How I Said Goodbye to My Career
It happens to everyone. Your career ends—eventually. Time runs out, like sand in an hourglass. You may end it at the appropriate time—or, sadly, someone may end it for you. But when you reach the end of your professional career, how do you say goodbye to it—and move on? How do you make the end meaningful, regardless of who wrote the final script?
For me, I had a fulfilling career—but I had to rewrite the ending. I’ll explain in a minute.
My 43-year professional business career was comprised of three corporate jobs and my own business. I was hired by Snap-on Tools Corporation right out of college and worked in the sales promotion department as a creative writer for fourteen years. I left under my own power in my mid-thirties to chase a dream—to start a home-based business structured around the things I loved most and performed best—writing and creative work. I launched Magruder & Associates, an advertising copywriting and executive speechwriting firm. Home-based businesses were all the rage that year as 41 million Americans began working out of their homes. I did it for two reasons—I wanted to write professionally on many subjects, and I desired to “be there” for my two young sons, David and Mark. For the next nine years I was able to build a diversified portfolio while being fully engaged with my kids.
Next stop? I joined InSinkErator, a division of Emerson Electric Co. in 2000 as the Marketing Communications Manager and enjoyed seventeen years with this fine company. When my job was suddenly eliminated one Monday morning in April of 2017, my severance package included outplacement with Lee Hecht Harrison (LHH), the largest career transition company in the world. I became actively involved as they trained me how to conduct a successful job search. Before my program concluded, Debbie, my consultant and the senior vice president of LHH said, "How would you like to join us?" She hired me as a career consultant. This was my opportunity to rewrite the end of my career and spend my final three years investing in something I believed in—the lives of hundreds of job candidates who, like me, did not choose to end their careers.
The last three years of my career were perhaps the most fulfilling, helping job candidates restore their faith in themselves and land on their feet again. What better way to rewrite the ending of my career?
“Though no one can go back and make a brand-new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand-new ending.”
So, how do you say goodbye to your career? And what does this have to do with pausing?
Here is the four-step process I followed. I refer to them as the Four Rs.
1) REVISIT your career one final time: For me, before I said goodbye, I said thanks. I drove back to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater campus where I graduated, walked the entire campus, and thanked God for my formal education and career opportunities. After all, my education launched the 43-year career that made my livelihood possible. It was there I revisited my career by reflecting on it. I fondly recalled the people. The projects. The places. The opportunities. The travel. The successes. And the memories. Revisit your career before you say goodbye to it by recalling it, reflecting on it, and simply being grateful for it—and how it met your needs--for years.
2) REST. The minute I retired the first thing my wife, Karen, said to me was: “You should rest. Take two weeks off and have some fun.” I took her advice, and then some. I rested for one month to refresh my body and renew my mind—this gave me precious time to mentally transition to the next phase of life—writing fulltime. Even if you’re not ready to retire, take time to rest and refresh yourself. Rest will help you restore your perspective before you craft your job search strategy.
3) REACH-OUT. If you’ve lost your job but are too young to retire, reach out to your friends and associates and network with them via Linked In or in-person as you hunt for the next great opportunity. (Today, 70% of jobs are found through networking. Only 8% of jobs are found through applying online alone.)
4) REWRITE the end of your career. A colleague of mine, Eileen, once said to me, “You don’t like the way your career ended, do you? You should rewrite the ending.” With Debbie’s help from LHH, I was able to do just that. The goal was to walk away happy and move on to something even more fulfilling.
When your career ends, and you're ready to retire, think about how to mentally say goodbye to your career. If you desire to keep working, consider how you might rewrite the ending by doing something completely different with your life.
I believe these four Rs can help you say goodbye to your career—and gratefully anticipate what’s next.
SOMETHING TO CHEW ON: Have you thought about the end of your career? How will you say goodbye to something that has occupied the majority of your waking hours for most of your life?
SPECIAL NOTE: On November 3, 2020, Chicken Soup for the Soul released a new book titled, Age is Just a Number. I have a story published in this book called, "Repurpose Your Life." The story opens with the moment I learned my job was eliminated and how I reacted. You can read it here on my website under the NONFICTION tab.