What's next, Stephen Harper? Life after a high-profile job

It's a conundrum that some former members of Parliament might be facing right now. Where do you go after holding a high-profile job?

For a former political leader or high-level executive, figuring out your next move can be tough

Outgoing prime minister Stephen Harper arrives at his Langevin office in Ottawa after the election defeat. Harper will address caucus this week to talk about what went wrong. (Canadian Press/ Adrian Wyld)

It's a conundrum that some former members of Parliament might be facing right now. Where do you go after holding a high-profile job?

Whether you're a former political leader, retiring CEO or the departing host of a late-night TV show, figuring out your next move can be tough.

Jon Stewart and his partner, Tracey, are opening an animal sanctuary in New Jersey. (Charles Sykes / Associated Press)
Jon Stewart, who left the host's chair at The Daily Show earlier this year, just announced his next move: opening an animal sanctuary with his wife, Tracey.

Loretta Smith is an expert on career transition and specializes in coaching Canadian executives looking for their next role. She says that a complete career 180 — like Jon Stewart's — isn't necessarily a bad idea.

"Why not go ahead and be adventurous and try something completely out of the box? I would imagine he is getting a great amount of joy seeing the reaction on people's faces when he says what he's doing now."

'Why not go ahead and be adventurous and try something completely out of the box? - Loretta Smith, Genesis Executive Management

High-profile workers often have a broad depth of experience, giving them an advantage when seeking their next job, Smith said. But she warns her clients not to jump at the first opportunity.

"Take for example [...] when John Baird left — people approached him as soon as it became knowledgeable," said Smith. "But he sat back and really thought about [it]."

Baird, who left politics this year, recently announced that he won't seek the leadership of the Conservative Party and remains "dedicated to my work in the private sector." 

"I am extremely happy with this new chapter and will remain dedicated to my work in the private sector," said John Baird. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)
While outgoing politicians, such as John Baird or Stephen Harper, might be tempted to stick around Ottawa and Parliament Hill, Smith said you shouldn't be afraid to take a page out of Jon Stewart's book and "follow your passion."

Take, for example, Bill George. Early in his career, he was on the fast track to becoming CEO of the multinational conglomerate Honeywell. But George realized he wasn't happy — and left his lucrative gig to head up a small medical company instead.

His advice for outgoing leaders? Take a break to reflect and consider. 

"Understand who you are [...] and surround yourself with people who will give you regular, honest feedback. Then you can open up and be honest and accept yourself for who you are."


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