Author Topic: Winding down your career as you approach FIRE  (Read 3240 times)

Padonak

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Winding down your career as you approach FIRE
« on: March 23, 2017, 05:56:04 PM »
I'd like to share some thoughts and open a discussion on the following topic: as you get closer to FIRE, what steps can you take to "wind down" your career instead of working as usual and then quitting? By winding down, I don't mean slacking off, just sitting on your ass and not contributing at work. This approach is different from "engineering your layoff", more about changing your mindset, focusing on the positive as opposed to worrying and getting anxious about work.

Here are some random thoughts and ideas:

-Stop aiming to get promoted and worrying about career advancement. For example, if you can choose to either work with cool people in a good environment or get a more stressful job that pays more and/or results in better career opportunities in the future, choose the former.

-Stop worrying about impressing your managers and higher ups. Don't try to get more "face time" with them, show off your achievements, play politics to take more credit for work. Just be a normal person when you talk to them: joke with them if they appreciate your sense of humor. Talk about sports or other common interests not to score points, but only because you both like to talk about this stuff.

-Stop learning new skills just for the sake of career advancement and/or job security. Learn something new if your are genuinely interested in it, but don't worry about being at the cutting edge in your line of work to maximize your career prospects. This is particularly relevant in the IT/technology space where there seems to be an arms race to learn the latest programming languages and frameworks just to stay relevant and employable. 

-Prioritize your life outside of work over career prospects. For example, turn down job opportunities if the location or commute sucks. Focus on work-life balance. Even take a pay cut if you can work from home or move to a nice city with better weather, closer to family and friends, etc.

-Cut off communication with negative people at work. Only talk to them about work-related stuff if you have to and keep it to a minimum. For example, don't feel like you have to go out for lunch or social events if some of the people there are not the kind of people you would socialize with outside of work.

-As you get closer to FIRE, take it one step farther and stop worrying not only about promotions, but even about keeping the current job. Again, this is not about slacking off and letting your colleagues down, more about losing any anxiety or negative emotions related to work. Take the following approach "I like this job and my colleagues and am happy to contribute, but I'm not going to worry about getting laid off or fired. If they have to let me go, so be it, but I'll enjoy my work and have fun while this job is available to me".

Ironically, this approach may result in better job performance and more career prospects. People around you will sense your positive vibe and want to work and spend time with you. Managers and colleagues will respect you for being genuine and not playing politics. Think Peter Gibbons from Office Space, except more reasonable and polite: not stealing printers or demolishing your cube, not trying to reprogram the system to siphon off pennies to your bank account, just being chill and positive, showing respect to good people and avoiding bad people around you.

I'd like to open a discussion so that people can share their experiences, thoughts and tips on the subject. At what point in your career, if ever, did you try something similar? How close were you to FIRE when you started winding down? Did it come naturally or was it result of a deliberate strategy that you pursued? How did it work out for you?

Zikoris

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Re: Winding down your career as you approach FIRE
« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2017, 08:46:27 PM »
It's almost a bit embarrassing, but I think I started doing most of that stuff as soon as I started pursuing FIRE. Once I realized that a office clerk/receptionist salary was all I needed to retire in a single-digit number of years, I made the jump from shitty warehouse job to office drone and almost immediately settled in for the haul. I've never actually experienced trying to pursue career growth. My current employer is aware I plan to leave in five years (it was discussed in the interview even), so I'm pretty sure they don't expect any show of ambition.

PseudoStache

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Re: Winding down your career as you approach FIRE
« Reply #2 on: March 23, 2017, 09:00:51 PM »
I like many of your thoughts.. however I think it depends on the company you work for...

Doing a combination of 2-3 of the things on you list would likely be noticed and place you at the bottom of the list for reviews in my world.

In many high-performing careers, if you are not seen as trying to grow... and are just maintaining the status quo... you're out the door unless you hold some type of leverage.  I don't think you can remain in these types of jobs and follow your steps - instead, I think it's better to transition in to your "wind-down" role whether it's within a different department within your company or a new company where the expectations aren't as high.

And I believe that this change could actually provide a little more juice to help you wind down those last few months/years with a smile on your face.

