Resettlement Training – radically rethinking how you occupy yourself

Many years ago when I was in the Navy, one of the supports they provided all military staff when they left the “Service” was what they called “Resettlement Training”.

Every member was entitled to this as it consisted of a programmed series of guest speakers, events, counselling and other services related to resettling the defence member into society.

The services included counselling and support in job search, CV writing, careers counselling, pension or superannuation counselling, financial support, education and so much more. I remember that as a young person in the military, going through “Resettlement” was for the “old and bolds” and I could never see myself ever needing the service.

How wrong I was. After eleven years, as an entitlement, I was glad I used it and in the process, made my move into “civvy street” that much more seamless.

After many years outside this world now, this week, “Resettlement Training” came up in my mind and lodged there. I hadn’t remembered this in over YEARS so why did I recall it this week?

Well there were a few instances this week with friends and colleagues who lamented that they either had no hobbies our outside interests other than work OR were questioning what they were going to do when they retired.

After all, I’m at an age where most of my friends are within the age where they are now looking at the next phase of their life into retirement, opting out of work life completely to explore other interests or reducing their work hours.

Organisations are afraid of the “Great Resignation” but I think there’s another dilemma facing people now and it’s the “Great Realisation That You Don’t Have a Life Outside of Work”. The fear is real as people – both men and women – face the big question mark of how to fill their time with something that gives them purpose, meaning and joy.

The discussion with Ajay above got me thinking about this.

Contrary to belief, I don’t know my passions. I follow them and hope that some of them stick.

However, at the same time, I started my working life believing that I would have a long and successful career in corporate that involved promotions to at least a Head of Learning role, well paying senior level corporate jobs that had lots of international travel and teams of people working for me. I imagined a life where I would then start my own successful consulting business in learning and development, raking in the big bucks, presenting on the world stage, writing and publishing books on the best seller lists, before hitting the age of 67 and retiring from work to be on charity boards.

In some weird and roundabout way none of that happened but much of it did happen – in a roundabout way.

Success in career didn’t come from the corporate world (that set me backwards) but it came when I left the permanent Navy and transferred into the Reserves where I was promoted to a Commander (three stripes) and managed a team of Public Relations professionals and 67 people in our PR branch.

Meanwhile at the same time where I was working in a mid level learning and development roles in corporate jobs chasing scraps; and appeasing fickle personalities in management.

While in the corporate job in my 9-5 role, my boss was telling me that I “lacked leadership & strategic thinking for any higher positions,” in my after hours, weekend work with the Reserves, I received commendations and a promotion to the highest position in the branch.

I thought, “something is not quite right about this.”

Meanwhile when I started my own business which was all about helping business enable their people to learn from and with each other, it failed. Some years later, I’m working for a company and in a role doing exactly what I wanted to do in my own business – and people are paying for the service.

And I thought again, “something is not quite right”.

I hardly travelled in my corporate work because it was a struggle to get budget or approval for anything related to professional development (so going to conferences was out of the question unless I paid for it myself – and which I did); but since then, I have travelled a lot more internationally thanks to a great professional network who invite me to present and an employer open to having their people travel for professional reasons.

Once again, I thought, “Why am I always struggling with the system? Something is not quite right!”

With all these questions I had some years back when I thought that my career, on the outside, looks to be unsuccessful to others in actual fact, I’ve done more than I could have imagined.

It’s been MORE than successful even though I bang on about the fact it isn’t. Just because it didn’t pan out in the EXACT steps I had thought it would back in my 20s, I have gone above and beyond in a roundabout way.

I am where I am supposed to be.

So looking back, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Some years ago, in my 30s while working in corporate-land, I made the realisation that I was never going to succeed in corporate because of double standards of behaviours displayed around me and the bias in organisational systems.

I was also crap at internal politics; didn’t have a clique or a mentor, and wore my heart on my sleeve. In other words, I was a ‘dead man walking’ in the corporate world.

The clincher came one day when one of the business units awarded me with a ‘Rising Star’ Award because I had given them some creative ideas that their customer processing teams had piloted then rolled out to the wider business. That same afternoon, I was hauled into a performance review, given a written formal warning and threatened with loss of my job because they didn’t like I had a blog (this one) and that it was against their policy on social media.

These situations made me realise the double standards that are around us and that if you don’t play games, then what you should be doing is protecting yourself from them.

That’s when I started to plan my retirement and vowed that maybe, I don’t need to work until I’m 65-67 in corporate roles. I did some research and moved things around a bit to see if I could retire early.

It was the reason why I started my own consulting business because I thought I could work my own hours, when I wanted to work. Little did I realise how hard and exhausting it was! No one tells you this! I had to accept that my consulting business ‘shat’ itself and because people kept telling me that I was “two steps ahead of everyone else – one step too many.”

That’s when I thought that it’s time to radically rethink ‘why I work’ and reduce my work hours. After all, why was I stressing myself out trying to compare myself to others online who seemed they had their act together? I was also at an age where my body does not need any more stress, reduction in estrogen and increase in cortisol, changing body morphology at my age means that my body is quietly telling me that I should be ‘calming down’ a tad and looking after ME.

So I cut back my work hours.

Reducing my work days to 3 days a week, I had time to learn new things, do courses, explore new subjects and decide what I liked to do.

Follow any passions that spring up and just have fun with them – see where they take me but NOT for the purposes of building a business but for FINDING MYSELF.

I thought that maybe there are many people now in this position where they are facing a life ahead of them with all this time on their hands:

  • How will they fill it?
  • What will they do?
  • What’s their new identity?
  • What will they say they do if someone asks them what they do for a living?

In some way, it’s been like taking ‘resettlement training’ all over again.

Maybe this is what people need nowadays as they move out of their working life and have more hours in their day?

Maybe we all need some kind of resettlement training after spending most of our working lives with head down working for other people without ever really exploring what WE want to do for our own – to find ourselves!

A great book that explores this question is Lynda Grattan & Andrew Scott’s The New Long Life.


Helen Blunden is a curious learner, a passionate explorer, a builder of networks and a connector of dots. Everything she does is focused on personal learning and sharing her passion to the work to make them better places for our hearts, minds and spirits. Learn more about Helen.


This article was originally published on Activate Learn in November 2021. It is republished here, with Helen’s kind permission.


(Amended) Photo by Jean Gerber on Unsplash