Over the years I have coached probably thousands of men and women through career transition. And although each case is always unique, (everyone likes to think they are special) I have observed 9 common stages in the process which each career changer or transformer makes.
1.Detached and dissatisfied
Most people seek out professional career support when they are desperate or lost. They have usually tried to change jobs on their own and have met obstacles. This can be extremely disheartening and frustrating. They read my web site and say:
“You wrote that for me! That is exactly where I am”
They are filled with conflicting emotions which can include anxiety about the future or financial issues, concern about lack of status and self-worth and even depression. They might have enjoyed their old jobs at some point and either change has been forced upon them or they have simply fallen out of love with their old profession. This will involve an element of grieving and a lot of chest beating and “what ifs” and “if onlies.” It can be a very challenging place.
A smaller number focus on change in a strategic and structured way and they usually get stuck in this particular sand trap less frequently. They are happy to consign their old career to the past, but are then caught up in another bind. This group frequently want to disown their previous life and skills. This presents a whole other set of problems.
2. Identity limbo
As we struggle to understand who we are, what is important to us and how we want to add value in the next phase of our careers we can fall into identify limbo. Benchmarks about our achievements may no longer be valid and in some cases we may even reject the values that were once important to us and the people around us. But when we do that we frequently miss the recognition and endorsements we all seek at some level associated with that.
Aaron decided he wanted to leave private legal practice and join an NGO which was more in line with the values he now held. This created a significant gap in income and outlook with his previous colleagues which he described as being
“insurmountable. They just didn’t get the person I’d become. It wasn’t something they could deal with and pretty much dropped me. We were in different places. ”
That happens, but there are new kindred spirits on the horizon.
Many people say they “feel all over the place” at this point They seem to have too many choices but at the same time none of them feel totally right. They flounder and become overwhelmed and get bogged down in analysis paralysis and make no headway. They feel insecure and lack confidence. This is the point when most seek professional support. It’s important to hold yourself accountable for decisions and paths taken in the past, without beating yourself up. You can’t change what happened historically.
4. Commitment to the process
Most career changers expect an epiphany or “ah-ha” moment. In reality although that can happen, it rarely does. What usually takes place is through painstaking hard work. If you commit 100% to the career transition process, being open to support and willing to change, a myriad of inter-connecting switches flicker on, causing a slow and gradual internal illumination. Those that don’t commit totally to the process in terms of time and energy will not make the same progress. Getting a job is now your job. Anyone who can’t get into that zone, gets into trouble.
5. Danger zone
Spending time doing the inner work, anchoring strengths, identifying personal development plans and finding and owning their “why” is really key at this point. It’s not uncommon to meet resistance as old habits, inner critics and negative thinking hold career changers back. Backsliding can kick in at this point until complete clarity about goals, vision and action is achieved. I hear a lot of “yes-but,” at this point, which is a massive tell that there is deep-seated resistance. The message here is “yes I want to move forward” but old habits and influences are still getting in the way as clients struggle to let go of what they usually do or did before.
It takes persistence and resilience to get beyond this and can be a danger zone for some. It’s important to work with your coach to get through the fog during this phase of your career transition.
6. Picking up the pace
Emerging from a misty tunnel and making progress is a huge energy booster. It’s common to see a flurry of activity at this point. Plans and strategies are drafted, CVs updated and online profiles professionalized. It’s all systems go! Networking is well underway, job applications in the pipeline and even interviews lined up. Remember to stay focused and on plan. It’s easy to drift and get sidetracked by online “busyness.” There is a lot of nonsense around job search and career advice which can be distracting and a big time eater especially on the internet. It’s not uncommon to see a loss of focus after a period of intense activity.
7. Cohesion and synergy
As all the different threads seem to come together and fall into place. The potential and possibilities of a new career and maybe even a new life are on the horizon. Success breeds success. The career changer gets a buzz. Success seems on the horizon and within their grasp.
8. Set backs
But….career transformers rarely get the first job they apply for. They are dismayed at the speed of the procedures (slow) and lack of positive response (variable.) Recruiters take time to respond or don’t respond at all. It’s all frustrating. It can take 6-9 months to start a new job. Patience is vital to maintaining sanity. There may be some set backs, perhaps several. It’s important to learn from the experience and be flexible, adapt and dig deep. Every situation even the negative ones, give great feedback, so it’s important not to let it damage your confidence. You have to hang on, flex the resilience muscles and power through the adversity. It’s only temporary.
Finally, after what seemed at times like an impossible journey, goals have been achieved. Dreams have become a reality! Your new life is about to start!!