I've been asked to speak at my retirement luncheon on May 1 as I permanently leave my day job as a proposal manager to become a full-time writer. Lessons I've learned is the assignment. But I wonder how one can even begin to make a short list of lessons learned over a career that spanned almost 50 years. No, I didn't work all those years for this one company. I had a couple 15-month periods of total unemployment and two long stretches of being self employed, but by the time I retire (for the second time) I'll have tallied 27 years with the company I first entered in July 1963.
Here's what my career looked like:
- I started out as an editor in a writing and editing group. I worked on technical reports, proposals, brochures, and newsletters.
- I was the lead writer for an attack helicopter project.
- I wrote users ‘manuals for a generalized information management system. As a result I learned how to design data bases with that system, and I wrote users' instructions for a first generation of personal PCs. I trained people how to use the PCs as well.
- I got laid off in 1970 along with half the company's population, so I took advantage of the opportunity to get married - to my second husband. We celebrate 40 years of marriage in May.
- Fifteen months later, I came back to work part time (since we had our first son) doing proposals for the high speed ground transportation business. I also learned to program in FORTRAN and worked as programmer for a short time. I was then offered a management position which I turned down summarily because I was pregnant with our second child. Little did I know that I permanently got off the corporate ladder with that quick decision - though I never for a moment regretted it.
- To underline my decision I left the company - I wanted to be more of a stay at home mom to our two sons. I sold real estate and later on became a development director for a non-profit. I also played a lot of tennis.
- Ten years later I returned to the company and worked exclusively on proposals. Now this is a high pressure job that sometimes required working 7 days a week. Burnout happens. It definitely happened to me.
- So, I retired the first time in 1995 but I didn't stop working. I wrote grant proposals and managed capital campaigns as a fund raising consultant, and I began taking creative writing and poetry classes.
- I also began consulting for the company and liked the work and the socialization so much that I decided to come back as a full-time employee in 2003 - ironically 40 years after I first hired in. All in all I hired into the company a total of 5 times.
- My current job is varied: I still work with engineers to produce technically compliant and readable proposals, I help write award applications, I dabble a bit in customer relations and take visiting big-wigs on company tours, and I design websites - a job I would never have imagined way back in 1963.
Though I don't rule out working at the company again as a consultant, my primary focus in the near term is to work on my novel and write poetry. I worried for so many years that I wouldn't have enough to do if I stopped working full time. Finally I can comfortably say that I will. My novel will take a lot of work and research. Plus, I'm also comfortable with the idea of slowing down a bit. It's about time.
Oh, about the speech. I think I'll tell my colleagues about my long and varied career and give them some anecdotal information about what the company was like back in my day. They can glean whatever lessons from my experiences on their own. Well, maybe I'll tell them - if they haven't already figured it out - that you're never too old to learn how to do something new.
Causes Madeline Sharples Supports
Didi Hirsch Community Mental Health Center, Culver City, CA
Vistamar School, El Segundo, CA
Crossroads School, Santa Monica, CA (Endowment in...