Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Should I stay or should I go? 33: retiring, and phasing out of work as a work-life transition 5

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on November 27, 2016

This is my 33rd installment to a series on intentionally entered into, fundamental job and career path change, and on best practices for deciding both when and how to carry through on it (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 416 and following for Parts 1-32.) And this is also my fifth posting to this series where I at least begin addressing the issues of retirement, and phasing into it.

I focused on the questions and issues of why retire in Part 32, orienting that discussion in terms of an intentionally repetitive and leading set of questions:

• Why retire?
• Do you want to retire, and now or at least soon and as a preferred option?
• Do you feel yourself as having been thrust into a situation where at least significantly tapering down on what you do professionally might be your best option, or even your only one? And if so, why and how?
• Or do you see retirement and even full and sudden retirement as a fundamentally life shaping decision that has somehow been thrust upon you? And if so, why and how?
• I am not asking here, about how or why you would plan for retirement. That is something that prudent people at least begin laying the groundwork for well before they approach retirement age or circumstance or need, baring the unexpected that can suddenly thrust these issues on anyone. Approaching the set of issues and questions raised here from a short-term or even here-and-now timeframe perspective if that applies to you, why retire?

And I went on from this starting point to discuss the why at least implicit in all of these bullet points, as if a measure of choice were always at least a real possibility. Then I made note at the end of that discussion of a countervailing force that has come to take choice out of the hands of many: age discrimination and ageism.

Age discrimination takes good employees, and at all levels of the table of organization, and throws them away – discards them as if no longer offering any positive value, and regardless of the quality or value of work that they have performed, are performing or could.

Age discrimination is illegal when provable, and in many countries and under many legal systems. But proving that a dismissal was based substantially enough on the basis of age to qualify that action as age-based discrimination can be very difficult and certainly on an individual case basis. Often, age discrimination cases against an employer can only be proven as a matter of violation of law, on the basis of recurring patterns.

I offer this posting here with two goals: at least beginning a discussion of how you as a career planner can more effectively deal with the possibilities and the challenges of ageism:

• In the short-term and the immediately here and now if you find yourself confronted by age discrimination in the workplace,
• And perhaps more importantly from a longer-term planning and risk remediation exercise, thinking through what to look for and what to do as you grow older in the workforce, so you can at least limit the likelihood that you will find yourself in a workplace and working for a manager who would be inclined to age discriminate.

I am going to focus on the first of these sets of issues here in this posting and will turn to the second of them in the next. But first, let’s consider scenarios in which you directly face this challenge or direct threat of it. What do you do if you are in a work situation where you see cause for concern there in you’re here and now or in your immediate future? Ask and address this question from the perspective of an older worker who sees real cause for concern that they would be unable to compete with younger potential new hires in a job search in your industry and in the types of businesses that you have worked for. Frame this challenge as it plays out in a context in which you cannot simply move on to take another job if the one you are in now ends. What do you do if you see this type of ax falling? I occasionally make use of an old adage, to the effect that the devil is in the details, and the specific details involved are important here. But as a matter of basic principle, I offer these specific recommendations as organizing points that would likely enter into any effective response that you might take:

• Document everything. Keep all of your annual performance reviews, and copies of emails and hard copy documents that you receive that make note of your positive value as an employee, and for what you do there. Document what you do, at least categorically and certainly where you have succeeded. Confidentiality agreements and similar restrictions might limit what you can document in specific detail and certainly where that would mean collecting sensitive information but it is essentially always possible to document work done and work performance levels in general terms.
• Document and think through any negative points that could be held up to justify a dismissal as not being based on your age. And document how others have been retained and even promoted who could arguably be noted as having the same putative negatives in their personnel files – e.g. inability to complete tasks for a project that was shut down as fundamentally unworkable, where no one assigned to it was able to succeed in it. This is important; if you see age-based dismissal on the horizon, document, document, document – and even if this is most likely going to take place as a “no-fault” downsizing.
• Do your research as to your legal options – including identifying possible legal assistance that you would be able to turn to. There are organizations that specifically seek to help older citizens – older workers included in protecting their rights and some attorneys take on this type of work at low costs – or none unless their client wins in a dispute against an employer. There are even organizations that actively seek out age discrimination victims and help them with pro bono legal assistance. So do not simply assume that legal help would be too costly, and throw away that option without even really exploring and considering it.
• If you see serious cause of concern that you are facing or about to face age discrimination, get legal advice on how best to communicate this with your employer – and certainly if you have reason to believe that they would take this very negatively and as a direct challenge.
• And if you see this coming as a likely possibility, network, network, network. And start looking for work opportunities with businesses that do not age discriminate and that present themselves as being age friendly, non-discriminatory employers. I raised the specter of employees facing age discrimination no longer being competitive in any job markets and that can in fact be a valid source of concern. But do not automatically assume it – look for and prepare for new work opportunities if you see this challenge coming and certainly if simply retiring would not be a good option for you at this time. And do so with an open mind and using all of the tools at your disposal.

I am going to end this thread of discussion by citing some specific resources that you might want to consider as starting points for moving forward, if your current employer does let you go. From a negotiations perspective, think of this as preparing for a best alternative to negotiated agreement if you cannot prevail upon a current employer to keep you on, and if not full time then under mutually acceptable part-time conditions:

• My four part series: Jumpstart Your Networking as can be found at the top of Social Networking and Business.
Structuring an Effective Elevator Pitch and A Good Elevator Pitch is Never a Monolog.
• My series: Finding Your Best Practices Plan B when Your Job Search isn’t Working (as can be found at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, postings 56-72.) Each of the installments to this series includes in it a hands-on exercise and if you carry them all out in order, you will have carried out a complete strategically planned out job search campaign from your initial research on where to look through to how best to handle hiring interviews and their follow-through.

Consider these resources and take a look at them, but look wider than this too. The most important single point that I could offer here is to note the importance of knowing your options and of preparing for them so they can in fact become real possibilities for you.

As noted above, I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will address the second age discrimination-related bullet point that I offered towards the top of this posting:

• Longer-term planning, and thinking through what to look for and what to do as you grow older in the workforce, so you can at least limit the likelihood that you will find yourself in an age discrimination situation.

Then, as noted at the end of Part 32, I will reconsider retirement and the path towards it from a family perspective, where for many of us this means couples at the very least. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide.

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