Don't Sit On The Couch

Three years ago, I was at a point in my life that many of my colleagues have been at before--I was retired and pondering my options for the future. Do I sit back and draw my pension, enjoying the fruits of the many years of shift work, long hours, and temporary duty assignments both in the country and out? Or, do I look around for another job, not just to earn some additional money, but to give me an objective to reach each day; a reason to get out of bed before 11 o'clock in the morning, take a shower, put on different clothes, etc.? You get the picture. Many of us need direction, structure, a template to follow. That's what we have been doing all of our professional lives, to do otherwise is anathema to all that we believe in.

For a while, I tried the retirement thing. Get up whenever, have coffee, read the paper, check the e-mail, and get in a workout sometime during the day. It worked for about three weeks. After that, I was itching to get going. I wasn't quite sure what I was planning on doing, but I knew one thing--at 55 years of age, I was too young to be fully retired. I needed something to focus on each day, something with meaning. I had heard the talk before from my buddies that had already retired. They told me, "Just try to accomplish one task each day, simple things like mowing the lawn, or getting a battery for your watch." Well, those are the things that I had always done while also fully immersed in my career. Trying to have mundane chores consume the whole day was incomprehensible.

Having been a law enforcement trainer for the last 15 years, I had developed a routine that caused me to rise early each day. Just like the commercial for the Army says, "We get more done before breakfast than most people do in a day," I had been up running and working out, and preparing lesson plans before that first cup of coffee each day. To have that custom abruptly end was a life-changing event that I felt was not necessarily for the better. I wanted to be able to continue to take satisfaction in accomplishing objectives that had substance, not just completed chores.

One thing that I did recognize immediately was that I somehow felt different. I couldn't discern at once what this "different feeling" was, but after several days into retirement I finally figured it out---the "stress" was gone. I had no deadlines to meet, no tests to administer and worry whether my students would pass or fail. I had no supervisors giving ridiculous marching orders, no inspections to prepare for. All of the things that had previously caused my anxiety to rise were now a thing of the past. I felt a sense of liberation. Paradoxically, I also felt a sense of loss. I looked to those stressors as a challenge that I would work around and through, while still accomplishing my objectives each day. We know that stress has different effects on people; some folks suffer an adverse effect, while others thrive. I was in the latter group. Any stress made me stronger, caused me to analyze how I could succeed in spite of it.

So now that I had determined that I wasn't quite ready for being fully retired, the question became "what to do about it." Having invested years of hard work that included physical training, instructor courses, certifications, research, and written testing, it seemed the logical answer was to continue down that same road. Why re-invent the wheel? I had been a successful trainer with one of the best law enforcement agencies in the world; why not put that experience to good use?

Although I didn't want to assume all the duties and headaches that I had in my career, I still wanted to remain in that genre. I enjoyed training people, and it was something that I was good at. The next step was researching how to put my talents to work, how to match myself with a company, police department, or agency where I could continue to get paid for things I enjoyed doing.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that trainers have a plethora of opportunities afforded them in retirement. Law enforcement, security firms, and private companies are constantly searching for folks just like us. Why? Well, the obvious and foremost reason is because of our expertise. However, and just as important, is the ability to hire us as part-timers or contract workers. This allows a department or company to get "a lot of bang for their buck." How? By not having to provide benefits. Part-timers and contractors are simply paid a salary, sometimes with bonuses, but without the traditional trappings of a full-timer, i.e. pension, health care, etc. Moreover, if for whatever reason it becomes time to part company with that employee, it is a simple matter compared with the cumbersome machinery of civil service employees.

On the plus side for us as trainers, is that we don't have any difficulty making that transition from sworn employee to just "employee." We are still in our comfort zone, we are still trainers, but minus the ancillary headaches such as research, inspections, and assignments in addition to training responsibilities, etc. Those things are for the "sworn" people, not the contractor. It is actually the first time for most of us when all we are is trainers.

So how do we find those jobs? Well, if you are reading this article on Officer.com, you already have a great resource. The network associated with this web portal is most likely the best source of information you can ask for. Additionally, if you have attended conferences like IACP and FBINA, then you know that the people that comprise those groups are invaluable resources for post-retirement jobs.

Next, try cultivating the network that you had already established through the years. First, people in your department, then others that you have met at training seminars, and then colleagues in state and federal agencies that you had occasion to work with. Depending on the individual, that network could be immense.

Another avenue to pursue is the Internet. I have known a number of colleagues that found jobs at sites such as Monster.com. Placing a résumé on such a web site results in many opportunities that would otherwise be unknown to you via conventional job searching.

This era of terrorism has spawned many things, not the least of which is a mega-sized Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and along with it a glut of jobs. Thousands of people have been, and will continue to be hired by DHS, which means they will need to be trained. That's where you, as a successful trainer with a proven track record, expertise, but more importantly, the desire to want to train others, come in. You have something that is a perfect match for them, something that allows you to hit the ground running as soon as you are hired.

So retirement from your career doesn't necessarily mean that your professional life is over. On the contrary, a new passage in your life's book will begin. This chapter can be just as rewarding and perhaps more enjoyable, since it comes with fewer distractions and responsibilities. As trainers, our vocation is to prepare and teach others to succeed and accomplish tasks. The tangible evidence is the students' successful completion of a course or task. However, it is the intangible element that motivates us and causes us to do our very best each day. It's that feeling of success, accomplishment, and the satisfaction of knowing that because of our dedication and expertise, someone is going to be the best they can be. We can still reap those rewards, even in retirement. So get off that couch and get back in the game!

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