By Renee Booth
Over the years I have watched numerous professionals retire or make significant career transitions. For many, it is often a time of not only deep self-reflection, but also a level of uncertainty and angst. Based on my experience working with these individuals, below are five points of advice that I would offer to help make a transition something to embrace rather than fear.
1. Just Do It: Transitions are often hard. Delay doesn’t help. Decide when it’s time to go and tell someone to hold you accountable for making your move. How you end things is just as important as how you begin them. Be optimistic about the future, even when you don’t know what exactly it holds.
2. Think About the Short-term: For once, think about the short term rather than the long term. You don’t need a well thought out strategy (assuming you are financially prepared). A one year plan for what you plan to do when you leave is often better than a 5 year plan. Some things you just have to experience before you can get them right. It’s not important to know exactly what you will do with all the new found time in your life. Things are likely to become clearer once you’re gone. Focus first on how you would like to feel once you’ve left your job, rather than what specifically you would like to do. Also, think less about activities and more about relationships – particularly those you may have left behind because you have been so busy working and building your career.
3. Celebrate Your Departure: Forget about losing your status or becoming a lame duck once your departure is announced. It’s important for the organization and you to take an adequate amount of time to get prepared for the transition and your permanent absence. Also, the messages of gratitude and support that inevitably will come your way are an important part of mourning the loss of a job that you’ve committed to for so long. You’ll remember those messages for the rest of your life. Don't deny yourself that pleasure. How you emotionally handle your departure will send a very powerful message to others around you, and you want to be remembered in a very positive way.
4. Be Careful About Leaving a Legacy: Try not to become preoccupied by leaving a visible legacy of your tenure. Your tenure and what you did during it IS in fact your true legacy. The work you’ve done, the people you’ve touched, and your overall impact on the organization is what will be remembered. Your contributions will be inevitably interwoven into the fabric of those who came before you and those who will come after you.
5. Don’t Look Back: Move on. Wanting to hold on to what you’ve had is a natural inclination. We define ourselves so much by our jobs that it’s naturally scary to let go. Be brave! Initially, avoid calling old colleagues to find out what’s been happening back on the job. Find new people to have lunch or dinner with. Engage in new and different conversations. The future is not as scary as you think. In fact, if you give it a chance, the future is likely to be far more interesting and invigorating than what you may feel so committed to in the moment.