The End of Days: Leaving Your Job
David Ivers is from Sydney, Australia. He is a qualified Primary and Secondary School Teacher. In total, he has served on school leadership teams for 16 years in senior leadership roles.

“And did you get what you wanted out of life, even so?”

This wonderful quote used in the ‘2016 Commencement Speech’ at Harvard Graduate School of Education, is poetic, poignant and prophetic. Derived from a poem by Raymond Carver, it captures our imagination, in particular as it is one the major questions in life that we all must answer, according to Professor James Ryan, Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. It’s prophetic because, by the time the new academic year starts, Dean James Ryan will leave Harvard Graduate School of Education to become President of the University of Virginia. The result of this is that separation from the current employer will have occurred and no doubt, the question that Raymond Carver asks will hopefully be answered with many achievements.

“And did you get what you wanted out of life, even so?”

By virtue of the fact that you have gained employment, means that one day, someday separation will have to occur. In this context, there are only a handful of scenarios that would lead to separation occurring.

  • Retirement
  • Promotion via another organization
  • Retirement / Separation on Medical Grounds
  • Career Change
  • Relocation to a Different City
  • Redundancy (Your job is abolished, and you can’t secure a job in the organization)
  • Dismissal (Misconduct / Illegal Behavior / Bringing your profession into disrepute)
  • Dismissal (Poor Performance)

Each of these brings its own challenges and depending on your circumstance, its own industrial / legal reality. This reality can vary widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. If you find yourself being dismissed or made redundant, seek proper industrial / legal advice to ensure that you are appraised of your rights and obligations. This holds for retirement on medical grounds, the caveat of which is you should follow the advice of your health care professional. If you are asked to do an exit interview, you should consider how comfortable you are with the idea.

That said, making a career change or simply retiring can be both challenging and rewarding. It is well known that the students in grade 1 today, will most likely embark on jobs and careers at the end of their school or college or university life, that do not currently exist. If you are making a career change, consider how you might ‘future proof’ yourself for a job market and industries that may not yet exist. The reality is that we will cycle through several iterations throughout our working life. What we start our career as is not what we are likely to finish as, even if you stay in the same industry. To change direction 4-5 times in a career is normal for a person from the Baby Boomer period. If you were born in the 1980s or 1990s, that figure is more likely to be 8-10 times and then some if you were born this century!

“Accurate forecasting is certainly elusive, for the future does not move forward in a straight line. Counterbalancing forces come into play…The future retains an element of unpredictability because there is no single determining forces. Instead, the relative

balance of factors and components are changing in a continuously evolving system.”

(Belbin. M. (2011). The Shape of Organization. Oxford, Routledge. p3)

We have today a workforce that is very mobile, not just within a country but internationally as well.


Education and training really is the key here. We have today a workforce that is very mobile, not just within a country but internationally as well. In a previous article mention was made of taking advantage of ‘volunteer’ programs with organizations such as the ‘Peace Corps’. Retraining and upgrading your qualifications or undertaking qualifications in a diverse range of areas can also ‘future proof’ your career. Consider this. You might start out as an Electrician, years later retrain as a Mechanical Engineer (note the diversity) or study Mechatronic Engineering.

You might work in the Engineering profession for 20 years, perhaps even lecture part-time at a University in Engineering Drawing. At 45 years of age, you might make the decision to change course again and complete a business degree (eg. An MBA) and major in Human Resource Management and Industrial Relations. Assume you did all of that in the context of a Public Works Department employee. You would be well placed, assuming appropriate experiences and successes, to one day be in charge of the entire Public Works Department (Director-General, Department Secretary, Department Chief Executive, etc). When you do retire, you will have a skill set that is still immensely beneficial to you and broader society. It may even allow you to draw an income, whilst in retirement.

It is also important for organizations to honor these highly skilled employees, as they edge towards retirement. In countries such as Australia, it is becoming the norm, for people to retire at 70 rather than at 60 or 65. It is important that systems be in place for these highly skilled and valued workers to pass their knowledge and expertise in an organized mannered the next generation of employees. Good organizations have people who shadow key employees, they are effectively the ‘understudy’, so should a key role holder take leave or resign or retire or become medically unfit, there is another person who can take up that role and keep things working.

It might sound trite, but once you secure your first job, especially if it is a full time, permanent job, it is time to start planning your retirement. With medical advancements these days, it is not unusual for a retirement to last 30+ years. In some cases, retirement is almost as long as the person’s working life, typically 40 years. This means setting aside a certain percentage of gross income as savings for retirement, each year for the length of your working life. In Australia, since the 1990s, it has been a Federal Law that employers contribute 9.5% to the employee’s Superannuation / Retirement fund. The employee can, of course, salary sacrifice into this fund, which long term is quite effective. A salary sacrifice of 3% means the employee has 12.5% of Gross Income accumulated in a compounding manner, each year, for around 40 years. If your gross is $84,000, then at a minimum, this should yield a nest egg of around $400,000 to $500,000. When such large sums of money are involved, it is wise to engage the services of a fully qualified and licensed Financial Planner or Accountant. Fundamentally, the reason why we work is two-fold: 1) Find and express our dignity as human beings and 2) Accumulate enough funds so as to be financially independent, at which point if you work it is because you choose to do so.

Through it all, you might also find the time to accumulate a range of successes and experiences to be able to answer our initial question, in the positive.

“And did you get what you wanted out of life, even so?”

Raymond Carver “Late Fragments” quoted by Dean James Ryan 2016 Commencement Speech

Harvard Graduate School of Education


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