There are three kinds of executives in transition:
Executive A is confident that they not only know their industry (and their industry knows them) and would absolutely ace “life on the outside” so they step out like a peacock with no plan and get burnt on month one;
Executive B knows they know their work like the back of their hand, but wonder if they can stomach the rigors of stepping out on their own, and how the market would perceive them, so they keep putting off their exit date but make no plans to prepare for “life on the outside";
Executive C knows they have built credibility as an executive in their industry but understands there is a difference between establishing yourself under other corporate brands, and stepping out on the strength of one’s own personal brand.
They also know that just because they may be good at what they do in their role at established organizations, does not necessarily translate to having the competencies to engage in running their own business providing the products or services they are good at delivering.
So, Executive C makes plans to prepare themselves for “life on the outside”.
Which Executive Are You?
Whichever executive you are, I am guessing you wouldn’t mind hearing what I would advise Executive C if they were to come to me for Executive Coaching or Consulting to successfully transition from employment.
In How to Transition From Employment Without Compromising Your Standards, I shared the top 3 concerns executives have when thinking of transitioning from employment:
Financial Stability (will I still be able to pay my bills?)
Professional Credibility (do I have the competence and connections to thrive?)
Time Freedom (will this force me to work 24/7?)
We addressed No. 1 in that article. In this article, we will focus on No. 2 Professional Credibility.
If you are wondering whether you have the competence and connections to thrive in your new context as you transition from employment, these 5 steps will help you prepare.
1. Caste Your Vision
Set your intention on what exactly it is you set out to do and achieve in the 3 years after you transition from employment.
Why 3 years?
Just as with employment, any new initiative takes time before you find your place and pace. 3 years is therefore a solid time period to start, adjust, and stabilize in your new normal.
Planning for any length of time longer than 3 years for a dynamic you are unfamiliar with, is too long a time period to commit and lock your investments into.
You’ll find 3 years about the right length of time.
In setting your intention, start with setting your vision:
What do I want to be known for, by whom, in 3 years' time?
In the article Where Do You Climb After You've Reached The Top, I shared options of things to do after employment.
This means that you are free to reinvent, evolve, and rebrand yourself after employment. Even if you are a seasoned top executive, who you are today, does not have to define you for life.
So, give yourself permission to dream!
Are there any interests you had shelved in pursuit of your current career, that you would like to pursue in the next?
Make this a serious exercise; take time off and away from distractions to dream of what you want to be known for in the next 3 years.
By the time you are done with your reflection time, script your future as if you are already living it:
“I want to be known for [insert expertise, interest, or solution] by [insert target audience profile].”
This forms the foundation for building your personal brand.
Personal branding is your “intentional, ongoing effort to create a specific image or impression of yourself in the minds of others.”
Now that you have defined what you want to be known for, and by whom, you can develop strategies to position yourself so that they can start identifying you with the personal brand you want to be associated with after you transition from employment.
After you choose whom you want to become, it’s time to define what you want to achieve in the first 3 years after you transition from employment.
2. Set 360 Goals
What specifically do I want to achieve in the 3 years after I leave employment?
Now, probably more than ever before in your life, you can choose to pursue a life that gives you 360 fulfillment and returns.
You are a whole person with personal and professional areas that need to grow to find a deep sense of fulfillment.
Plan your life after employment to include them all.
Answer this last question detailing both qualitative and quantitative targets for each of these 5 pillars of your personal and professional growth:
Personal Development Goals
Professional Growth Goals
3. Get Equipped
With a vision and goals for what you want to achieve in the 3 years after employment, ask yourself this critical question so that you can ensure you succeed, and not sabotage, your transition plan:
Whom do I need to become to fulfill my vision and goals?
This asks you to reflect on whether there are any behaviors, habits, practices you will need to adapt, adjust, or drop to be effective in your new context?
This also includes knowledge, skills, professional associations, and even the personal appearance that will help you become the person you seek to become to be known for what you want to be known for.
Once done, write your profile as if it is an introduction to a professional application:
I am a [Insert Professional Level and Title].
I bring [Insert Unique Professional Experience/Skills/Abilities] from [Insert Organizations and Other Sources of Experience/Skills/Abilities].
A leader who is [Insert Character Traits], I thrive [Insert Environment/Challenges].
With the vision of your future after employment clear, it’s time to return to the present and plan your path.
4. Chart Your Path
Give yourself an exit date, come back to the present, and chart the 3-5 major steps you will need to take to be ready to make your move on that date.
Take into consideration the investment you will need to make between now and that date to level up your personal branding, make progress towards 360 goals, and improve personal effectiveness.
For each step you need to take, write down 3-5 actions you will take to achieve that step, giving yourself timelines and targets to work towards.
You are all set! All that remains is for you to take action.
5. Take Action
Taking action is both the simplest and hardest thing to do.
It’s simple in that all it requires is for you to get up and execute. And it’s hard because there are so many barriers to execution, self-doubt, second-guessing, busy schedules, and just sheer exhaustion being top on the list.
Whilst you don’t want to be Executives A or B who have no plans, you also don’t want to have a plan and not take action.
Just as you plan and prioritize your work so that you can deliver quality output, timely, plan your transition so that you can invest to develop yourself to thrive after employment.