Going the Office Space route wouldn't work where I'm employed - although one can dream :)




Freedomin5

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Re: Winding down your career as you approach FIRE
« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2017, 03:14:20 AM »
I agree with Pseudostache. In my current role, I'm a high performer but have little space for career advancement unless I move into a management role (and moving to a management role does not necessarily lead to an increase in pay). However, I possess specialized skills for which I am well compensated. It's a good job for someone who is trying to FIRE. Not to mention, in the expat world, people rotate through every two to three years, so no one expects you to stay for the long haul or to try to move up within the same company. All of the suggestions listed by the OP are valid in this scenario, and actually lead to better work quality and more invitations to consult and join projects.

However, I can see how, in some roles, some of the suggestions may not work. I think in some of the more cutthroat industries, these tactics may lead to poor performance reviews. There are some fields where working overtime is the norm and not the exception. For example, I have a friend who works for one of the Big 4 accounting firms in Hong Kong, and she says no one in the office leaves before 7 PM, even if they have nothing to do. In her case, turning down work assignments will probably lead to her being let go.

Linea_Norway

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Re: Winding down your career as you approach FIRE
« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2017, 03:30:10 AM »
It's almost a bit embarrassing, but I think I started doing most of that stuff as soon as I started pursuing FIRE. Once I realized that a office clerk/receptionist salary was all I needed to retire in a single-digit number of years, I made the jump from shitty warehouse job to office drone and almost immediately settled in for the haul. I've never actually experienced trying to pursue career growth. <...>

Accept for that I have a different kind of job, my story is pretty similar. Finding out this Mustachian stuff in the beginning of this year has been an eye opener for me.

Last summer and autumn I was on my way towards a serious burnout because of stress at work and always try to perform at my very best. I felt extremely responsible for making deadlines, that were not made completely out of my control. In addition we tried to sell a house that was very difficult to sell and hired a really bad broker in the beginning. I even went on a free stress management course this autumn and winter. This course made me very aware of what I was doing wrong and that I shouldn't worry so much about work deadlines as I do. Also, when the house was sold, my colleague commented that he could see it on me that I was less stressed.

But then at the beginning of this year I discovered that early retirement is really an option and that 2023 is a very realistic year to start retiring. I also realized that we have enough FY money that I could quit my job at any moment. It would of course not be beneficial, as we still need to build up more stash and I would need another well-paid job to reach that. But We would easily survive on only 1 of our incomes and that is good to know. I can now see things more from the perspective of an outsider, which makes all these deadlines a bit more ridiculous. I don't care about them as much as before.

Exhale

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Re: Winding down your career as you approach FIRE
« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2017, 09:02:23 AM »
"focusing on the positive as opposed to worrying and getting anxious about work"

This is exactly what happened when I realized that I had FIRE on the near horizon. I no longer felt trapped and began to enjoy my job more - ignored the negative people, didn't sweat the stupid stuff, and developed work/life balance. I'm committed to my work, but not stuck inside of it (if that makes any sense). I'm lucky that I love my field and am treated well by my employer, but 40-hour weeks aren't good for my physical or mental health. My focus now is on preparing my job so that, when the time comes, there can be a smooth and successful transition to the next person.
« Last Edit: March 24, 2017, 09:04:09 AM by Exhale »

Peter Parker

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Re: Winding down your career as you approach FIRE
« Reply #6 on: March 24, 2017, 09:18:52 AM »


-Stop aiming to get promoted and worrying about career advancement. For example, if you can choose to either work with cool people in a good environment or get a more stressful job that pays more and/or results in better career opportunities in the future, choose the former.   DONE

-Stop worrying about impressing your managers and higher ups. Don't try to get more "face time" with them, show off your achievements, play politics to take more credit for work. Just be a normal person when you talk to them: joke with them if they appreciate your sense of humor. Talk about sports or other common interests not to score points, but only because you both like to talk about this stuff. DONE

-Stop learning new skills just for the sake of career advancement and/or job security. Learn something new if your are genuinely interested in it, but don't worry about being at the cutting edge in your line of work to maximize your career prospects. This is particularly relevant in the IT/technology space where there seems to be an arms race to learn the latest programming languages and frameworks just to stay relevant and employableDONE

-Prioritize your life outside of work over career prospects. For example, turn down job opportunities if the location or commute sucks. Focus on work-life balance. Even take a pay cut if you can work from home or move to a nice city with better weather, closer to family and friends, etc. DONE

-Cut off communication with negative people at work. Only talk to them about work-related stuff if you have to and keep it to a minimum. For example, don't feel like you have to go out for lunch or social events if some of the people there are not the kind of people you would socialize with outside of work. DONE

-As you get closer to FIRE, take it one step farther and stop worrying not only about promotions, but even about keeping the current job. Again, this is not about slacking off and letting your colleagues down, more about losing any anxiety or negative emotions related to work. Take the following approach "I like this job and my colleagues and am happy to contribute, but I'm not going to worry about getting laid off or fired. If they have to let me go, so be it, but I'll enjoy my work and have fun while this job is available to me". DONE


Now, I'm working on REDUCING the number of hours I'm actually on the job...I have the opportunity "buy" time off, but still keep full benefits.  Just trying to make the numbers work.  My goal is to go to a THREE DAY WORK WEEK.  Wish me luck!

