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Conference Blog: Transitioning to Life After Full-Time Mission Focused Work: Paths and Lessons

Friday, September 14, 2018   (0 Comments)
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Is retirement in your future? Reflections from mission-driven leaders transitioning from full time work Transitioners

Have you ever wondered how you’ll handle the transition from your all-engaging job as a community change agent? For many of us, working with nonprofits to advance societally important missions has been our life’s work.

Like many baby boomers, we are facing the question of how long to work and what to do when we begin to work less. Six of us, self-described as Transitioners, were facing these questions a couple of years ago. We decided to come together to see what we were learning in this process and to explore if and how we might support each other on the journey.

In theory we did not come to these discussions uninformed. We had all worked as nonprofit capacity building consultants, some specializing in leadership transitions and others serving as executives of organizations offering capacity building services. Like the infamous cobbler’s daughter with no shoes, we quickly found out how naïve we were about the feelings and facts that accompany moving from full time work to either less intensive work or full retirement.

The six of us gathered in late 2016 for a two day retreat. In committing to this convening, we jointly decided to focus on the personal dimensions of our transitions.  From our work as capacity builders, we felt we already knew quite a bit about the organizational challenges that accompany the departure of a nonprofit leader.  We saw this as a unique opportunity to walk our own walk and take our learning deeper on the personal challenges each of us was facing. The first session was a spirited exploration of what we believed about retirement (some embraced the idea; others abhorred it); how we were feeling about where we were in the process (some had already retired; some were in the midst of it and others getting ready); and what we were finding helpful and not helpful on our own journeys.

The positive benefits of the first gathering caused us to agree to have bi-monthly phone meetings for updates and support, which we continue to do. This past April we came together for a second in-person retreat and found it equally helpful.

The short story on why we still meet and what we are learning is:

  • Transitioning from mission-driven work to some less intense work or no work is complicated and wrought with feelings, surprises, and the occasional kick in the gut.
  • Being connected to peers for learning and support increases the joy and reduces the pain of transition.
  • Each of our processes and timelines is different and tailored to who we are. Start early and allow plenty of time to make this journey.
  • In moving into retirement avoid quick or knee jerk commitments to new community engagements. They may not fit with the yet-to-emerge vision of how you want to apply your skills and energies post-employment.

If our purpose and life meaning come from mission-driven work, it makes sense giving it up is a big deal. The same creativity that guided one’s career in nonprofit societal change work is available to guide the planning of a good ending and fulfilling transition to what is next.

Members of our Transitioners group will facilitate an interactive discussion on Thursday afternoon October 11, 2018 at the upcoming Alliance conference in Hartford. The session is called: Transitioning to Life after Full-Time Mission Work: Paths, Lessons and Opportunities. We hope to see you there!

Submitted by: Tom Adams, Judy Alnes, Robert Francis . Dennis McMillian, Kay Sohl and Tim Wolfred (The Transitioners)