You have decided that you want to have a radical change of direction. You want to move on from your current employer. You want to step out into a new workstyle. You want to build a new career for the second half of your working life.
Commit to plan and prepare
There are some immensely useful activities you can do to plan and prepare before you quit your current job. It will depend on your situation as to what takes priority, but the first thing I think is important is to do a personal financial review.
Look at your income and expenditure, look at your savings, look at your other assets (your house is an important asset). Make sure you understand how you could give yourself the longest possible time between the end of your salaried employment and achieving a sustainable income from your future workstyle. See the blog “Building your runway for Portfolio Executive lift off”
Don’t leave too soon
The second thing is to make the very most of the opportunity that you have with your current employer. Maybe you are just desperate to leave: you want to put your notice in at once and are ready to step into the unknown. This is risky but when it is a matter of ‘now or never’ then ‘now’ can seem the only choice. If you can, then take your time and plan your exit over a six to twelve month period. Imagine you were doing a part-time Masters programme to advance your career. You would invest both time (probably on average 10 hours per week over 12 months) and money (£5,000-£25,000 p.a). You need to have the same kind of commitment to make the most of your transition to a 2nd Half Career.
Build new skills
Be very intentional about getting the experiences and training available to prepare you for your future. For example, if you feel you lack experience in negotiating and you believe that your future is going to require better negotiating skills then find opportunities to learn more about negotiating, perhaps ask for a course from your employer or get involved in negotiations with colleagues.
Develop your profile
Perhaps you have had relatively little exposure within your industry and you believe it is necessary to build your profile. Spend the time going out and being a ambassador in your industry. Volunteer to speak at events, join a conference panel, take part in an industry working group, volunteer to develop the relevant trade or standards body. Build your profile so that when you do leave more people will know you.
Extend your network
Perhaps you are part of a large organisation and your network is primarily within the enterprise. Use this time to build or renew your networks outside the company. Catch up with old school friends, your colleagues at previous employers or others in your profession. Get out there and start building up your network and talking to people and meeting with people so that when you leave there are a good number of people who have been in touch with you recently who can help you in your transition.
Plan your new workstyle
Now is the time to develop your thinking about the new workstyle your want in your 2nd Half Career. Let us say, for example, you are a marketing director role in a large corporate and in the future you want to focus on helping organisations with their communications. Now is the time to research the opportunities in communications, understand the different communication channels, see who the leaders are in communication strategies and subscribe to other people’s blogs. Identify who the recognised experts are and what the emerging practices are. See if your current employer will allow you to attend a conference, or take a course.
You want to make a more significant change of workstyle. Check out the options for franchising, interim, contracting, consultancy or what it would mean to turn that hobby into a business. (look at http://2ndhalfcareer.com/)
Preparing your family
The next thing that I think is important for you to do is to prepare your family. In different situations you will have different complications but inevitably your choice to change will create uncertainty, fear and disruption to your family.
Even the fact that you are now working from home and not going out to work every day is going to require transition. Maybe taking that spare room and turning it into an office will need negotiation and work. Perhaps, your other half is going to support more of the income needs of the family. You will need to build the story of why this matters to you so and what is in it for them so that your family is supportive of the transition that you will all go through. You need, as far as possible, to have their support. That backing for you in the good times and the challenging times during this transition will be crucial.
Know where you stand with your current employer
The final thing is planning your actual exit. You need to read your employment contract and your company handbook in detail so that you can understand how you can leave and have the most freedom and the most benefit for the future. Many employment contracts have restrictions on you working for the competition or existing clients, using proprietary company information and exploiting intellectual property you have created. You should actively explore what opportunities there might be for voluntary redundancy or a compromise agreement to leave. This can bring a useful financial bonus. You may also be able to agree to vary the restrictions on your future work if you can show it will not damage your current employer. Check out any accrued holiday that you can take on at departure. Plan to maximise your bonus potential in the bonus cycle. Look at getting the next promotion to maximise your ‘final salary’ pension benefits.
Make the most of now!
As a full time, salaried employee, you are in the best possible position to make the most of your 2nd Half Career. Don’t jump too soon. Prepare and plan to give your new future the very best possible chance. But don’t leave it forever either. Sooner or later your current employer will discard you. It is better to jump before you are pushed.
Charles McLachlan is the founder of FuturePerfect and on a mission to transform the future of work and business. The Portfolio Executive programme is a new initiative to help executives build a sustainable and impactful second-half-career. Creating an alternative future takes imagination, design, organisation and many other thinking skills. Charles is happy to lend them to you.