Plan today to start your journey toward a Retirement Transformed.

START THE COURSE TODAY