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Transitioning from a 35-year corporate career to something new

Updated: Nov 12, 2020

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Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

It is now nearly 2 months since I left a successful 35-year corporate career at a large multi-national IT solutions and services company. Retirement is not part of the plan; far from it. In fact, I try not to use the world retirement in conversation with anyone.

In my case, my plan was & is to focus on my new executive coaching and “high potential employee” coaching business after taking a couple of weeks off.

This 2-month period is a “season of transition”; a period that we all go through every few years when something significant in our lives change.

So, what have I learnt in “the season of transition”?

1. It takes longer to adjust than I originally thought.

2. Knowing who I am has made the journey easier.

3. I have had to learn self-compassion.

Let’s take a look at each of these in turn.

It takes longer to adjust than I originally thought

I had heard that the transition from full time employment to doing “something else” can take a while. Some had said a few weeks, others a year.

My experience has been that I have appreciated needing longer to settle and to refocus after 35-years on the hamster wheel. It has also taken longer to work through the humdrum “stuff” of life. You know, the stuff that gets de-prioritised when you are working full time; the garden, the house, personal finances; time with family and so on. So, firstly, the transition time has been longer compared with what I was expecting.

Knowing who I am has made the journey easier

Secondly, I had always imagined that my last day would have been a highly emotional day, with tears flowing as I grieved the end of a 35-year relationship.

However, over a 5-year period in the run-up to leaving, I had been fortunate to work with a number of “life coaches”. In various 1-2-1 coaching sessions they had helped me explore who I was, where my passion lay and what my future looked like.

I learnt that my identity never was … “Hi, I’m Stuart, I’m CTO of this or that business. I hold education certificates in that and this, and I have skills in something else”. No, I am none of these things or these labels; and never was. Because I now know what my identity is. And, let me say, knowing this is liberating.

When I left work for the last time, I left many, many good friends and dedicated, highly skilled work colleagues. I miss them even now. But I knew I was following something greater than the corporate world was giving me. I knew who I was, and I knew that my decision to leave felt right, because it aligned more fully with my identity. And that made my last day so much more joyful. I felt peaceful deep down inside, and I am grateful for that peace.

I have had to learn self-compassion

And finally, on my list of learnings;

How would I transition from a world of hitting deadlines, meeting quality standards and high-performance goals, to a world of driving my own business? Would it all be plain sailing?

To be frank, I initially found this really, really difficult. I wanted to “get going”. I had a conflict of wanting and needing to get going, and this equally strong feeling of “laissez-faire”. I was frustrated, like really frustrated grappling with this conflict.

And this is where self-compassion has really kicked in. Again, skilful coaches have helped me on this journey where I have had to learn greater self-compassion around this conflict and to “give myself permission” to take this time out. I am now almost ready to get cracking, and this blog post is just one aspect of starting to crank the handle again.

Knowing my identity was my beacon

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Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

So, what is my one key takeaway? For me, one thing shines like a beacon.

My prior work on my “identity” has been the single-most stabilising factor. It has enabled me to take on a personal, once in a lifetime risk that a few years ago I wouldn’t have taken, and to leave a place I loved probably 2-3 years ahead of schedule.

Knowing my identity has enabled me to accept the lengthier time in this transition season. And, it has enabled me today to be more compassionate about where I am in my journey.

I have learnt that our identities are who we were, who we are, and who we will become. I wish I could bottle it and give it to you.

About Stuart: Stuart is an executive coach, "high calibre employee" coach and student mentor. He provides a confidential environment for clients to review their career strategies, to help define career and life goals, and to explore and resolve limiting beliefs that are holding them back. He also helps unburden those professionals who are approaching corporate burnout, and to help people in general to "unscramble". He can be contacted via his website at

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