Getting Ready to Go

 “The secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes”
Benjamin Disraeli

A high percentage of people in our environment, health and safety (EHS) function and in our EHS professional organizations are in the retirement-eligible zone. What should we do to prepare for what should be an exciting new phase in our lives? When do we know when the time has come to confidently leave the security of the 9-to-5 world?

I’d like to share some ideas based upon my recent experiences in the zone and encourage you to build upon them. This is too important a zone for us to leave ill-prepared.

Step 1: The Preparation

The typical financial planner advice of minimizing debt, shouldering no new financial obligations until you understand your new cash flow realities, causing no radical changes in our personal situation like moving far from familiar surroundings and friends, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle were all valid and important to me, but there was much more to preparation than just the financial dimension. I’d like to suggest some questions to consider as you formulate your transition plan:

  • Are you where you’d hoped to be at this stage in your life?
  • Is your work currently fulfilling your sense of calling?
  • Do you still go home at night with a clear sense of purpose and accomplishment?
  • If nothing changed in your life in the next 3-5 years would that be acceptable?
  • If you do desire different results, are you willing to make the changes that are necessary to achieve them?
  • Are you skilled enough and committed enough to continue your profession in a different setting
  • Have you invested enough time and energy to cultivate a professional network to aid your transition?
  • Do you have a robust action plan in place if the “boss from hell” arrives and destroys your joy?
  • If you unexpectedly lost your job tomorrow would you know what steps you’d take?

Step 2: The Leaving

The time to transition will come for all of us. It may be initiated by you or it may not. We can’t always control our situation but we can control our reaction. Plan to leave on good terms, expressing heartfelt appreciation for the opportunities and the relationships. Resist the urge to get even with anyone. Gather contact details for those people you wish to keep in your circle of friends and commit to do your part to keep these relationships alive. Much pleasure can be gained from reliving with friends the adventures of yesteryear. Take the “trophies and trinkets” you collected with you. Don’t pitch them. Wonderful memories are contained within than can be relished for years to come.

For those of you who have gone through this, what insights and experiences can you share? For those of you who are thinking about taking these next steps, what are the questions and concerns that you have?


About Alex Pollock

Alex Pollock has been studying leadership effectiveness for more than 30 years. A former leader in environment, health and safety, and public affairs at The Dow Chemical Co., he learned that we all have leadership roles to play. He enjoys discussing new ideas and sharing practical ways we can all become better leaders.

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