As this is my last column for The Grocer, I thought it might be a good idea to look at an issue related to change and new challenges. I then read about Bob Stott, the chief executive of Wm Morrison, who plans to continue working for the company as a consultant when he steps down later this year. This made me think about what happens if you are not so lucky to be given such an opportunity in your current organisation and decide you would like to pursue a second career. How can you make the move and ensure it is a positive next step to success? And what factors should you consider before making these changes?
First, you should be sure that it is a new career you want, rather than a new job. Perhaps you are feeling dissatisfied in your current role and are looking for new opportunities to develop. If this is the case, consider whether your interests have changed, whether your balance of skills has shifted or whether you need a new challenge. Are you able to discuss the possibility of development opportunities with your current employer, before looking elsewhere?
But if you have made the definite decision to pursue a second career, think about where your motives and objectives lie because this will help you to choose your new direction. For example, are your motivations primarily financial or do you want to develop a new career with skills previously unused? Or perhaps the reason for your second career is to contribute your skills and experience to the benefit of others.
Second, if a new career would require financial investment, make sure you have a realistic figure in mind so that you can plan for subsequent life changes. This may also impact on your personal life, so it is important to talk to friends and family about your intentions and seek support if necessary.
Making such a big change can be more difficult later in life than when you first joined the workforce so ensure that you have the full backing of those around you and have considered all of the potential pitfalls before proceeding.
Another point to consider is whether you need to undertake any training before embarking on a change. Do you already have the skills necessary for your next step or are there gaps that you need to address before you can begin in a new area? It might be a good idea to seek advice about how your current skills transfer and the best methods for developing expertise in other areas.
There are many websites to help with this self-analysis, but the Chartered Management Institute has recently developed a specific career development tool (www.managers.org.uk/careers) to help members diagnose areas of strength and identify new opportunities to develop.
Considering both your strengths and weaknesses will also help in this process. Looking back at your career so far, identify where you have been particularly successful so that you can use this area of experience in the future. If problem-solving has been an area of achievement, for example, it would be wise to incorporate this skill into your new career.
Similarly, if there were aspects of your first career that did not work well it might be a good idea to avoid repeating this by shaping your new career accordingly. Remember to check that there is enough demand in the market for your chosen career, particularly if this includes starting a new business, as the risk factors may outweigh the potential benefits of your venture.
However you manage a second career - whether you remain in the retail industry or move into another sector, research and plan all of the possible options to ensure that any move is a positive one.
We are all responsible for maintaining and managing our abilities and careers throughout our lengthening working lives. Even if you just take the time to consider whether a change would suit you, it shows a continual self-awareness and willingness to develop. It is this positive attitude that will not only improve your existing employability, but your potential ability to change career direction.
Petra Cook is head of Public Affairs, Chartered Management Institute www.managers.org.uk