We all start our careers eager to learn and anxious to demonstrate our value. Along the way, we may marry and become parents. We contribute to our retirement fund and plan for old age. We assume we will leave the work force ready to relax and do whatever it is that retired people do. Rarely do we consider preparing for the potential of leaving our careers before we are ready.
Throughout the forty plus years of an average career our enthusiasm for our profession ebbs and tides. Some of us plan for early retirement only to discover we aren’t ready. We realize we have so much more to give.
Several times a month I am contacted by a friend, a connection, or a stranger with comments like;
“It is clear I am being encouraged to leave. I am not ready to retire. What do I do?”
“I know it is time for me to leave, but I still need an income. What else might I do?”
“I want to do something different but have not clue as to what. How did you figure it out?”
“I am not ready to retire. I have so much more to give.”
The saddest situation is when a person in their late 50’s tells me: “My job was eliminated. I fear my age will prevent me from finding a new one.”
When I first started to receive these messages, I questioned if my articles or posts were accidently presenting me as a recruiter. I discovered that if you search for a recruiter on LinkedIn, I show up. I need to fix that, but in the meantime, it has given me many great opportunities to talk with senior people looking for a new job.
My discussions revealed a prevailing common thread. Almost everyone I talked to was either not prepared to take on searching for a new role or not ready to consider their options in retirement. Most had not thought to plan for a career change later in life or what they would do after their current career. As such, they were finding their options to be limited.
It is unrealistic for a person to be thinking about their next act at the beginning of their career. They are all too consumed with making ends meet and paying off student loans. It is most helpful to begin planning near the middle of your career, no later than your mid-forties. This will give you 15-20 years to figure it out beyond financial planning.
I am no expert at life planning. I can share lessons learned and scars earned layered on the ever-wise hindsight. With that I offer these rambling thoughts for anyone thinking about their next act:
- Find the hobby the feeds your passion. My biggest challenge when attempting to retire was and is that I did not have a hobby or interests that fulfilled my overwhelming need to contribute. I am working on that now by exploring various volunteer opportunities and by trying my hand at creative outlets. If I keep working at it, I think I might be there by 70. In the meantime, I am finding joy in spending time with family and friends.
- Renew your basic office skills and keep them current. Seriously. Many people leave their corporate executive role, aspiring to become a consultant, without understanding they will no longer have administrative assistance to plan their travel, create their proposals, or to create presentations. These basic skills will serve you well no matter what you have decided to do.
- Consider a transition role before retirement. One of the best career decisions I made (by accident I might add) was to leave a CIO role to take on a transformation leadership role. My last two corporate “gigs” were heading large transformation programs reporting to the CIO. These two roles helped me to renew my tool kit and prepared me like nothing else could to take on consulting.
- Read “Threescores and More” by Alan Weiss. The subtitle, “Applying the Assets of Maturity, Wisdom, and Experience for Personal and Professional Success” says it all. Every time I feel a sense of ageism, I pick up Threescores and allow Alan to set me straight. We can choose to let ageism get in our way, or we can choose to harness the power of wisdom our age grants us.
- Read “Lifestorming” by Alan Weiss and Marshall Goldsmith. This book, written by two of my most favorite authors, guides you through exploring life in a bit by bit way. One of my favorite paragraphs is found early in the book. “Many people arise each day simply awaiting what occurs, without the intention of exerting themselves on the world.” I believe that we all make a huge difference in creating our own lives, bad stuff happens, and we are best positioned when we are prepared for it.
Let me pause by sharing my perspective of Alan and Marshall.
- Alan Weiss is THE consulting guru. He bills himself as the Contrarian Consultant. One of the BEST decisions I’ve made in my post retirement journey was taking courses from Alan. He is contrarian. He can come across as an ass. He challenges me every time we meet. At the same time, there is no one I respect more or have learned more from. If you are thinking of consulting as the next step, look to Alan to help. He has written over 500 articles and 60 books, including his best-seller, Million Dollar Consulting (from McGraw-Hill) now in its 25th year and fifth edition. It is on my bookshelf, well dog-eared and tagged.
- Marshall Goldsmith is my coaching hero and the role model I aspire to. I am blessed to have had the honor of meeting and learning from him live. He opens his website with “My mission is simple. I want to help successful people achieve positive, lasting change in behavior; for themselves, their people, and their teams. I want to help you make your life a little better.” He means what he says. Two of my favorite books authored by Marshall are: “What got you here, won’t get you there” and “How Women Rise” with Sally Helgesen. I highly recommend adding both books to your reading list along with Lifestorming.
- Network! Get off your duff and build relationships. I get that many IT professionals lean towards the introverted side on personality tests. I get that that the idea of networking can bring on anxiety. Guess what, it does for me too, and I am an extrovert. At the same time, waiting until you need a network is way too late. I’ve found the best way to get over the discomfort of networking is to be actively involved. By actively involved, I mean join in the conversation. Make a game of it such as how many new people have, I met and how many new friends have I made tonight. Join in conversations that interest you on LinkedIn, demonstrate your thought leadership. No, lurking does not count as networking. Do something that works for you. Remember, doing nothing provides nothing. Enough of the preaching on the value of networking. I found this great resource for you: 4 Reasons You Don’t Like Networking (and 4 Better Options You Will Like!)
- Don’t be afraid to seek outside assistance. Everyone goes through transitions in life. Being confronted with change often leaves people feeling stuck, confused, and frustrated. This makes it difficult to see the positive opportunities that lie ahead. At other times, you know something needs to change, but you don’t know what and you don’t know how to start to figure it out. Coaching will guide you as you set new goals. If a change is being forced on you, a coach will help you figure out your options.
One of my favorite quotes is, “And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It is the life in your years.”
Do you know what you are looking for in life? There are no right or wrong answers – only your answers. I am here for you if you need a little help in figuring it out.
Until next week!
IT Executive Advisor and Leadership Coach
☎ 480.393.0722 (AZ)
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