Updated: Sep 27, 2019
Part III of an interview with Dr Bontempi conducted by Dr Susan Nash
Transitioning Smoothly through Career Changes
Q: How can people handle these transitions more smoothly?
Work Through the Emotions
There are several things that can help a person handle major career transitions and cause these changes to go more smoothly. However, the success of the transition will be contingent upon several things including the ability to ask for help, handle stress, acquire new skills, try new things, and challenge negative thought patterns. People change careers for various reasons, but if they did not make the choice to leave their job, the first reaction to a job loss or major transition is often fear, grief/loss, or anger. Thus, for the person facing such changes, it is important to allow yourself time to work through the emotions, while also doing some serious reflecting. Although it never seems like it at the time, losing a job can be a blessing as it can allow us the opportunity to seek a career that is much more rewarding. It is worth taking an inventory of your skills, education, passions, and goals, and brainstorm new possibilities. Seeking the assistance of a career transition coach or counselor may be very helpful during this time.
Build a New Support Team Another common phenomenon associated with major career transitions is a sudden awareness that many of the friends you thought you had are suddenly nowhere to be seen. If this occurs, then it’s time to make new friends and form a new support team. It will be important to surround yourself with people who are encouraging and uplifting, who will provide helpful feedback, be willing to brainstorm new career paths or job seeking strategies, suggest options for acquiring new skills, and assist in networking.
The Importance of Networking
Finding a new job or changing careers can take time, and many of the available jobs that are available are not advertised. Thus, let others know that you are actively seeking a new job, and are open to branching out in new directions, applying your skills and interests in new ways. Like it or not, sexism, racism, and ageism are alive and well in the world today, so finding a new job can sometimes be difficult and take a longer time. Thus, tenacity and networking will be key to one’s successful transition, especially if you are a minority, female, or over the age of 45. As you are networking, be sure to do your homework and research organizations whose values align with yours. This will make it easier to find a better fit.
If you are seeking a new job you will want to be as flexible as possible. This might include working extended hours or some weekends, working from home, traveling for work (if this is an option), or even relocating. There are often regional differences in job availability, depending on one's field.
Develop a Career Plan
If you are facing a career transition—either by choice or as the result of downsizing, experiencing an illness, or being laid off, it’s important to consider your options. Don't limit yourself to chasing the ghosts of your old career. You will want to consider developing a career plan, which involves investing time in self reflecting, and self-assessing concerning your strengths, passions, values, and ideal work environment (Refer to Activity: "Questions to Ask When Developing a Career Plan").
Acquire New Skills
As you are developing your Career Plan it is a good idea to do a little research concerning the skills that other employers are seeking. Thinking about some of your education, previously held positions, skills and competencies, what possible jobs might you currently qualify for? Are there any companies that are a better fit with your values than others? You may want to begin by looking through some of the job openings in the fields you are considering, research some of the companies you would consider working for, and the expected skills, levels of experience, and competencies for each. Next, compare these with your own. Is there a gap between what companies are looking for and what you possess? You may find that it is necessary to acquire some new skills or even earn another degree.
Some people may consider returning to school and either learning a new field, or gaining additional education that complements their previous education and experiences. In many cases, simply learning new skills can make you more marketable, and earning a formal degree may not be necessary. There are many online courses that teach computer skills. Linkedin is now connected to Lynda.com, but other options include certificate programs such as those offered in Coursera or edX. If you don’t want to pay for a certificate you also have the option of auditing many courses offered through Coursera and edX. Teachable.com and Skill Share are other options, or you may even be able to find helpful instruction through Youtube. Additional options include continuing education courses through universities or local VoTech schools. Or, maybe this career change will be the impetus for starting your own business. You may have a skill that is well suited for consulting, allowing you to open up your own business, work from your home office or travel to areas of interest.
On the way to your destiny it will be important to practice patience and grit. There will be times of testing and waiting, and at times it may feel that the universe it "testing" you to determine just how badly you want this new career. Sometimes things won't be happening as fast as you would like them to be, and when this happens, it is important not to get discouraged--dig in deep and show grit! Baby steps may be necessary at first, but each step you make towards your goals adds up and before long you will be able to look back and see just how much progress you have made. Remember to be flexible as you navigate your way to your new career and don't give up!
Q: What can corporations do to help people through career transitions?
Depending on the financial situation of the company, one thing that employers can do if they are laying off workers is to consider offering employees the option of staying on, but taking a pay cut. If this is not an option, then employers should do all they can to help employees become marketable. Assisting people with the development of Career Plans, offering exit training including resume writing, teaching stress management strategies, and possibly training new skills before exiting the company. Organizations can also suggest that employees consider volunteering to train each other skills in their areas of expertise. Another service companies may provide is connecting employees with head hunters, who can assist employees find new employment.
Organizations who are willing to do these things only help employees as they are seeking new employment, but it will also reduce the feeling of betrayal that so many employees experience after being laid off. Individuals who have committed years of their life to a company only to find themselves abruptly laid off feel hurt, betrayed, scared, and resentful. If a company can give employees as much assistance as possible before kicking them out into the world of unemployment, it will not only help the employee but also the reputation of the company.
Q: Can you recommend a few books to read?
“Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived Joyful Life”
Bill Burnett & Dave Evans
“Finding Your Own North Star”
Martha Beck, Ph.D.
“Steering by Starlight”
Martha Beck, Ph.D.