>Learn from the past but look to the future – getting ready to make your choices



My old school motto was Respice Prospice – learn from the past but look to the future.  A great motto but you need to make sure your time looking backwards is well balanced by your time spent looking forwards.

You need to know when to flip your thinking forward and begin to find your choices

I spent more than 30 years as a Civil Servant.  But I can truly say I felt like a teenager when I left!  I was anxious about the future.  But I was excited about the possibilities as well.

Once I got over the shock of not being allowed to go on doing what I had chosen to do, it was like being in a room with a lot of doors.  But the door I had come through was very firmly shut behind me.  It takes a while to come to terms with that and for me it felt very strange!

As I began to peep though some of the other doors, it began to be exciting.  I was free to make a choice!
Well not completely free.  I had financial responsibilities and I did have commitments I shared with my other half! There were other constraints as well of course!  As a friend of mine remarked, it really was much too late take up brain surgery.

But provided I could generate a certain level of income and was prepared to stay in South London, I had a lot of choice.  It was like being a teenager again and time to think about what I really wanted to do with the rest of my life.

That was four years ago and the economic climate has changed a lot since then.  But when you are ready to start exploring you will be surprised by how many choices you still have.

Getting to find and make your choices can be quite a challenge.

When you feel you have been forced out of what you chose to do, the temptation is dwell on the negative parts of the past!  That can get in the way of finding your opportunities.

You ruminate on why it happened and how it could have been different.  Sometimes you can become quite obsessed with finding someone to blame. That process can be peculiarly satisfying! In some ways it’s comforting because it is a way of standing still and staying where you are! But it is comfort based on a fantasy and being angry takes a toll on you physically and mentally, as well as on those about you!

You can’t change the past but you can change the way you think about it.  If you’ve started work on your star stories, then you have some very good things to remember.  Try to concentrate of them and make a determined effort not to ruminate on the negative!

Now here you are, and I’m telling you, you can mould your future!  And you need to flip your thinking forwards! But how do you do it?

Well, you may find this recommendation from Ann Lewis useful
“In her book, Change Your Questions, Change Your Life, Marilee Adams PhD has a really useful model that she calls the Choice Map.  You can download it from her site. My clients find it really helpful when they’re dealing with difficult situations at work.”
The Choice Map will help you to start focussing on the road ahead and where you might want it to lead.
When you do start to think about your options – here are a few thoughts from me
1.    Don’t let age limit your thinking – people have gone off in all kinds of new directions before you. It might be too late to be a brain surgeon but there are still lots of interesting and worthwhile things ahead of you.  

2.    People do all kinds of things after leaving the Civil Service in mid-life.  One my former junior managers is now a barrister!  He didn’t start his legal training until his late forties!  Some former colleagues have trained as paramedics, opened shops or become complementary therapists. Others have opted for a portfolio career as non-executive directors and project and programme reviewers. Guess what, I know one person who signed up with an agency to work as a film extra!

3.    Don’t make assumptions about what your spouse/partner and your family want you to do.  Talk to them about the change.  You might be very surprised by how they see what is happening and how they are prepared to work with you to establish your new life.

4.    Be open-minded about possibilities.  When I left the Civil Service I was invited to an interview for a role that I thought was ‘below me’ and completely unsuitable.  I went along to the interview for experience.  When I got there I found the job was going to be challenging and the people were great. I took the work!

5.    Be prepared to be flexible and possibly mix and match. Many people these days have portfolio careers.  I’m afraid the days of secure employment until retirement are no more.  So your security will come from your experience, skills and training. If you are prepared to put the work in, they could still take you to a series of different roles – each one building on the last.  Or maybe you could combine a number of part- time roles – I combine being a consultant, coach and blogger with sometimes working as an interim manager!

6.    Be prepared to consider training or re-training for a role you really want, or for work available in your area.

7.    Expect working in new sectors to be different!  But remember different doesn’t necessarily mean worse, it just means you need to be prepared to get used to it. 

8.    When you need it, be prepared to ask for help.  There is lots of help out there.  If you are lucky enough to be working with a coach then you know you have support.  Help will come from friends and family.  And we will be identifying other kinds of help here on our tips and resources page.  In the meantime if you have a question, get in touch and I will do my best to point you in the right direction.
I hope all this helps. I would love to have your comments and your thoughts on your own experience.  If you have tips and observations to pass onto others please let us have them by email (wendymason@leavingthepublicsector.netor in the comments below.

Wendy Mason is used to working with people moving out of the Public Sector! She is a performance, programme, contract management and change specialist. She works as a consultant, business coach and blogger.  Adept at problem solving, she is a great person to bring in when that one thing you thought was straightforward turns out not to be! If you have a problem talk to Wendy – she can help you – email her at wendymason@leavingthepublicsector.net or ring ++44(0)7867681439
You can find her business blog at www.wisewolftalking.com