Workforce transitions: What’s in your box?

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One of the books I read during a major life transition was “Halftime: From Success to Significance,” by Bob Buford. It launched a movement of successful professionals desiring to transition to even greater significance. In the years since, I’ve reread it numerous times. The following concept has been meaningful for me and others as I coach and mentor people in midlife transitions: Games are won and lost in the second half.

In addition to authoring several books, Buford also founded the Halftime Institute – The University for Your Second Half. He died in April this year. The tributes to him on the Halftime Institute website were moving. One story was about his own transition after success as a cable TV pioneer. He sought out a trusted advisor to help him think through his next career who asked him one simple question: “What’s in the box?”

He explained that before he could help Bob set the course for the second half of his life, he needed to know the most important thing in his life.

This is a vital question to wrestle with for those intentionally transitioning from a successful career to a continued life of significance. I recently had a wonderful conversation with Garden of the Gods Collection General Manager Laura Neumann about her life’s story. Numerous career transitions have helped her zero in on what is most important in her life.

Looking in the career rearview mirror has revealed that there were certain chapters in her life that were a blur — missed life moments. Today, she implores people to be aware of the special cherished times of life to ensure they don’t become “blur chapters” in their life’s story. Laura learned that even Type A personalities like hers don’t have to always go in fifth gear.

“There are other gears!” she said.

Laura shared how specific seasons of her professional life prepared her for the next season. As a young director of conference services for a hospitality management company in northern California, she was thrust into crisis management when the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake hit the San Francisco Bay Area and the company’s general manager fled the scene. Fast forward to 2001 — Laura was working for the same company managing a conference center in New York. She was in charge of this property for only three months but one of those included 9/11. The conference center was in one of the Twin Tower buildings. One season prepared her for the next.

Her next assignment brought her to Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs. After seven years there and with her children in middle school, life seemed to be fast-forwarding rapidly with milestones becoming a bit blurry. So, after a near 25-year career with the company, and an ownership stake as an officer, she retired well before retirement age.

“I went from fifth gear to darn near idling for about six months,” she said, “then I was approached to work for the city of Colorado Springs as chief of staff for Mayor Steve Bach.”

This opportunity changed her life. It opened her eyes to what public service is all about. And those seasons of preparation? Timing in life is everything. The Waldo Canyon fire put her right back in crisis management with the mayor, using all she had learned from earthquakes and terrorist attacks.

Laura’s children are now thriving at universities out west and at age 55, she is approaching this transition period with great intent.

“If you’ve worked hard and been successful, opportunities will come, but they aren’t always the right opportunities to thrive in the second half,” she said.

Laura was very transparent and shared fears that I’ve heard from others at transition stages in life such as a concern of becoming irrelevant in professional circles she was so prominent and successful within. Wrestling with the idea of “being important” is also a critical component of successfully transitioning to her second half. Stressing she is not retired, she cites the importance of dear friends and family who are holding her true to what is valuable to her. She calls it her “exploration journey.”

These days, Laura says she is running in third gear, having coffee and tea dates, exploring opportunities. She is thankful for the luxury of having choices. Her faith, her family, respect for her elders, the value of multi-generational vision, and civic responsibility are some of the values she shared that will surely end up in her box.

Do you know what’s in your box?

BJ Scott, an advocate for age-friendly workplaces, is the former CEO of Peak Vista Community Health Centers and its foundation. She can be reached at bjscott2325@gmail.com.