Preparing For Life After An Intensive Career

Thanks in part to thinkers like Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, many of us have been focusing on longevity and the implications for our careers as we contemplate a 100-year life.

For many, much of this thinking revolves around the ‘third age’ and what life – and work – will look like once we pass traditional working age.

In a recent Financial Times article by Stefan Stern, HSM Advisory CEO and founder, Lynda Gratton, shared some of her thoughts on a specific subset of ‘third age’ planning: those who are shifting gears from top leadership jobs. Often, these individuals neither retire nor slow down – but their lives and careers do shift, and like everyone else they need to start planning for it as early as possible.

This need is especially acute for those who are already in their 40s and 50s and were raised with the expectation of a traditional, linear career path. They may have been planning for a 30-year career, which may end up becoming a 50-year one, with many years of living to be done afterwards – and little idea of what it will look like.

The first challenge for these individuals is to start visualising that future. Not just what they want to do next – but what about after that? What about the different possibilities, eventualities and contingencies that might need to be planned for?

The second, is to really understand what that future means, not just practically but emotionally too. What will it feel like to step away from the pressure, responsibility – and glamour – of being in charge? There are different ways of coming to terms with this. For some, a clean break may feel invigorating; for others, a staggered transition may be the best way to shed old habits and expectations.

Thirdly, it’s important to get used to failure. After decades being looked to for expertise and competence, this can be hard. But in a life where we all need to find not just one but several new avenues in life, it’s important to get used to trial and error. Stay open – and stay humble – while you explore.

Finally, it’s important to try new things – contemplating the shift into the third age as early as possible provides more opportunity to do this, allowing you to explore new hobbies that could become new careers, make plans, discard them and find what fits you best.