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Losing the Comma

We are saddened to learn of the recent passing of former ContactPoint Board and past CERIC Committee Member Marc Verhoeve. Prior to his retirement, he worked as a secondary school guidance counsellor and department head at Forest Heights Collegiate Institute in Kitchener, Ontario, and served a five-year term as Executive Director of the Ontario School Counsellors’ Association. Always active, imaginative and animated, he also published several articles on career development and maintained a part-time private practice as a Careerpathing Consultant. He wrote this blog post to celebrate ContactPoint’s 20th anniversary.

As 2017 marks ContactPoint’s 20th anniversary, we wanted to take a look at the most popular sections of our website as well as the most-read articles through a series of blog posts, and reflect on what they say about how the field has evolved over the past two decades.

By Marc Verhoeve


There are two pivotal punctuation marks in our lifespan: the hyphen and the comma.

I belong to a local Probus Club [social club of retired professionals and businessmen]. New members are asked to give a Who Am I speech. In my speech, I spoke of the hyphen between one’s birth year and death year on one’s gravestone. That simple hyphen symbolizes all the activities and events of one’s life. It is the same length …regardless of the richness or length of one’s life. I spoke about my hyphen….so far.

When we are discussing the stages of one lifelong careerpath, the most important punctuation mark is the comma.

In 2003, I posted in ContactPoint, an article, entitled: “A Look at Donald Super’s Stages of Career Development in the 21st Century.” In this article, I discussed my redefinition of Donald Super’s last Decline life stage to that of Renewal.

In 2013, I crafted a followup article, entitled: Pasture-izing One’s Career Path …wherein I discussed my personal transition to formal retirement.

Four years later, when I look in my lifespan rear view mirror, I now clearly see the impact of the comma. During our activities in Super’s Establishment Stage, we tend to refer to ourselves in conjunction to our job; we tend to say our name, followed by a comma, and then a job title.

This follows the holistic career paradigm of Donald Super:

Graphic_Losing the commaAs we transition into retirement, the Job sector loses its centrality. I have noted that the effective total removal of the Job segment is characterized by the “we” / “they” shift. One has moved clearly into retirement when one describes one’s former employer as “they,” rather than “we.”  I characterize the new retirees who cannot make this transition as being “comma-tose retirees”.

The other career facets then begin to supplant the Job sector are:

Fitness: local exercise groups, golf, curling, hiking

Religion: church choir or other church roles

Education: lectures, courses or talks [such as Third Age Learning]

Hobbies: arts, crafts, “puttering”

Community Activities: volunteering

Family: grand-parenting

Travel: with ability to access less-expensive off-season rates

Personal Space: luxury of “vegging” [As someone once said, “The problem with doing nothing is that you don’t know when you are done.”]

Part-time job: in some cases, the new retiree continues a part-time job in one’s former work sector, or in a new sector.

The challenge with all these new career-activities is the need for effective time-management.  As one progresses through the Super life-stages, there is an evolution of the management of one’s time. In Super’s Growth/Exploration Stages, our time is managed by our parents and our education. In the Establishment/ Maintenance stages, our time is primarily owned by our employer. It is in the Decline [aka Renewal] stage that we finally own our time. The typical remark from retirees is “I don’t know how I ever found time to also do my job.” Retirement is certainly a time for prioritizing and co-ordinating the time-based activities, as well keeping these in sync with one’s spouse or partner.

This final career-stage that I have re-entitled “Renewal” [rather that Super’s “Decline”] stage has become a longer length of time than the work time. To translate this into numbers, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Fund has calculated the length of members’ work-life as 26 years, while one’s retirement-life span averages to be 31 years.

Do we ever lose the comma, and merely describe oneself by our name? Quite simply, we, as a species, always need some endeavour or activit… behind the comma …to complete our identity.

As Jean-Paul Sartre, the French Existentialist, once stated:

“To do is to be”

Lucie Morillon
Lucie Morillon is the Bilingual Content & Communications Co-ordinator for CERIC. With a passion for quality content, she connects with her online communities and provides strong resources to engage members – and always encourages new ones to get involved. She identifies, creates and curates the content destined for the ContactPoint website, the weekly CareerWise newsletter and Careering magazine.

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