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ATD Blog

Taking the Next Step . . . When the Time Is Right

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Despite many organizations’ concerted efforts to help develop and reskill their employees, the old adage that no one cares about your career as much as you do holds true. Are you considering retiring? How about leaving full-time work to pursue other interests yet retain a paycheck? How do you know when the time is right?

In “Master a Career Transition,” Lisa J. Downs provides a series of questions and considerations that talent development professionals can reflect upon when deciding their next professional step.

Are You Ready?

Before you begin to look at specifics in terms of clients, location, fees, and so forth, it’s a good idea to start with why and when.

  • How soon do I expect to make a career change? Three years? One year?
  • How comfortable am I with change?
  • What are my top three strengths that I’d like to continue using in some capacity?
  • What has caused me to start considering a change at this time?

What Option Is Most Fitting—and Feasible?

The answers to the questions above will help when you take a hard look at finances, comfort (and discipline) level with respect to changing hours and pay, and reliance on your professional identity.

How much do you have in savings, for example? And how much debt are you willing to take on if you plan to go into business as a consultant? Do you need health insurance or other insurance such as disability or business?


If you’re anticipating retiring, you’ll have a lot of hours to fill. Do you plan to use your TD skills volunteering for an organization about which you’re passionate? Do you plan to reduce your hours to 20 or 25 a week? How will you balance that time and your new-found “free” hours?

We all spend a significant portion of our lives at and with work. How will you define yourself apart from that title, role, and association with a company? The reality is that the first question we often ask when we meet someone is “What do you do?” How will you respond?

What Path?

There are many possible paths ahead, which can be exciting yet daunting. As a TD professional, you have a host of capabilities from coaching to project management to change management to strategic thinking and more. Where will you direct those skills?


Outside Advisor
Rather than working as an employee at your current employer, serving as an advisor may be an option. There may be an organizational need for a measurement and evaluation project or a succession planning initiative. Perhaps you’ll continue to facilitate training courses or off-site meetings. You could also serve as a coach.

Sole Proprietorship
You may have worked as an internal TD practitioner for years and feel now is the right time to strike out on your own. It can be freeing to decide which clients to take or which industries to work in but—like anything—it’s not as easy as calling your own shots. Do you have the wherewithal to go through periods with little or no income? Are you willing to do the administrative work that was someone else’s responsibility when you were an employee?

Part-Time Work or Semi-Retirement
Rather than filling a specific project or niche role at your present organization, you may want to reduce your hours and work for different organizations and industries. Consider:

  • Serving as a career counselor at an educational facility
  • Designing courseware or an assessment tool
  • Writing content for an organization’s website

Full Retirement
You’ve worked long and hard for the opportunity to retire and have adventures of your choosing. Will you travel? Where will you live? How will your retiring affect your partner or spouse? Will you take on a new hobby or a volunteer opportunity?

Whatever you choose to do in the next phase of your life, ensure you have a strong network around you for support. It’s as important as ever.

About the Author

Patty Gaul is a senior writer/editor for the Association for Talent Development (ATD).

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