Laura33

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Re: Winding down your career as you approach FIRE
« Reply #7 on: March 24, 2017, 09:44:13 AM »
Umm, so I have basically done this since the beginning of my career.  I never chased the highest-paying options, because I knew they came with high-COLA locations and ridiculous demands that would leave me no life.  I rather naively believed that work was supposed to be interesting and I deserved to be treated with respect, and so when I was in jobs that failed to provide one or both of those options, I looked elsewhere.  I threw myself into learning my area because I was interested in it, not to check boxes for promotions.  I definitely worried about career advancement -- because at a law firm, you generally either make partner or you go elsewhere -- but not at the expense of my life, my health, or playing major politics (something I am atrocious at anyway).

IDK, maybe I would have done better financially if I had thrown myself at a 2400-hr-per-year job.  But I would definitely have burned out and would have needed FIRE much more.  As it is, I'm still working after 25 years and plan to continue to until my kids are out of the house, but I have the flexibility to cut back whenever I decide I want to. 

I think it's all a choice.  For me, the times I've been the most miserable were when I was stuck in jobs/locations that were horrible fits where I felt like I had no other options.  Personally, I couldn't tolerate that kind of existence for the time necessary to FIRE -- I left for a position with a much higher risk of failure, but I had already decided that no job was worth my self-respect, so the risk was worth it.  OTOH, if you have the kind of personality that can just put your head down for 5 or 10 years, and you're good at office politics, and getting to FIRE is the highest priority, then more power to you.

Peter Parker

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Re: Winding down your career as you approach FIRE
« Reply #8 on: March 24, 2017, 09:48:23 AM »

I think it's all a choice.  For me, the times I've been the most miserable were when I was stuck in jobs/locations that were horrible fits where I felt like I had no other options.  Personally, I couldn't tolerate that kind of existence for the time necessary to FIRE -- I left for a position with a much higher risk of failure, but I had already decided that no job was worth my self-respect, so the risk was worth it.  OTOH, if you have the kind of personality that can just put your head down for 5 or 10 years, and you're good at office politics, and getting to FIRE is the highest priority, then more power to you.

Amen to that!

Peter Parker

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Re: Winding down your career as you approach FIRE
« Reply #9 on: March 24, 2017, 09:51:12 AM »
One other item I'd add to the list:

--Take every hour off you are legally entitled to.  DO NOT leave hours on the books.  And, hey, if they fire you for it, you may be able to FIRE earlier than expected when you win your lawsuit :-)

Schaefer Light

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Re: Winding down your career as you approach FIRE
« Reply #10 on: March 24, 2017, 09:52:24 AM »
I'd have to say that in one way learning about ER was bad for me.  Once I knew how soon I could retire, I made it a goal to retire by that date.  The negative side effect of this was that I began to worry about not achieving my goal...especially if we decide to have kids.  I've always been concerned about my ability to find another job that pays as well as my current one (which is part of the reason why ER is appealing to me), and I know that losing my job coupled with having a kid could seriously damage my ER plans.  I also worry about what it would do to my mental health.

In general, I totally agree with the OP's ideas about adjustments to make in the years leading up to retirement.  I just worry that I need to keep learning new skills in case of job loss.  I'm not so sure I'd find a new job quickly with my current skill set.

DeskJockey2028

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Re: Winding down your career as you approach FIRE
« Reply #11 on: March 24, 2017, 09:55:37 AM »
I'll jump on the 'not actively seeking advancement/job hopping' bandwagon.

I've been where I am for just over 12.5 years. I plan to stay for another 11-12. The benefits are great, I get contract mandated pay raises through my union (IT job too, I'm one of the lucky ones there) and I can't really see doubling my work load, responsibilities and time in the office for the extra $10k that may bring me here moving into a management roll.

