I happened to sit down next to a table of gentlemen at lunch today who were discussing what they were going to do when they were fully vested and could take retirement. Now this was one of those groups of fellows who are in their late 50's early 60's ( and over depending on what time of day it is) that i refer to lovingly as the "brain trust" at the Donut Stop. They are up on and opinonated about: politics, religion, crime, employment, law, finance, sexuality, the internet, all wars, past present and future and all their neighbors. And by god they all agree with each other..or they wouldn't be in that particular brain trust that reinforces all their analysis.
The conversation started out as to how one was not concerned about being laid off and only had four more years until he was fully vested. Several others agreed that because they had been there a long time and had done a good job they didn't have to worry about layoff. Because..get ready for it, they had all talked with HR and HR had told them that there was always a place for good experienced people even if their current job was eliminated.
I wanted to jump up and scream, "Go back it's a trick "or at least say something in quiet tones along the lines of "listen guys, it's part of HR's job to not spook the troops so you don't bail before they are ready to cut you loose." "Think about it, what else would HR say to you if you asked them if you needed to worry about your job." Since i was eavesdropping on the career plans of this group i felt it would be inappropriate of me to interject my thoughts into their mutual reassurance based on the trust they had in HR authority so i continued to listen.
Then it came. One of the fellows leaned back and said, "Well here's my plan". In two more years i will be 66, i will be fully vested, can draw my pension and collect social security so i have talked with an advisor at the university. I am going back to school, finish my degree, get my masters and teach either at the university or the Jr. College. My advisor tells me that the university hires janitors for 1900.00 a month. I can work a full time job as a janitor, go to school part time, i can teach when i finish my masters and he says that tenured professors make 123K a year and only teach four classes . So that's my career plan for the next 20 years.
While i am always a proponent of education, even for those of us who may be considered too old to learn new tricks, i was overwhelmed with the smoke blowing the university advisor had done to this fellow. Not to mention the insider info he had gotten from HR. However, my thought was, what are you thinking about? When you do go back to school it will take you at least four years to finish your undergrad and get a masters if you take a full load assuming that all the classes you need are offered in the mornings, which they aren't. You will then be over 70. You have no teaching experience. It takes years to become a tenured professor. There are new grads with masters and teaching experience in their 20's and 30's and 40's beating a path to the universities to get teaching jobs on the university or jr. college level not to mention the group that have been adjunct profs teaching night classes for years who retire from business positions and go full time days as they have preference due to teaching night classes. There are also a few little rules about how much social security one can draw when they continue to work. And about that janitor job. It's full time which means it's 8 hours starting at 4:00 in the afternoon with a long line of college kids and even experienced janitors applying.
In the real world it's a tough slog for a much less senior person to work a night shift doing physical labor, go to school full time and study. I wanted to pick up the phone, call the university and suggest that even though they should try and keep the classes full of people who could pay the tuition it might better serve the individual not to tell a 66 year old person that if they went back to school for 4 to 6 years they could automatically have a teaching job and reach tenured status before they were dead.
It's great to have career goals and a plan. Take a step back,evaluate where you are in your life, what it will really take to be where you want to be. What is the competition to reach that spot. You are not the only person in the world who wants to be there so how realistic is it. If it's not rethink your plan. If you are getting advice from HR or a University advisor or anyone else, take a step back and evaluate if they have an agenda when they give that advice. What are they paid to do. Does that advisor have something to gain or lose by you acting on the advice they give you.
Beware the "brain trust". They get their info from Cable news , HR and university advisors.