Here's how one learning professional heeded the advice she's given to many others to pursue a new career opportunity of her own.
After many years of organizational development work, mentoring, and coaching at a major research university, I was afforded the opportunity to be authentic and "walk my talk." A major reorganization in my department resulted in the split of a high-performing unit. The unit I was in moved to a different department on campus, while the other half remained in the existing department. Reorganizations like this are becoming more common in our current economy. The rationale for this specific change was to bring some positive social capital along with additional training and development expertise.
As an organizational development professional, this process should have been easy for me since one of my responsibilities is to assist others to deal with change. But this move required adjusting to and embracing a new and entirely different culture. I was constantly reminded of the change management principles that I had implemented with other units undergoing similar change. Could I continue to be productive and authentic while going through the transition?
As I was successfully transitioning into this new environment, a major career dilemma arose. A colleague alerted me about an open position at a different institution for which he deemed I would be a perfect fit. At the time, I was reminded about an article I wrote a few years ago titled "When Opportunity Knocks, Will You Be Ready?"
The article stressed the importance of always being ready for new opportunities by keeping your resume updated and your professional network intact. It addressed my current situation head on; I had to ask myself if I was ready. After further thought and a little urging from friends, I applied for and was offered the position.
Making the right decision
Now the hard questions began to surface. I had worked in a rewarding position at a comfortable place, where I had an excellent brand and presence. Was I prepared to follow my own advice and go to a new place that presented an excellent opportunity? I had deep relationships that had been nurtured and developed for 21 years.
How could I leave a place where I had experienced career success and was viewed as a trusted adviser? I asked myself if I should take the risk and make this strategic move. Would I be complacent or authentic?
I took an analytical approach to make this decision and solve this dilemma. I considered the following issues.
- Retirement—Would it be wise to leave when I was within five years of retirement?
- Age—As a Boomer, would I have this opportunity again to move into a higher level position?
- Starting over—How comfortable would I be taking a new role in a new environment?
- Pay—Would an increase in salary in my new role be worth the risk?
- Balance—Would I be able to manage a good work-life balance?
- Contribution—Would I have the opportunity to create a new legacy?
- New challenge—Would the opportunity to restart a unit similar to the one I was in before the reorganization be a worthy challenge?
- Benefits—Would I risk losing any retirement and health benefits?
To answer these questions, I conducted research and also discussed these issues with my family and trusted advisers to ensure that I was not making an emotional decision.
By going through this process, I realized that as a Boomer, I would be welcomed into positions at this level since I would bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise. I had a proven track record not only at my institution, but also on a local and national level through my involvement with various organizations.
Also, my personality is very adaptable, and I have several colleagues at the new institution who could assist me in transitioning to this new culture. This new opportunity offered a chance of a lifetime. I would be able to hire my own staff and create a unit that could assist my institution in achieving the goals outlined in its new strategic plan.
In this opportunity, I would have access to an excellent wellness program, endorsed by the leadership, which offered a great work-life balance. In addition, the institution's philosophy and policies were more family friendly. This indeed would be a perfect time and opportunity to establish another legacy.
Toward a new legacy
After much consideration, my decision became clear and my answer was overwhelmingly "Yes." Why wouldn't I accept the challenge to continue to advance in my career? Boomers can continue to progress in their careers and continue to be life-long learners. What a wonderful challenge it will be to restart a department with new staff. The reward is worth the risk, and I am ready for the challenge.
I'm glad that I used this process to make my decision and followed the advice that I had provided to others on numerous occasions. Sometimes you must move to grow to the next level. My decision was confirmed when several of my mentees said to me at my going-away party that they were sorry to see me leave, but that I was being authentic and following the advice that I had given to them on numerous occasions.
I am happy in my new role. I'm in the heart of the city in a new and vibrant environment. I'm making new friends and colleagues while also maintaining my professional relationships. I am in the process of hiring new staff and developing our value proposition. I am building this new legacy with the theme of "Rocking and Rolling!"
To continue to grow professionally, you must continue to network with your professional organizations, maintain your brand, and be career resilient. My advice for anyone facing a similar decision is to take an analytical, not an emotional, approach to making your decision. Use your professional network of colleagues to collect business intelligence about your prospective employer. Use your family and trusted advisers to assist you with this decision. Most of all, do not be afraid to "walk your talk."