The Key to a Successful Career is Nurturing One's Relationships

Dave Smorodin stresses the importance of long-lasting relationships
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Did you choose retirement? Or was it chosen for you?

I was fortunate in that I chose retirement, informing ACS of my decision to retire almost six months in advance. 

What sort of things did you do to prepare for retirement? Which one of them do you think had the most impact? 

Like so many people who have responded to these Fifth Quarter questions, my preparations for my retirement over the years had focused almost exclusively on the financial aspects of retirement. Fortunately, as I began to think more seriously about retirement, I reviewed some of the materials put together by my friend/colleague/mentor Bill Carroll on preparing for the transition to retirement. Bill’s retirement class is part of the Career Pathways program that ACS runs and was tremendously helpful, even if I didn’t follow all of Bill’s sage advice.

I know a lot of advice on retirement concerns big picture things regarding finances, insurance and health, and these are all important. But the little things are important too. For instance, having worked at ACS for nearly 18 years, many friends and colleagues only knew my ACS contact information. Fortunately, I was able to reach out to many people before my departure with my new contact information.             

What decision have you made in the first six months of your retirement that you think you will be happiest about 15-20 years from now? 

As I noted above, when I left my employment with ACS, I made the conscious decision to contact a number of the people I worked with at all levels of the ACS, both staff and volunteers. Many of these folks have played important parts of my life; I hope that in 15-20 years, I will continue to have relationships with these people.

What’s the biggest challenge you have confronted to this point in your retirement?

Of course, the COVID pandemic looms over everything. As the severity of the pandemic has abated, my wife and I, like so many of us, have struggled with balancing the desire to emerge from our cocoons, and the continued need to take appropriate safety precautions. 

Looking back, what do you wish you knew about retirement before you retired?

As a lawyer, I thought I was prepared for the paperwork associated with Medicare. Wrong! It is hardly an original thought, but I have to say, our country’s healthcare system is very complicated. I wish that I had spent more time understanding the nuts and bolts of transitioning to Medicare. There is a lot of paperwork.

What is the most important piece of advice – on any topic – that you would share with your 30- year-old self?

As I’m still in the midst of cleaning out old files and stumbling upon old photographs, I’m tempted to say to my 30-year-old self just three simple words of advice: Get better haircuts! But my serious advice would be that while the work is important and must always be done as well as possible, the most important aspect about one’s career is the relationships one nurtures (or doesn’t) along the way.  

Even though it’s only been a short while, what has surprised you most about retirement?

One of the benefits of retirement that most people look forward to is having “more time.” I’ve found, however, that as the number of tasks on my “to do list” has shrunk, the time required to do each task has increased!      

What is your favorite part of retired life? 

I enjoyed working at ACS, but I have to say, my favorite part of retired life is that on Sunday nights I no longer get the “Sunday Scaries,” that all too familiar feeling of dread about the work not completed over the weekend and all the meetings, phone calls, and emails that await as the new work week looms.        

Is there a travel destination you are most eager to visit? 

My wife and I visited Paris and Prague this past Spring and we are planning to tour the British Isles late this summer.

What do you like most about where you are living in retirement? What’s one thing you wish you could change about where you live?

My wife and I are not planning on relocating out of the Washington, D.C. area; there are so many things to do. Of course, sometimes it seems like half the world is trying to do the very same thing at the very same time! As I sit in traffic, my only thought is, “Don’t these people have jobs?” I wish that I could reduce the D.C. area traffic. Failing that, I’m learning to schedule my local excursions to avoid the worst of the congestion.      

What aspect of life in the United States do you think will change the most as you make your way through your retirement years? 

I have absolutely no idea!  

Dave Smorodin enjoys a beverage at the Jefferson Hotel, Washington, D.C.
Dave Smorodin enjoys a beverage at the Jefferson Hotel, Washington, D.C.
Photo credit: Holley Waldron

David Smorodin served as the Assistant General Counsel at the ACS for nearly 18 years before retiring at the end of 2021.  

This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.

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