There are many kinds of transition in the workforce, and most of us will experience at least two of them in our working lives.

Transitioning from one job to the next is not as difficult when the change is your decision. That is not to say there will not be challenges to encounter, but for the most part they are just that – challenges to be addressed and overcome. Such transition is normally exciting, as the individual learns the ropes of a new position and meets his or her new colleagues.

Forced transition i.e. being retrenched or made redundant as a result of a business down-sizing or collapsing can be much more difficult to cope with, as you are just one of many facing sudden change.

Transition by retrenchment often, but not always, comes as a surprise.  Given the severe drop in sales of the models being produced in Australia, Ford workers on the assembly line cannot have been entirely shocked when the company announced they were ceasing manufacturing in Australia in 2016.

However when the announcement was finally made, unless individuals had already started to prepare for life after Ford, they would have had a lot of ground to make up. It’s easy to say that workers should always put something away for a rainy day, but we all know that’s easier said than done. On retrenchment, even with the payout of full entitlements, living costs continue. Without regular income, those retrenched can quickly find themselves in financial strife.

The stress of retrenchment needs to be managed from two separate, but equally important aspects – financial considerations, and mental health.

Financially, individuals should immediately cut their costs as best they can to meet their new circumstances. Discussions with banks should take place immediately and arrangements made to put on hold or alter mortgage payments for a time. Most creditors will be sympathetic if they are informed of the change in circumstances as soon as possible.

From a mental health and happiness standpoint, the individual retrenched should not grieve for the former work place, but rather recognise that one door has closed and a new opportunity awaits. Even if not financially motivated, it’s wise to try and identify that opportunity quickly and move forward. The ideal job may not be immediately identifiable or available, so take any job. For reasons of income and self-respect, a temporary position is better than none at all until the preferred position becomes available.

Transition as a result of the unexpected, particularly when a person is young or in the prime of their lives with children to feed and educate, comes as a shock and is challenging, but should be kept in perspective; compared to the gift of life itself, it is but a challenge.

One transition that is frequently under-acknowledged in terms of emotional and psychological impact is that of retirement from full-time work.

Put simply, retirement can be a nightmare for many people.

The first few weeks or even months are usually fine. That lingering list of things that needed doing is finally completed. The rigor of the daily grind has gone. Interaction with workmates has been replaced by home, partners, family, friends and neighbours.

But invariably, those who go into retirement without planning how they are going to fill their days are doomed to disappointment and boredom. This in turn can often lead to illness – both physical and mental.

It’s my personal belief that the word ‘retirement’ should be abandoned in favour of a more positive expression of the transition into life after full-time employment.

The ideal transition should involve planning to replace a busy, fully active and involved life with another such period of time. Instead of working for an income five days a week, a person might work for financial reward two days a week, might volunteer with a community organisation, might garden one day a week, play sport one day a week, and might spend time with grandchildren or young people on another day. Planned travel is good, but only if it challenges the individual.

Remaining physically and mentally active is absolutely necessary to make transition from work to the next phase of your life exciting and fulfilling. There is nothing as wonderful as change in activity to keep us all fresh, interested and interesting.

We only have one life, live it to the full and make each transition – whether forced or chosen – the start of something more exciting than what has gone before.

The Hon. Jeff Kennett AC is a former Premier of Victoria and the Chairman of beyondblue, a national initiative working to reduce the impact of depression and anxiety in the Australian community by raising awareness and understanding, empowering people to seek help, and supporting recovery, management and resilience.

If you are struggling with a transition in your professional or personal life, please seek support by clicking here

or phoning beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

 

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