Aug. 9 2011 08:35 PM

Retirement, downsized, need something to do? You ask yourself, "now what?" I know that at least 2,000 USPS former employees that took advantage of a recent early retirement offer may just be working through that question. For the people who are missing their knowledge and contributions (I'm one of them) the"now what" question is approached in a totally different light. How do we fill the gap and continue to get the work done? The people "left behind" suffer what is called "survivor syndrome" or the emotional effects of the downsizing, according to Jean M. Phillips and Stanley M. Gully in Staffing Strategies.

Some of these effects include fear, anger, frustration, anxiety and mistrust. Often survivors from the same company feel guilty that they are still working and wonder when they will be downsized. All of this can lead to either a reduction in productivity and commitment to the company as well as behavior that will be less flexible, OR employees will work harder because of feeling guilty.

People will use either a proactive or reactive approach in challenging situations, according to Stephen Covey in 7 Habits of Highly Successful People. Which category do you fall into?
Typical Proactive Behaviors
Focus on problem solving and personal growth
Take responsibility for own behavior and for personal or team assignments and productivity
Seek synergistic solutions through productive activities
Employ personal motivation skills based on positive expectations
Encourage and assist others
Network and strive to develop mutually beneficial relationships, share information and perspectives and get and give support
Typical Reactive Behaviors
Focus on problems/difficulties of the situation and have a generally negative attitude
Blame others or circumstances for the difficulty or shift responsibility for solution to others
Procrastinate in the face of a difficult task or problem relationship
Don't seek resources for problem solving (networking, researching for useful information)
Don't strive to motivate self or others or excel
Diminish energy of others
For those of you proactive retired folks asking "now what" and are looking to find a new career, here's a few suggestions. Take a look at O*NET resource center at and answer 60 quick questions that will give you some insight at what you enjoy. I did and found out that I scored highest in social (28), followed by artistic (16) and conventional (15). From that score I found out that I like working with others to help them learn and grow. That would indicate teaching, giving advice (I'd never do that - just ask my husband), helping and being of service to others. I like creativity and work that can be done without following a set of rules - what DMM! No worries USPS acceptance folks, conventional points out that I like working with clear rules and following a strong leader. No wonder I'm confused - like rules, don't like rules!
Next step is to get the resume ready and be sure to do your best to get noticed! Good resources include, Purdue University's Online Writing Lab (OWL) and Quintessential Careers. Use keywords in your resume that match the job requirements you're applying for. Many companies now use software systems that search for key characteristics. And please, don't use a goofy email address like unless you're applying at a club! Some of the best job search sites are:, CareerOneStop,, and for a temporary or flexible job try Snag-a-Job (really).

And don't be afraid of networking! After all, 65% of jobs are identified that way.

And for those of you who answered the "Now What" with the top ten ranked retirement activities - have a blast! Here they are from retirement-café.com along with estimated annual cost:
1. Travel $7,700
2. Family/Friends $3,900
3. Hobbies $2,200
4. Garden work $1,500
5. Going Fishing $2,700
6. Golf $3,500
7. Volunteer Work $2,000
8. Reading $ 900
9. Exercise $1,500
10. Home Renovations $7,000

To many, many USPS folks - Enjoy your "Now What" - you earned it!