Taking the plunge Don't stress when facing a critical transition in your working life: it's merely your next step
The rugby legend on why that critical transition in your career is simply the next step
IT’S all too common and one of the saddest sights in sport: the transitioning athlete at a retirement press conference, not knowing what’s coming next, perhaps too scared to think about it, definitely thinking about it too late. “So what are you going to do now?,” comes the question. “Well, um, I’m just going to sit on the beach for a couple of months and, ahh, think about it.”
While they may be spared the presser, the same scenario is replicated for retiring and transitioning executives.
Perhaps the hardest time to give someone advice is when they feel they least need it. Have you tried talking superannuation to a 20 something? Very early in my career an Irishman lectured me to “love what you do, not what you did”. Later, a business colleague and mate, Chris White, from sponsorship and talent management agency International Quarterback, reinforced that: “You retire to something and not from something.” While subtly different, both maxims exhort living life in the present, for the future, and not the past.
In analysing the transition from elite sport, J M Crook and S E Robertson in 1991 in the International Journal of Sport Psychology, identified five signposts for quality transition:
preparation for retirement,
you get your sense of self?
community you can turn to; and Careers involve more transition than they ever have. A 2012 survey by Future Workplace, Multiple Generations @ Work, found millennials (born between 1977 and 1997) consider two years in a job a solid investment. This willingness to job-hop can result in about 15 to 20 job changes across their career. At the other end of the spectrum, baby boomers (1946 to 1964) are redefining what constitutes retirement. So, these same five factors may be just as relevant for anyone making a transition to another career or entering retirement.
While the signposts are in some ways interrelated, two stand out as being relevant all the time, no matter whether or not you are considering an imminent transition. One is from where you get your sense of self and the other, is how well you manage yourself.
It is so important to be aware of how you generate your sense of self-worth. Is it through your position and the chattels that come with it or is it through your personal purpose, skills and achievements? If you yearn for the extrinsic markers of status and success, like the roar of a crowd, acknowledgment in the media or the corner office, then adjustment to a less notable and public position may be more difficult than if you get your pride from a genuine intrinsic satisfaction with your accomplishments and personal interactions.
The mastery of personal management skills is similarly transferable. While athletes are renowned for their discipline, a trait without which they wouldn’t have succeeded, its relevance to life beyond the arena can depend on how independently they have managed their career and the organisational aspects of it.
For example, how much did they just follow a schedule created for them and turn up at the airport or training, or follow the meal-plan, compared to how much of their activity was created and managed by them. If you take control of and manage your own life, it will help prepare you for change in an organised rather than haphazard manner.
Something else that can’t be dismissed is work ethic. No one is successful without it. Many people seem to forget how hard they had to work to be successful in their previous career and never work so hard again. If you are finding your way in a new domain, then you start from scratch and there is no substitute for hard work.
While the decisions you make and the steps you take to transition will certainly make a difference, they may not master all your demons. So one final piece of advice, don’t put too much pressure on yourself, for the next step you take doesn’t have to be the perfect step, nor the final step, it just has to be your next step.