tom drouin

Welcoming Guest Blogger Tom Drouin

Tom Drouin – A Different Kind of Work

Yogi Berra said “When you reach a fork in the road, take it.” In 2010, after a thirty eight year career – thirty seven great years and one that caused me to think about a different future — I was nudged into retirement.  I had had a fulfilling professional career of diverse experiences, corporate leadership, and meaningful roles as a mentor.  I got up every morning with a purpose.  Work gave me a place to go, people to engage, tangible value to create, and a paycheck to comfortably support my family.

It’s not uncommon for people in the workforce to define their value and worth in terms of their title and compensation. If that’s you, moving into another phase of your life opens opportunities to think about a different way of defining your value.  For me, initially it was about those tangible things, but eventually it morphed into the equity that I had built up over a long career.  Equity in skills, experience and knowledge, and as importantly, in behaviors – the things that I could share with others.  How might I spend that equity in productive ways but without a corporate scorecard in retirement?

Fortunately, I had started to spend down my equity while still in the world of work.  Leadership roles in Scouting, coaching, in the church and with various not for profits got me started in “paying it forward” without compensation other than in satisfaction for trying to make a difference in others’ lives.

Impending retirement is a major milestone.  Statistically, if you retire in your mid sixties, you’re likely to live for another twenty years.  Life without your career requires significant adjustments and a lot of thought. I couldn’t imagine twenty years of relative idleness; a life dedicated to hobbies and exercise. I joined a networking group to find part time work. I started a consulting business to “keep my hand in”, but without the passion to do much more than dabble. I wasn’t motivated by another paycheck. I was mindful that, at some point, my wife and I would occupy the same living space during the daytime – something that wasn’t part of our marital experience. When she retired we were going to have to make a significant adjustment to our living pattern!

That’s when I decided to leverage my planning and organizing skills and reached out to Donna at Career Path to help me figure out the next stage of my life.  Donna’s got processes that played to my curiosity, guiding me to be more introspective and to explore whether my gut instincts about my true interests could be confirmed. I knew that I was always considered as a good strategic thinker and creative idea generator.  Myers – Briggs indicates that I’m an INTJ – an introvert, but someone that has learned to mask as an extrovert in order to succeed professionally.  How might I find an outlet for my aptitudes without exhausting myself in the process?  She guided me to frame those answers.

It’s been nearly seven years since I left corporate life. For the past six years I’ve been a volunteer member of SCORE, the Service Corps of Retired Executives.  I deploy my skills as a mentor, strategic and creative thinker and planner to help small business entrepreneurs.  I spend fifteen to eighteen hours a week mentoring clients and presenting workshops, and avoiding administrative activities in the chapter. Been there, done that!  I sing in the church choir, taping feelings of joy.  With what I do outside the home, engaging with people, I know I must find time to recharge the batteries.  With my wife still working, I’m the designated house elf.  I satisfy my enjoyment for cooking and manage the household details that she handled before she started her later in life professional career. I’m a life-long student of history, so I indulge my interest in learning with extensive reading.  I’m also a life-long exerciser, and combine that with friends who do the same. Together, my wife and I travel and relish our grandchildren. In short, I’ve found a balance, using the skills I developed throughout my career to help others with enough “me time” to stay refreshed every day.  Don’t stumble into retirement. Plan it, try it, revise it but, above all, keep it active.