When I worked with professional rugby players as a career consultant, there was an understanding by the players that in the not too distant future (from mere months, to possibly over a decade) there would be a need to transition to a new career.
My work with people who find themselves in a jobless situation due to redundancy of their employed position has some similarities. I find that there are very few clients who say that they didn’t see it coming at all. However, many aren’t so well prepared, when it does occur.
My generation (X) and those who have followed are well aware of the increased incidence of downsizings or corporate restructures that can spell “adios” to your so-called permanent position. These days, even such traditionally perceived safe havens as the public service are no longer out of bounds.
Preparing for transition
In many countries including Australia, professional football players are now provided with support and resources so that when their playing days are over they are ready to be moving in a new direction and preparing for their next career. Gaining qualifications and skills, building valuable contacts, personal and professional development, are invested in by players (well, at least the smart ones who recognise the benefits of such foresight!), and on their behalf, as a negotiated part of their overall package. Such preparation takes time and energy, with the opportunity to “try on” various career ideas and imagined futures being a distinct advantage.
Professional development focus
Perhaps this “future fund” for career development is something that professional workers need to also take on board. Firstly, aiming to gain employment with a company that takes professional development seriously is important. There can be a danger of being “let go” only to find that your skills lack currency in the marketplace. There can also be a “use it or lose it” scenario with many skills (particularly those relating to technology), starting to diminish over time, when not continuously practised.
Don’t just rely on your employer though. Investing in yourself in terms of time and money is generally well spent and will help you to rebound more quickly. Not only that, but your studies give you something positive to focus on if you do suddenly find yourself with a lot of time on your hands. Informal learning via mentoring, free online courses, podcasts and books can also help to keep your knowledge current, if not credentialed, while placing less strain on your budget.
Build a network of connections
Networking, or building business connections is perhaps the greatest area of focus for those given a sudden exit from an organisation. I am continually surprised by those who don’t have a LinkedIn profile or an established network but have been retrenched and suddenly have a pressing need to find work. A strong and viable network of connections is created like a fine wine – not an instant coffee!
If you are someone who has let networking slip off the agenda (hey, who has the time!?) make it a priority, and:
“Pay it forward” by connecting people where you see natural synergies. Thank people.
Invite people into the fold and be generous wherever you can. Ask for introductions.
Suggest to a friend that you attend networking functions together. Get there early.
A self-employed mindset
Forced or early retirement from professional sport is inevitable if you are a footballer – but early retirement or redundancy may befall any of us, at any time. Even in so-called secure or “boom” sectors. In reality, with so much “right sizing” / re-structuring and casual or contract work it is worth developing a self-employed mindset. Of course, the transition may be a voluntary one – you may find yourself in a career that is no longer satisfying monetarily or otherwise, and want to make a move to do something else.
Think of emulating the players’ preparation for transition – up-skilling (formally or informally), gaining qualifications, developing personally and professionally, and connecting in person and on LinkedIn to build your resilience for if/when the time comes. Even if your position remains secure you will be better equipped for it, better prepared for a promotion, or to connect and help others. Or, you will be more nimble for a voluntary move, when you decide to do so.
Take a leaf from the professional players’ book – get on the front foot and enjoy a somewhat smoother transition, as a result of great preparation.