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What does career transition mean to us?

Updated: Jul 13, 2022

Pictured left to right: Steve Moore (ACT Co-Founder & Director), Olivia Carnegie-Crown (Olympic Silver Medalist and Senior Manager in People Advisory Services at EY Australia), Kim Brenann (Olympic Gold Medalist and Partner in Consulting at EY Australia), Nancy Altobello (former Global Vice Chair of Talent at EY), Grace Luczak (Olympic Rower and EY Special Project Lead, now Visa Inc), Donna DeVarona (Olympic Gold Medalist), Isabel Swan (Olympic Bronze Medalist and EY Brazil, at the time working with the Brazil Olympic Committee), Nzingah Prescod (Olympic Fencer and Senior Consultant at EY US) and Andy Moore (ACT Co-Founder & Director).

"I love this picture at the Rio Olympics 2016. It was at a special lunch in Holland House with an amazing group of women to launch the EY athletes' career transition program. All these athletes had secured new career opportunities before the games helping them massively with the difficult transition from professional sport to the business world. "


Career transition refers to a shift in working requirements or contexts, through a process "that may result in a change of job, profession, or a change in one's orientation to work while continuing in the same job" (Louis, 1980, Hall, 1976; Ashforth, 2001).

Readers will be familiar with how the definition plays out in real life, and many will have overcome the challenges associated with moving between jobs, professions, or climbing up the career ladder.

The topic is high on the global agenda currently, as millions of employees worldwide re-evaluate their occupations, post-pandemic.

Amid "The Great Resignation", almost a quarter of the UK workforce will go through a career transition over the next 12 months, Bloomberg reports, while in the US, the Bureau of Labor Statistics is recording unprecedented levels of employees seeking roles more suited to their requirements.

Why is this happening?

Anthony Klotz, professor at Texas A&M University suggests extended lockdowns led many to have a "pandemic epiphany" about the need for change. Furthermore, after two years of remote working, thousands feel they cannot live without flexible arrangements and are searching for employers that can offer the right balance.

As with all career transitions, the trend means people are making tough choices as they weigh up how they want to spend their time; how much money they need; their responsibilities, and many other motivators relating to long-term goals. But more complex problems exist.

A life left behind

"Enmeshment" is a psychological state that can occur "when people invest a disproportionate amount of time and energy into their career…where the boundaries between work and personal life are blurred," explains Anne Wilson, professor of psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario.

"If you tie [your self-worth] to your career, the successes and failures you experience will directly affect your self-worth. If we switch or find ourselves out of a job, it can also become an identity crisis," Wilson adds.

Breaking free from routine represents a further pitfall. Unable to appreciate how much we know the ropes and rhythms of the 9-5, closing the door on familiar environments can feel like "mourning the loss of a loved one," writes Ron Ashkenas for Harvard Business Review.

The athletic transition

These psychological demons are all the more potent for elite athletes, 20% of whom experience career transition as a crisis. The shift can be truly traumatic should injury bring competitive sport to an abrupt halt.

I felt these issues acutely after ten years of playing professional rugby. I was fortunate because I had entrepreneurial ambitions to pursue, and was able to walk away on my own terms. But nothing could have prepared me for hanging up my boots; the withdrawal from schedules that had shaped me, and cultures that had become my identity. After dedicating my life to winning, retirement felt like a permanent loss.

The turning point lies in wait for all sports professionals; it's reached day in, day out, yet it's a story that receives a fraction of the headline space of The Great Resignation.

Indeed, some of our stars accrue huge wealth and move into fantastic second careers, but those that have enjoyed less fame and fortune - the overwhelming majority - may have little idea about the direction their lives should take. With minimal workplace experience on their CV, they are an unattractive option in the eyes of employers.

Outstanding performance for life

The truth is that sportspeople have so much more to offer beyond the playing field: leadership, discipline, and work ethics honed at the highest level - an array of abilities that

are the raw materials of success in any vocation.

ACT's Co-Founder & Director Andy Moore holding Olympic Gold!

As my retirement continued, I became determined to enable these individuals to leverage their expertise, while giving them the coaching frameworks and psychological support needed to embrace new ways of working.

This culminated in co-founding Athlete Career Transition (ACT) in 2010, with my brother and former pro rugby player, Steve Moore. Through ACT we profile athletes and identify their transferable skills before placing them in business environments matched with their goals, drivers and abilities.

As job markets ebb and flow, ACT continues to provide great companies with a pipeline of top talent. Our sporting heroes transition safely into occupations in which they can thrive and inspire those around them.


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