I knew I really was retired when someone asked for my business card at a women’s networking event. I didn’t have one since I’d recently ended my 30-plus year career. For those of us who have left our professional life (or between jobs), this question often leads to an uncomfortable moment. We may laugh awkwardly and mutter something about not having a card with us, or we take out an old one and write in our new phone number and email address.
Without my business card, I didn’t have a job title, address, or contact information. In the professional world, we feel as though we cease to exist. For awhile, I continued to hand out my old card (and since it was my own consulting firm, I hadn’t taken down the website, so the cell phone and email were current). As I handed it over, I felt the need to explain that I’d retired. This, of course led to the next question, “so what are you doing now?”
How would you identify yourself without a business card at times like this? It’s the life we live outside the edges of our business card. It’s who we are and how we truly live our lives. But….wife, mother, runner, tennis player, or gardener just don’t seem appropriate for a business card or the right answer for that moment.
Answering “I’m retired”, often seems to stop the conversation cold for some reason or elicits responses such as “must be nice”, or “oh, I could never retire”. I felt especially uncomfortable since I’ve always had a job title and a career.
In this post-professional career phase, I am in the process of re-defining myself, so I did get a business card for just such occasions. It has my name and contact information, but no title or address. It feels very freeing, honest and open. Since I write, now when asked what I do, I frequently answer “I’m a writer”. It often moves the conversation forward in interesting ways. Besides, I know I’m living most of my life beyond the edges of this business card too.
If you’ve retired, I’d love to hear how you’ve dealt with your post-business card life, so please leave your comments below.