Monday, December 15, 2008

Guest Post by Dan Slattery

Work Transition in Retirement & My Pursuit of Excellence in Government

Like many people who anticipate the transition from a full-time career in government or business to the life of retirement, I thought I was well prepared. Two years later I now know the truth: no plan, no matter how comprehensive, can ever prepare you for every surprise, challenge, or opportunity that you will face in your new life. When I planned my retirement and relocation to a small town in Rhode Island after 30 years in Washington DC, I thought I had a defined plan that would result in financial security, happiness, and fulfillment. My financial plan has been successful despite the downturn in the economy and I am happy with my new lifestyle and the opportunity to engage in a variety of recreational activities and hobbies. Yet there is still a real transition to make from a full-time work career into a new life that may not include full-time employment.

If you don’t have a new job lined up when you retire, you may find this part of retirement unsettling, or maybe just challenging. While there is a host of retirement literature to help you, there is no roadmap that works for everyone. My choice was to take a break and not work full-time. However, I knew that I had a need to work with people and be involved in something that benefitted others. I must admit that despite being a meticulous planner my approach to finding work in retirement was pure serendipitous. My focus was part-time work, and money was not as important as my desire to stay active and fulfilled as a person.

My first job opportunity in retirement was non-paying. I volunteered my time to a fledging political watchdog group that was founded on promoting good government in response to a highly dysfunctional town government. My next job came by way of networking; the president of our volunteer group recommended me to a friend of his who needed someone to work part-time and do financial abstracts. As it turned out I hated this job. The boss was nice, the pay was good, but it was boring and I left after two months. Next, I found my dream summer job -- I became a golf ranger. For the uneducated, a ranger rides in golf cart and acts as a mobile host for the golf club. My reward was $8 an hour and unlimited free golf, so as an avid golfer this was my best summer job ever. As autumn approached I found myself unemployed once again and followed my wife’s suggestion and became a substitute school teacher. This job has its rewards and frustrations but I am now in my second year of being a sub and it’s OK. Sometimes there are moments with the kids I really cherish.

After two years in retirement, I must admit my most rewarding job has been the volunteer job. I am now the president of that fledging grass roots organization, known as the Charlestown Citizens Alliance. We have a steering committee of 20 volunteers that I oversee. Our e-mail list includes about 1,500 residents in a town of 8,000 and our website at Charlestowncitizens.org has been an effective political tool. We became a Political Action Committee, and in November 2008 all 9 of our local candidates won with a two-thirds majority vote. I am not sure about my next job, but recently some businesspeople and political party representatives asked me if I would apply to be the new town administrator. I plan to apply because I think my skill set matches up well with the position and it’s an opportunity to serve the town, make a positive difference, and pursue excellence in local government. If I don’t get the job, I will continue to look for other opportunities to work with people where I can make a positive difference.


Dan's final post was at the U.S. Department of Education, where he served as Budget Officer and Special Assistant to the Commissioner of Education Statistics. During a concurrent term as Chairman, Excellence in Government Senior Fellows Board of Leaders, Dan was instrumental in developing the Senior Fellows Awards Program. He is one of the most collegial people on the planet, which makes us look forward to future updates - and maybe even a visit from Rhode Island.

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