“Shifting connections refers to the practice of finding people who can help us see and grow into our new selves, people we admire, would like to emulate, and with whom we want to spend time. All reinventions require social support. We cannot regenerate ourselves in isolation. We develop in and through our relationships with others — the master teaches the apprentice a new craft; the mentor guides a protege through the passage to an inner circle.”
From Working Identity, by Herminia Ibarra
As a career transition coach, with over thirty years of experience, I have always been an advocate of networking. In all these years, one thing stands out. The majority of employment opportunities are found with the help of network connections. Ask any career transition coach, and they will agree.
My career transition practice is now equally divided between clients focused on another leadership job and those seeking to optimize their retirement. I have come to realize that networking before and during retirement is just as important as networking when transitioning to another job.
Our connections help us in the way that Ibarra describes, “We develop in and through our relationships with others. We cannot regenerate ourselves in isolation.” This blog will help you understand why and how to network as you seek opportunities to make the most of retirement.
Ten Reasons to Network Before & After Retirement
1) You receive better advice and information from people with whom you are connected. These network connections are more likely to tailor their comments to you, rather than offering generic suggestions.
2) Transitioning to retirement can be emotionally and mentally challenging. Your network can offer you support, perspective and nuanced feedback during this transition.
3) Leaving familiar people and work can result in withdrawal, isolation and/or too much time in front of a television or computer screen. Networking breaks up that isolation, reconnects you with people, and moves you towards healthier choices.
4) You may move too quickly to new possibilities that may not be in your best interest. Your network can help you assess the pros and cons as opportunities emerge, and help you see more clearly the risks and fit in any given possibility.
5) You may move too slowly on opportunities that can take you to interesting new people, places, and activities. Your network can provide support, questions, and a helpful nudge if you get stuck, or need to move from dreaming to doing.
6) Your network is more likely to refer you to opportunities and people that are a good match with your personality, preferences, and needs.
7) Your network connections will be more likely to speak the truth about the opportunities and challenges you discuss with them. They can help you make good choices, and you can also help them.
8) When you repeatedly engage your network, the positive relationships you develop will increase your odds of getting good referrals when you need them.
9) New and unexpected discoveries are more likely when connecting with people who know your preferences. These unanticipated suggestions will come your way more quickly and are usually a better fit when they come from your network.
10) Books, articles, and videos do not offer a back-and-forth exchange or a customized approach to your unique retirement needs and preferences.
Below is a summary of the networking process described by Marcia Ballinger and Nathan Perez in this excellent guide, The 20-Minute Networking Meeting. I have slightly modified these steps to better align with the networking process both as one approaches retirement, and after retirement.
Ten steps in the networking process before & after retirement
1) Set your goals. Remember these three key goals for each networking session: learn something, get more names for your networking list, and create an ambassador (someone who, after the meeting, will go out of their way to help you.)
2) Set your clock. Keep your meetings to less than thirty minutes when appropriate. This will be especially appreciated if the person is not a close connection, has a busy schedule, or if you made the commitment to twenty minutes up front. Some conversations with closer connections can run one to two hours, if that is what you have scheduled.
3) Your first job is to secure the meeting. When you contact the individual provide relevant details, framing clearly who you are, who referred you, and why you are requesting the meeting. Retirement advice, helpful stories, and referrals to successful retirees are all good reasons for the discussion.
4) Create a good first impression. Take two to three minutes for thanks, connecting and setting an agenda. Don’t forget gratitude. As you start your meeting, strengthen the bond with details about your common connection. You called the meeting, so you set the agenda.
5) Provide a personal overview. Take one minute to give an overview of your experience and what is ahead for you. Don’t be too narrow or too broad, and don’t take more than a minute to overview your background and future focus.
6) Discussion, part one. Start with asking three unique questions about retirement using a “statement/question” model. An example would be: “I have heard that it can take one to three years to settle into retirement. Was that true for you?”
7) Discussion, part two. Ask for names of other contacts who have successfully transitioned into retirement or semi-retirement.
8) Discussion, part three. Ask the person how you can help them. (Note that these three discussion elements, combined, should take between twelve and fifteen minutes if you have committed to a 20-minute meeting.)
9) Strong ending: Take two minutes for thanks and wrap-up.
10) Follow-up. Follow-up, within a day or two, by email or thank you note. Keep careful track of all your follow-up action items. Consider appropriate ways to stay on their radar so that if ideas come to them later, they will remember to reach out to you, and look forward to hearing from you.
Retirement may be years off for you, just around the corner, or you may be well into it. If retirement is several years off, perhaps you know someone who could benefit from this blog. Please pass it on. If retirement is right around the corner, you can build your bridge to a better retirement now by networking with successful retirees. If you are well into retirement, networking can still bring help and advice to you, at the same time you are helping others.
At the beginning of this blog, I offered a quote from Herminia Ibarra. Ibarra says, “We cannot regenerate ourselves in isolation. We develop in and though our relationships with others.” She speaks to the “why” of networking. Additionally, Ballinger and Perez offer excellent guidance on the 20-minute networking meeting (summarized in this blog.) They teach us the “how” of networking. I wish you the best as you move ahead to your next chapter, whether before or after your retirement.
For additional retirement guidance, click here to link to my Retirement Reimagined blog series.