Martin Mitchell, one of our favourites here at PiPS, has kindly penned his thoughts on where he is now, nearly a year into retirement. Martin had a wonderfully successfully career in policing, is as sharp as a tack and jolly nice too. And yet, even he has faced unexpected challenges. As you read this please do bear in mind that it is never too early to take action and you need to reach out and make contacts and get yourself in the best possible situation. We are here to help and you know where we are, but for now please read on ……
Retirement. I’d planned for it, longed for it and talked about it. Oh, how I’d talked about it!
As a cop, one of the first questions we ask each other is, ‘How much service have you got’, and if you know the person is approaching ‘that time’, it changes to ‘How long have you got left?’.
If the response is a few months or less, ‘Lucky so & so’ normally completes the conversation.
I’d spent just over 30 years in an environment that I’d learnt to love and loathe in various measures, depending on my mood, national or local news, or strength of gossip at the time. I knew how to behave. I knew all about competency frameworks and how to fill out promotion applications. People knew how to behave towards me. I was respected and I knew my staff. I knew who were the reliable ones and I knew the sources of trouble. I knew everything.
Then it changed. In my case, I’d decided to be on holiday at midnight on the appointed day and I woke up ‘retired’ and went off to explore Pompeii! I can thoroughly recommend both Pompeii & being out of the country for the midnight hour. My warrant card was in the hotel safe and all was well with the world. On my return, things changed. I checked my bank account (yes, the commutation was frighteningly there), went to the post office to ‘recorded delivery’ the warrant card and bought an Oyster card – not the big issue for me that others talk about.
Then I waited. Summer finished, the leaves turned, and the afternoons in the garden doing all the jobs i’d neglected for years became less appealing,and colder! There was no familiar contact, no banter and no routine. There was no admin support to do the basics. More worryingly there were no calls from the people who were going to give me a call to ‘sort something out’.
I applied for a few ‘public appointments’ who were bound to snap me up – not even shortlisted. Not only that, they didn’t even let me know. Appeals process? You’ve got to be joking. For one position, I discovered there’d been 800 applicants for 8 posts and they shortlisted 50. My carefully crafted application had been sifted in seconds by a 20-something at an outsourced recruitment agency who refused to discuss it further.
I approached contacts. ‘A bit quiet at the moment’ was, and still is, the most frequent response.
I’ve had a few offers and done a few things but the quality varies. ‘The pay’s quite good, it’s £10 an hour’ was one memorable response.
Fortunately I’d planned for a rocky road and I’d prepared. I knew it would be different and I’d fiddled with my CV. I’d gained some external qualifications and done a bit of networking outside the job. I’d worked out how much money a) I needed to earn and b) I’d quite like to earn and my needs are modest. Plan, prepare, budget.
What am I doing now? Firstly, a great deal of voluntary work. I volunteer for Guide Dogs, I run debt management courses for a charity, I became a school governor, I’m a charity trustee. I do some work for a friend on a regular basis and I get some of my own commissions, although these are all a bit variable. I thought I had in the bag this month but the funding’s been pulled on one, and the other one has been postponed (a coaching assignment – he’s gone sick!). I’m awaiting grant renewal funding on another fairly large piece of work but this assignment tends to be a few days of frantic activity 3/4 times a year interspersed with long periods of inactivity.
The really, really important bit. Every single bit of work I’m currently doing, both paid and voluntary, has been gained through personal contact. Network, network , network!!
My glass is very much half-full but there’s still a bit of space at the top!