Explaining myself

Just over a year after retiring from my firm I attended the Annual Retired Partner Dinner. It was  my first as a retired partner. I walked into a place that I’d known so well for over 20 years but this time as a guest rather than a host. It felt quite strange. I was greeted by my former partners as a guest, no longer as a colleague. I was no longer an insider, this wasn’t my place anymore.

This was definitely a “What’s Next” moment.

I certainly hadn’t gone “cold turkey” on my old firm. I had been in contact with a number of people since but for those who I hadn’t seen there were the inevitable questions. What was I upto? What had I been doing?


Cefalu, Sicily

I talked about our  travels  and then there were questions about whether I was consulting on boards etc?

This is where all conversations seem to head. The assumption is very much that after a career in consulting that I’d continue but in my case I haven’t. For me the process of “What’s Next” was reaching the decision that consulting was not a key part of my post professional life.   Sure I have a couple of consulting roles, but really I had taken  the student route and I definitely feel most comfortable  with being described as such.

As the conversations over the evening continued, I said that while I’d loved my time in professional services that I was now really enjoying being out of it and being incognito.  I mentioned how I thought it was funny that I could walk down the street in jeans and a t-shirt with my backpack and people I’d known for many years in my professional life didn’t recognize me out of corporate uniform.  I went on to discuss how people who had said they’d keep in touch after I left the firm hadn’t and that I hadn’t lost a moment’s sleep over it. And when I did reflect on it from time to time it was very much with a wry smile.

Harry Potter's Cloak of Invisibility - mine is jeans and a t-shirt

Harry Potter’s Cloak of Invisibility – mine is jeans and a t-shirt

Perhaps this makes me unusual as I know that many others find this transition difficult. For professionals so much of our personal identity is tied up with our title and firm.  I completely understand this as I try to make appointments with people to get data for my research. Previously people would take my call not because of who I was but where I worked – my title was what mattered.

However with that lack of recognition has come a freedom. I am no longer constrained to being tied to my professional persona. I realise this when I talk to my former colleagues, sit and talk to my cycling buddies long after others have shot off home to get ready to got to the office or when I walk down the street with my earbuds in listening to some music or a podcast largely incognito – I have to say  I love it!

Don’t get me wrong  its not all “beer and skittles”. Studying is difficult and definitely a full-time obligation. It’s a lonely existence and certainly not well paying but just as my professional career was it is fulfilling and fun – well most of the time!

Just over 18 months into “What’s Next” I am still adjusting but I am enjoying it. How could you not when it allows a relaxing Sunday night taking in this glorious country susnset?


Sunset - Second Valley, South Australia

Sunset – Second Valley, South Australia

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4 Responses to Explaining myself

  1. David Perry says:

    Good for you, Browney. You’ve moved on in life to something new and most people are so locked into their career that their lost when it ends. Happy sailing (or should i say cycling?) as you move forward into new and unknown adventures!

  2. Clive says:

    What I think retirement does for us is to enable us to be respected for who we are and what we do, not, as you say, because of some corporate badge. I’m pleased to see the transition working so well for you.

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