The experience of career transition while it can be humbling, more often than not leads people to better opportunities than the job they left.
Over the past several weeks I have met several people who are in “career transition”. A nice way for saying they lost their jobs. I get it. Job loss is not easy and in the case of each of the individuals I met, it was through no fault of their own. Companies and their needs evolve, they get acquired, they move their offices, they shift their business models and all too often their employees end up as casualties. Career transition is nothing to be ashamed of. It has become incredibly commonplace.
The hardest question for someone in career transition to answer is “What’s next?” The number of choices as to what to do can be overwhelming. I once heard an outplacement consultant refer to their work as "disaster recovery". That did not sit well with me. It seemed overly harsh and dire. I do not see job loss as a disaster, rather I see it as an opportunity. A chance at a fresh start. The challenge is to see the opportunity in job loss. With bills to pay and one’s identity so closely tied to what they do, job loss can cause people to make quick and rash decisions.
I asked each of the people I met that are in career transition the same question. “Describe to me your dream job.” To my surprise and disappointment none of the people could clearly articulate what they would want as a dream job. They gave me answer about finding a job that sounded similar to the ones they just left. When faced with career transition people tend to gravitate to things in their comfort zone rather than seeing it as a liberating opportunity to try something new.
Five pieces of advice to help through career transition
1) There is no shame in being in transition. Get over it quickly and realize that you are not alone. The more people you can tell that you are looking for a job the more likely you are to find a new and better one. Your network is your most valuable job hunting tool. Leverage it as much as possible. In fact, change your LinkedIn profile title to “Job Seeker”.
2) Reflect on your strengths. Take time to reflect on your passions, the times you have been happiest at work and what you would do for work if you could be driven by your passion rather than income. Focus on finding a job that plays to your strengths.
3) Do not chase job titles and higher rungs on the corporate ladder. Carolina Panther’s coach Ron Rivera was recently asked about the time he took a lower level job in San Diego where he got to work under Norv Turner. Ron said, “Every now and then you need to take a step back. It gives you a chance to refocus and to re-evaluate.” Having a mentor like Norv Turner came at the right time in Ron’s development and he attributes that step back and that experience to his success today as a head coach. It was really about learning.
4) Healthy mind and healthy body. When in transition it is important to establish daily routines. Make a schedule and adhere to it. If you go to a gym to workout, don’t work out during office hours. Workout either early mornings, evenings or at lunch time. These are the times that other office workers will be in the gym. The gym can be a great networking venue, but not at 10am in the morning or 2pm in the afternoon. Eating healthy and staying physically active will improve your state of mind and give you extra energy for your job search.
5) Don’t settle on the first opportunity that comes your way. Finding the right next job takes time. It is important that you weigh your options and make certain that your next move is the right move. While financial pressures can mount, taking the wrong job can be a big mistake.
The quote that comes to mind when I coach people through career transition is “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” The experience of career transition while it can be humbling, more often than not leads people to better opportunities than the job they left.
With the amount of mergers and acquisitions activity impacting companies across the United States this year, there are bound to be many more people in career transition. As friends and neighbors, support those going through career transition and help them to see the opportunity in their situations.