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No Regrets: 4 Tips for a Successful Career Transition

A recent article by Liz Weston about the regrets people have once they’re in the retirement phase of their lives mentions the lack of having “something to retire to,” struggling to replace what brought them meaning during their working years without any plan for how they’d spend their time. It also calls out a lack of friends or social contact, and not talking about each other’s expectations for what to do in retirement with a spouse or partner, as additional mistakes. Disagreements about how much to travel or where, how much time to spend with family and when, and the type and manner of housing and your overall lifestyle are just a handful of areas where lines can get crossed easily.

Regardless of your current career situation, whether headed toward retirement or not, consider the four tips below for how you can be proactive to avoid any major regrets about your next move so you can have as successful a transition as possible and a live fulfilling new chapter.

Start Talking: Set aside some time with family members who are directly impacted by your next career move to get clear about expectations, roles, and timing for making a change so everyone understands what’s involved and can join you in making critical decisions that will also impact their lives. This is not a time to go it alone and assume that you’re all on the same page. It reminds me of when I worked with managers who just assumed that employees knew what was needed or could read their minds when it came to expectations. Implied, presumed, and generally unstated expectations only lead to trouble for all concerned. Get clear and gain explicit, mutual understanding of the plan of action. Taking the time to do this upfront or early in the process will lead to less stress in the end and will likely raise things that you may not be thinking about or realizing that could be potential obstacles to overcome.

Get Planning: Even if you’re someone who “goes where the wind takes you,” and don’t get me wrong, I can often be the same way, the less intentional you are about goals and actions to take to get there, the more muddled things can be, leading to frustration and unnecessary anxiety. While staying open to options and having flexibility are great, at some point, the lack of a clear direction and plan can start to work against you. This doesn’t mean that any type of stated goals and plans are static. They should be dynamic and updated, and provide a guidepost to aim for, especially when priorities change, so you have some direction and don’t waste precious time wandering aimlessly. Any type of plan, even a loose one, can also relieve some pressure on loved ones so they have a sense of where you’re heading and how, whether to lend support, recommendations, or participate actively in what comes next.

Leverage Networking: Who do you know? Chances are, more people than you give yourself credit for, or think of off the top of your head. Scan your LinkedIn network and review contact lists to get a sense of the state of your current connections and reach out to those who you haven’t connected with in a while. Invite your contacts to have a catch-up call or conversation or an informational meeting or interview to exchange knowledge or seek their advice. Back when I was working in the accounting industry and we talked about roles and relationships we value, we’d often use the analogy of “rubber ball” and “glass ball” relationships, the rubber ball being those you could leave for a while and pick back up later (i.e. bounce back to you) as though no time had passed, with the relationship still intact. Who are the “rubber ball” people in your life you can pick back up with who could be a sounding board or source of information that would be valuable as you explore or enter your next career phase?

Embrace Researching: In addition to learning from those in your network, what information or tools do you need to be able to craft a plan and move forward? Taking some time to conduct research about career paths, potential work or volunteer roles, places to live or visit, pros and cons of making a particular career move, organizations you’re interested in, housing options, etc. can also pay dividends, and may lead you to further information that you didn’t know existed. Just make sure you don’t go too far down the “rabbit hole,” potentially causing you to lose momentum or get into “analysis paralysis.” Decide how much information is enough for you to make some informed choices or put a deadline on it and stick to it so you don’t get off track. Ask your contacts where they get good quality information about the topic(s) you’re researching if you’re not sure where to start, and have a place set aside, electronic or otherwise, to house the key information you find for easy access.

It’s not a fun place to be when you’ve gotten into a situation, only to realize that you’ve made a mistake or regret the approach you used to decide what to do. By being intentional and proactive, you can head as much off at the pass as possible, ensuring you’ve not only done your due diligence, but also set yourself up for success as best you can.

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