Life is unpredictable. We set out on our path, carving out a life and career that’s been many years in the planning and execution.
But what happens when it all goes off the rails?
Exhibit 1: Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck announced his retirement at the end of August. At the age of 29, the franchise QB with a pretty bright future ahead of him decided to walk away from a massive contract to move onto the next stage of his life – whatever that may be.
To put this into perspective – It’s not unusual for a high-performing quarterback to play into his late 30s or early 40s. Tom Brady is 42, and he’s still starting for the Patriots.
In all likelihood, Luck stepped down less than halfway into his career, and entering his prime earning years. He cited the wear and tear of the never-ending cycle of injury and rehabilitation.
I get it, Andrew Luck isn’t your average Joe – he’s probably sitting on a huge nest egg, and has a bachelor’s degree from Stanford to boot, so he’s not going to starve. And yet, don’t underestimate the life transformation this will cause. He has approximately more than 30 years of productive career time ahead of him, and is basically starting over.
Most of us spend our lives preparing for and pursuing a career path. Consider all the time we invest in making ourselves who we are, between choosing a career path, pursuing a specific college degree (or even a graduate degree), and internships, even before starting in our line of work. The years progress, we build upon that experience, and become specialists in our chosen discipline. Next thing you know, we’re essentially stuck because it’s what we know how to do, and we’re good at it.
People change careers all the time, and injury is just one cause. These can include burnout, promotion, demotion, layoff, job elimination, or relocation. And I’ve encountered countless people (self included) who at some point in their career said they were good at their jobs, but their jobs weren’t good for them.
Being pushed into a career change is scary. For most of us, this frequently involves developing new skills and competencies in order to even think about moving forward toward a new path. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average employee stays with their employer for 4.2 years. Be prepared for change, whether you’re ready for it or not.
If there’s any lesson to be taken from Andrew Luck’s surprise retirement, it’s best to be proactive in managing your career. That means performing an honest assessment of both your professional landscape, and where you stand in it. Do you enjoy doing what you do? If you do in fact enjoy what you’re doing, can you do it at another company or is your employer the only game in town, so to speak?
If it’s clear that your career is reaching the end of its shelf life, build your exit strategy before you find yourself without options. Decide on a direction with an understanding of what you’d like to do, and what you’d rather avoid.
Research what the marketplace wants and invest in your skills to match it. Create an individual development plan that documents your goals, and how you intend to get there. And most importantly, always be training – any formal training, certification, or program is an asset, and some of what you learn will be transferable skills you will use no matter where you go or what you do. And it may not require going back to school for another degree, as an easy-to acquire certification may do the trick.
Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, career coaching services, and outplacement services. You can email Scott Singer at email@example.com, or via the website, www.insidercareerstrategies.com.