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Steer Your Way Successfully Through Career Transition

by Crystal Campbell, ACPC, PCC

Whether you loved, loathed or were indifferent to your work, a career transition is an opportunity to intentionally choose what the next chapter of you life will look like -- personally and professionally. Moving on, whether self imposed or employer imposed, can usher in a new phase of freedom, exploration and discovery. Regardless of who initiated your career shift, you’ve got the wheel now. Steering your way successfully through career transition comes down three factors: attitude, analysis and action.

Check your Attitude

Your attitude, more than your aptitude, is critical during this transition period. Remember that you get to choose what you think, which impacts how you feel. So take charge of your thinking and keep your perspective positive. Consider acknowledging what’s good in your life by writing daily in a journal for three weeks. Read inspirational material. Visit uplifting web sites. The point is to choose to stay positive.

Attitudes are contagious. So be intentional about who you’re spending time with and the perspectives that these people bring. If you surround yourself with cynics and critics who see their own situations as bleak, you’re likely to view your circumstance through the same dark lens. Rather than accumulating regrets, wouldn’t you rather see the opportunities and possibilities that exist? Seek out others who have experienced job loss and who have success stories to share. There’s bound to be someone in your circle of friends, family and colleagues who have been through this and have come out the other side favorably. As a career coach, I’ve consistently witnessed individuals who have gone on to more rewarding and fulfilling careers because they didn’t bemoan their situation or allow themselves to feel defeated. Rather, they choose to believe that they would succeed and then had the courage to make that happen.

Look at your situation as a “bump in the road” and use it as an opportunity to learn. Adopt a learner or growth mindset. Get curious about things and consider how you can look at your circumstance differently and grow from the experience. Drawing from Gandhi’s autobiography, The Story of My Experiments With Truth, consider viewing your life, and consequently your career change, as a series of experiments. It’s only by experimenting, or trying, that you can truly achieve.

Take Time to Reflect

It is challenging to learn, grow and move ahead without allowing time for reflection and analysis. Plan to examine your last work experience and to debrief by asking the following questions:

  • What worked well?
  • What would I do differently?
  • What did I learn or relearn?
  • What learnings will I apply next time?
  • Knowing what I know now, what’s one action I want to take today?

Take some time as well to notice what passions have been planted in you. I’ve worked with clients who were chained to careers or organizations that were unrewarding, unimaginative and depleting. While these folks were physically present in their work, their hearts and minds were engaged elsewhere. Their careers did not align with their sense of purpose, so there was no sense of fulfillment. Now is your chance to take stock and get clear on what will help you to leverage your strengths, your values – even your preferred working conditions and environments – so you can shine in your next position. Consider using the services of a professional career coach to help shed new light.

Move into Action

One of the best ways to move forward is to turn your insights into action and to set goals. It takes commitment and time to gain some traction during a career transition. There’s no way around it. Realizing your goals takes discipline and that means time. But with diligence, perseverance and a strong motivation to achieve, you will experience progress. To gain ground, ensure you set written goals for yourself. Research indicates that making a list of what’s important to you in your career – then revisiting that list frequently -- is key to obtaining your goals. These two steps combined will keep you focused and help you to realize your career ambitions sooner than someone who only looks occasionally at their goals. Tremendous power comes when you focus your attention on what you really want and what’s important to you.

Once you’ve made a list of your goals, think about what concrete things you will need to do to turn these goals into reality. Ask yourself, HOW, WHAT CAN I DO and WHEN DO I NEED TO DO THIS. Writing out your answers will help you to develop clear, specific goals. The clearer you are on where you want to go, and how to get there, the more likely it is that you will arrive at your destination.

If you’re struggling to make things happen, consider what’s getting in your way and how to remove the obstacles. Ask yourself these questions and write out your answers:

  • How much time I have been thinking about this?
  • What’s getting in the way?
  • How do I want things to be?
  • What opportunities exist for me?
  • What can I control?
  • What’s outside my control?
  • What’s one action I can take right now?

Lastly, to create a new or better career for yourself, start by imagining your ideal job. See yourself in that role. Building a mental picture of where you are heading will help you focus and succeed in turning your vision into reality.

Driving your career forward during a transition period is tied to your attitude, your analysis and your capacity to take action. So go ahead. Take the wheel and you’ll be on the road and navigating a successful career transition in no time.