How to word resume now that I'm retired but not ready to quit working?
September 4, 2016 2:48 PM   Subscribe

I retired from my twenty-five year career as an educator, but looking for work to supplement my income or even start a new career. However, implying in any way that I've retired seems to read that I'm elderly or not seriously interested in a new line of work. How do I word cover letters or my resume so that I present the correct image?

I'm in my mid-fifties, healthy, and active. I figure that I have another ten or fifteen years to work, at least. I had relatively high-level and high-paying positions in education, and I would like to do work that reflects my levels of education and experience, but it's hard to get away from saying that I am technically retired from my first career. It seems like if I don't say anything, then it seems fishy that I left my old career. How is the best way to handle this?
posted by tamitang to Work & Money (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I would treat it as if you weren't retiring but just looking to go in a new direction, and use that kind of wording in your cover letters. "My career as an educator was incredibly rewarding, but after 25 years I'm looking to take that experience in a new direction. [Two-three sentences about how you propose to do that in the job you're applying for.]"

This is a world where most people can expect to have 2-5 pretty distinct careers in a working lifetime, so I don't think that's a huge leap to get them to make. I would just avoid the word "retired" and treat it like a deliberate, premeditated career shift.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:04 PM on September 4, 2016 [8 favorites]

Being 'technically retired' is really just a financial and temporal position that is relative and relevant only to you, not future employers. What you are doing is 'seeking new challenges'. When changing careers, I have found it useful to seek some professional resume writing help to get a more objective view of my saleable qualities, and how to frame them.
posted by Thella at 3:04 PM on September 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

Right, just because you had to do the thing that your school system (university, whatever) calls "retirement" in order to draw a pension from them does not mean that you are "retired" as a person. In my mind, if you are not done working, particularly if you are ready and willing to continue working full time, you are not retired. No matter how long you were at your previous job and no matter whether you're drawing a pension from them. It is not at all deceptive for you to not identify yourself as retired in your resume, interview, whatever.

Likewise there is no reason for your departure to seem "fishy." Just say, if truthful, that you had a good long career at the previous place, you reached the highest level of seniority and pay that were reasonably available there, and you felt you had accomplished everything you could in that position and it is time to move on. Emphasize that you are "not ready to slow down" as you also stress the expertise that you will bring to the new place. If necessary, though I wouldn't lead with this, you could even pitch your pension as a benefit to the new place since you are able to be more flexible on pay. But again, only if you need to to seal the deal.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 3:30 PM on September 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Invent an LLC or DBA name, where you're the principal, such as Tamitang Education Services, and update your Linked In profile with it. Describe your expertise in the "duties" section. Ditto resumes and cover letters.

Get completely out of the mind set that you retired. Stop using the word. You left your previous employer to freelance new opportunities.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 4:45 PM on September 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I feel there's absolutely nothing wrong with saying "I've retired from teaching/administration, and I'm currently pursuing consulting work or other education work." Replace teaching/administration with whatever specific roles you will no longer be pursuing, and replace the second half of the sentence with the specific work you want to do.

That's truthful and it's not a strange thing to hear at all. I know a number of retired educators who had long careers in education, who have gone on to work in other fields, whether it be consulting, volunteering, or part-time/full-time in other fields, and that's how they all describe it.

Basically, your situation is a very common one! You also hear this kind of phrasing from people in careers like medicine, law, or law enforcement... e.g. "I've retired from full time law enforcement, but I'm pursuing consulting work right now."

People will understand that this means you have chosen to move on from your previous role voluntarily, and that you are an experienced person who is looking to move forward with new opportunities.
posted by Old Man McKay at 5:59 PM on September 4, 2016

How about "took early retirement from teaching to explore other avenues".
posted by kjs4 at 9:51 PM on September 4, 2016

To me, retiring after 25 years from an educator position or a fireman or policeman does not mean you are old, it means you've maxed on your pension benefits, have a lot of knowledge and experience and are looking forward to applying that knowledge and experience in a similar or related role. I have several teacher friends who did the same in their early 50s and went on to roles in curriculum development, long-term substitutes, and running a charity (for pay) that had a combination sleep-away camp and tutoring program for special ed students.

On preview, what Old Man McKay said.
posted by AugustWest at 10:41 PM on September 4, 2016

I wouldn't use the word "retired". Lots of people change jobs or careers. In your situation, that decision had implications like about pension, I would guess, but those won't matter to your future employers. You've decided to stop teaching and pursue a new interest, or something. It happens all the time and is cool.

As you've been noticing, "retired" has a lot of negative connotations that you don't want to get mixed up with.
posted by reddot at 7:13 AM on September 5, 2016

Echoing a few comments above, your former employer calls what you did "retired", but it's clear that you don't consider yourself retired, so DON'T use the word. Just say that you spent 25 years in that job, and are now looking for something else.

My sister used to be an athlete and "retired" at age 22 (from the sport, not from the rest of her working life). Your situation is effectively the same, but you "retired" from teaching instead of from elite sports. :)
posted by easternblot at 7:26 AM on September 5, 2016

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