How Do I Get There from Here?
Seeking Purpose and Relevance in Early Career and Retirement Transitions
by Leslie Braksick, PhD, MPH, Co-Founder and Senior Partner, My Next Season
Recently I was sitting with my 24-year-old son and his two closest friends. All three young men are in their first jobs post-college. They are working hard, learning a lot, and trying to navigate their respective roles and companies.
Our conversation quickly turned toward jobs—and their shared frustrations about how hard it is to get noticed at work; the obscurity around career paths and promotions. These young men, like their peers in other companies, were raised with a lifetime of feedback, praise, encouragement … and a Dr. Seuss “Oh, the Places You Will Go” view of the world.
Realities aren’t synching up with expectations and they wonder…
“Can I get there from here?” “Do I even know where there is?”
“Am I doing the right things to advance my career and earning potential?”
“Is this what I should be doing with my life?”
They shared how questions like these dominated their thinking while they worked hard for their current employers.
I was fascinated by their thought process, and much of it sounded familiar to me.
Earlier that day, I had spent over an hour on the phone with a Fortune 20 company executive preparing to retire as CFO after 35 years with his company. His anxiety was palpable both in his tone and in his words. His retirement transition had come sooner than he expected, and he realized he had not spent any time preparing for “what’s next,” other than the financial aspect. The public announcement was out—and the barrage of questions had started:
“What are you going to do?”
“Have you thought about . . . ?”
He shared that he felt he still had a lot of gas left in his tank, and while he welcomed the idea of having the time to work on his golf game, he was nowhere ready to slow down and “do nothing” and was very worried about how to “stay in the game” and “make a difference in the world”.
What struck me about each of these conversations—between three young men on the early end of the career continuum and a retiring executive on the latter end of his corporate career—was how similar they were at their core. Their concerns were nearly identical:
- being relevant
- growth/continued learning
- making a difference
- moving forward with clarity and purpose
- having a plan
I pondered: Do companies understand how profoundly impactful the employment experience is to the soul and sprit of people?
Do they see the potential to retain and inspire young professionals by: helping them find purpose in their work and having more transparent career conversations; by providing them with mentoring, advising so they can articulate purpose, passions, and goals—and feel confident they are charting a path toward achieving them?
And how helpful would it be if every executive had someone with whom s/he could speak—to map out a plan for what’s next—that engendered confidence that they will get there?
We get all of that at My Next Season. We have dedicated our little company to a big vision: helping companies and individuals with important career transitions and finding purpose in their next season.
In the beginning, and in the end; whether twenty-three or sixty-three, we are seeking the same things. We want to matter in the world. We want to learn and grow, find purpose, give back, and make a difference to things that matter.
Imagine if we all behaved—individually and corporately—as though we understood that truth.