What will your last job change be?

November 5, 2018

By Martha Sullivan, CPA, CVA/ABV, CM&AA, CEPA
Partner, Succession Planning Practice Leader

Martha leads HK’s succession and exit planning services division and is a regular contributor to Wisconsin’s InBusiness digital magazine.

When was the last time you changed jobs? Do you remember the exhilaration of it? I was reminded of how exciting it can be as I grabbed coffee with someone today who recently started a new gig. He had that new-job glow about him, filled with hope, renewed energy, and determination. He had been at his former employer for about 10 years. He enjoyed his time there, but knew there were other passions, needs, and achievements he wanted to pursue. So, he made the leap.

Changes of this magnitude are fun and also a challenge — like an exciting, uncharted cross-country road trip. There are tons of unknowns waiting for you: “Where’s the restroom?” “Who are you?” “What am I doing?” and “We do what?” You’re creating a whole new routine, changing your commute, what you do, and what you take on. Let’s face it; you enter a “dumb-as-a-rock” phase with every new job. Yes, you’re bright, accomplished, capable, and prepared to make this change, but you do not know what you’re doing — yet. You’re figuring it out as you go. It’s an adventure and a bit unnerving.

The same should be true when we make that last “job change” — that is, when we retire. We should have something we are looking forward to — new tasks and things to learn — with family, friends, and colleagues cheering for our happiness and success. What’s different with this gig is you write your own job posting.

There are four steps that are crucial to defining your life after a steady paycheck:

1. Connect with your passions

What gives you meaning? What’s important to you that you still want to accomplish? There are many things to be passionate about, whether it’s building awareness around an issue, lending a helping hand to another, or creating something new. There are skills and activities you enjoy doing that would be useful and apply to other situations in your community. Just as importantly, there are many topics you probably want to know more about or other skills you want to learn.

Of course, there are only so many hours in the day to indulge these passions. We all have these lists in our heads. You do the ones you can, but many others sit in the background waiting for you to give them attention. Your challenge is to maintain awareness of them and develop your path to connect to them.

2. Align your relationships

As it relates to creating your next job, there are two types of relationships that need to be aligned. The most important is your relationship with your family. What do you want to do? What do they want to do? How do your individual needs blend, overlap, and align? Where do they diverge?

For example, my spouse and I have different styles, personalities, and interests. He enjoys devouring history, politics, and other nonfiction reads. I’m more into fiction. Chances are we’re not going to be in a book club together. However, we might both get involved with Schools of Hope and help school children strengthen their reading skills.

The other type of relationship that needs to be aligned with your passion is relationships with people currently involved in it. Who do you know that’s championing the cause now? What are they doing? What can you learn from them? If you don’t know anyone, what organizations could point you in a direction? Make a connection, even if it’s just getting a newsletter. Get information, lay the groundwork to exchange ideas, and go to meet those people.

3. Engage early

It takes times to build relationships. Further, it takes time to establish your credibility in any effort. It’s rare to arrive in a new situation and have the exact role you want right out of the gate. If you want to go on a trip, you first have to put gas in the tank. This is no different.

For example, I have an idea related to Alzheimer’s. Companies face a coming tsunami related to the disease. It will fiercely impact customers and employees. How should a company prepare? How can I help?

A few years ago, all I had to draw on was my personal experience with the disease. I got involved with the local Alzheimer’s Association chapter and now know the team there and serve on the board. I’ve attended conferences to learn more. I talk about the topic when I can. Those are baby steps, but I’m engaging at a level that makes sense for where I am at right now.

4. Establish pipelines

Baby steps create a pipeline. By the time I have the freedom and capacity to do more, I’ll have relationships and knowledge I can leverage. If you do the same, people will know you and your strengths, and you will know them and theirs. These experiences become the path that leads us forward.

If you start these steps now, you’ll form these bonds and pipelines while still viewed as vital and a contributor. There’s an unacknowledged, unwarranted stigma to the “retired” label. Whether in a retiree’s or another’s mind, there can be a sense of “I/you used to be someone.” When relationships and pipelines exist prior to retirement, there’s a stronger probability that the transition into your new job (aka, life after a paycheck) will be easier and possibly seamless.

Job changes are exciting and hard. Your last job and life after a paycheck are what you create. You’re in the driver’s seat. Start planning your trip.

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