My job ain't always the greatest, and not always the most stimulating either. The commute stinks too. But the benefits are rock solid I get 5 out of every 52 weeks I work to do with what I will, and that's not counting sick and personal days. My pay is well enough that I'll be outta here in 11-12 years too.

I may even be able to leave the full-time job in 10 years and work 18 hours a week to get my benefits, vacations and health insurance still covered (though the vaca days are pro-rated).

As far as actually winding down? My job is a mix of high engagement days and low engagement days. Some days I have nearly the whole day to pursue a side project, or update this entry. Other's I'm barely at my desk. It's a good mix for me. I don't intend to do anything about that. When I leave the office in the afternoon, my job stops. The same thing will happen on my last day, it just won't start up again the next morning at 7am.

bacchi

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Re: Winding down your career as you approach FIRE
« Reply #12 on: March 24, 2017, 10:04:58 AM »
Now, I'm working on REDUCING the number of hours I'm actually on the job...I have the opportunity "buy" time off, but still keep full benefits.  Just trying to make the numbers work.  My goal is to go to a THREE DAY WORK WEEK.  Wish me luck!

Yeah, rearranging your schedule to get more work-life balance is a big one. Have the courage to ask for 4/10s or 4/8s or 3/8s.

- Don't be so worried about making it into work at 8:30 like everyone else. Get your job done but if 9:30 is better because you want to sleep in, just start doing that.

- If you're a contractor, embrace your FU/FI money. If a gig sounds boring, or the traffic adds 1/2 hour each way, turn down the opportunity.

- An exempt employee designation works both ways. You're expected to work more than 40 hours if needed but it's often forgotten that, sometimes, you might work less than 40 hours. If you miss work because of an errand, you legally don't have to make it up.

Obviously, these are specific and won't apply to many jobs. It's difficult to show up at 9:30 if you're a teacher, for example, and your first class is at 8.

Slee_stack

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Re: Winding down your career as you approach FIRE
« Reply #13 on: March 24, 2017, 10:40:36 AM »
All of OPs points are reasonable in certain combinations in the right circumstances.

For me personally, I'm still keen on maximizing my income (to accelerate savings even further).  That's my Plan A.

That doesn't mean I don't still do things that make the environment more enjoyable.

I avoid obnoxious co-workers and I almost always get to work with who I want to.  That goes a VERY LONG way.

I do that by choosing MOST of the tasks I work on.  The stuff I generally dislike, I pawn off.  The only exceptions are that I purposely hold onto tasks that are high value, regardless of if I don't really like them.  Its these tasks that tend to build leverage in the first place.  Don't kill the golden goose!

I also have Plan B which is to shift to less work....(24 -32 hours).  Currently, I 'only' work 40.

I've already spoken to people who have been successful at wrangling part time approval.  My company tends to look down on it, but at the same time is OK throwing extra money at people to incentivize.   I will use my desire for Plan B to maximize Plan A!

We are in a transition in my group and my role is probably changing and I will very likely be getting more responsibility.  Its why Plan A really makes more sense for me at the moment.  I'll stick with the 40 hours but continue my same strategy of doing even more of what I want.

Well, hopefully anyway!
« Last Edit: March 24, 2017, 01:41:47 PM by Slee_stack »

mm1970

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Re: Winding down your career as you approach FIRE
« Reply #14 on: March 24, 2017, 11:02:12 AM »
reducing hours is huge.  One of my coworkers just did that (asked me about it, because I had done that after having a baby).

I've worked PT (30-32 hrs/ week, enough to keep bennies) a few times.  I didn't want it to derail my promotions, though, so I continued to push for that.

A few things I've done besides that:
1.  Moved into positions with less stressful people
2.  Ignored work that I found boring, even though I'm good at it.  Sorry, not gonna be your scribe.
3.  Stopped keeping track of hours.  I literally used to keep a timecard down to the 15 minutes.  Which is stupid when you are salary/ exempt.  At one point, years ago, we went to PTO "it's great for you because you can just take an hour of PTO for a doctor's appointment!"  Let's not fool ourselves.  Nice try though.  PTO and taking it "by the hour" is only good for the company.  Needless to say, I don't take PTO by the hour.
4.  Started working from home when the kids are sick.  You know, to save PTO.

Also, for me, the glass ceiling/ lack of promotion thing came first.  I didn't start doing all those things until after it was clear that for my company, I wasn't going anywhere.  (It only takes one bad boss!)  I've learned to embrace the flexibility.