Category Archives: career guidance

The Nature of Change and Transition


beautiful bloom blooming blossom

Recently, I have been thinking a lot about change and transition. I have a little niece who just turned two. It has been amazing to watch her development through so many stages – her first smile, turning over, crawling, taking her first tentative steps, and now –  running all over the place with so much curiosity and wonder. It seems she is changing almost daily.

Other times though, life changes and transitions can be more difficult. Last year, unexpectedly,  my sister passed away from cancer. I have known the stages of grief for years, but knowing is different than experiencing the shock and the adjustment of a family to this new reality. Life is clearly not a straight road. It can be confronting, amazing, exciting, sad, or even scary especially when there is unexpected loss.

William Bridges, an author, speaker, and consultant has transformed our understanding about life’s journeys. He states in his book, Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change, “It isn’t  the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions.” He talks about change as being situational and transition as being psychological.

What does that mean?  According to Bridges,  transition is the “inner work” that we go through when a change happens. He proposes that individuals experience change in three stages – starting with endings, followed by what he calls “the neutral zone,” and ends with new beginnings. It may seem strange to start with “endings”. However, to create space and move forward, we may need to let go of some aspect of our lives. The neutral zone is that in-between time. It could be a time of confusion, distress, and uncertainty that we would rather avoid – yet, it’s critical and essential for us to experience this phase to set the foundation for growth, new beginnings, and when needed – healing. New Beginnings involve new understandings, new values and attitudes.

Whether the catalyst is a change in relationship such as marriage or divorce, coping with the passing of a loved one, the start of a new career or the loss of a job, or the changing needs of children as they grow, or any other life events – change and  transition are ongoing parts of our lives.

A few days ago I met up with a former client. For many years she had owned a successful business, but she started thinking about making a change. She was at a point in her life where other life priorities were pulling at her, and she was overwhelmed and confused about what to do. She came to me looking for help to figure out her next step. I referenced Bridges’ materials as we put together a framework for exploring and understanding her journey. We looked at questions such as:

– Who am I if I’m not doing this work?

– Could I change the work and still have a business?

– What are my true priorities and passions?

– What are my financial considerations?

– Am I going toward something or running away from something?

– What skills/knowledge do I have to offer?

After much review and testing of ideas, the direction became clear. She chose to move from her business to a new career as a freelance writer/editor – a dream she has had for many years. We talked about the steps needed for such a change, and then together, we developed a transition plan. Now that she is well into her “New Beginnings” stage, I could see how happy she was. It was clear she had made the right decision.  She recognized however, she couldn’t have reached this “New Beginnings” stage if she hadn’t worked through the endings and the “neutral” stage of not knowing.

Some studies say the average person will change careers 5-7 times during their working life. Transitions of any kind can sometimes feel scary, overwhelming, or create anxiety when we don’t know what our lives will look like. Whether it’s a family going through the journey of loss, or someone opening up to a new career and stage of life, or even a child and her parents discovering a new world, together we can move forward to those “new beginnings.”

Contact me if you find yourself in transition!



Transitioning – Finding Your Next Career Direction


I recently met a young man who is launching his solo creative arts business. He had been working for a company and finally decided to take a leap and go out on his own. He shared with me his journey including the challenges he experienced, and how long it took him to clarify his direction. He’s excited about his move and passionate about the work. However, he wishes he had received more help and support in not only understanding that change is a natural part of the career journey, but also in learning how to manage through the twists and turns of transition.

I thought of my conversation with him when starting to coach several clients who are in what can be called “career uncertainty.” What struck me is they are in different age ranges and fields, yet all have similar concerns. They want to find work that is more satisfying, but every time they consider changing careers they pull back. They worry about making the wrong career choice and being even more stuck.

This yearning for a more satisfying career is a common quest regardless of  age, experience, generation, or life responsibilities. While the questions may be different at different stages, the theme seems the same – how does one transition successfully when it comes to finding the right work or the right life choice? My clients ask, “How do I sort through the different directions I feel pulled in?”  Thoughts like these can feel overwhelming, sometimes nerve-wracking, and can result in a person being afraid to move forward out of a concern of making a mistake.

Here are five ideas that can help with a career transition journey.

  • Change your perspective on transition: Change and the desire to change is part of the human experience. It’s like having multiple lifetimes. In the past it was more common to have a job and expect to stay in it for most of our career. While that may still happen, more likely transitions will occur several times over our working life. There are many reasons we may be going through a career or job transition including: a desire to grow and learn different skills or industries, dissatisfaction with the current situation, a layoff, or perhaps a change in family, or health. Nowadays, it’s as important to have transition skills as it is to have the skills and knowledge for a particular work.
  • Understand your strengths, skills and knowledge: One of my clients had a number of  interests and she said she was passionate about all of them. As a result she became overwhelmed with choosing which interest was the right next step. Every time she started down a path she became worried that she might not like this role or it wouldn’t have long-term viability so she’d stop herself. She had reached a point where she became so frustrated she had decided to take any job so she could just get back to work. I reassured her that having a number of interests is natural and normal. I helped her organize her skills, knowledge and experiences into a chart that highlighted what were activities that she had a passion for, what were activities that worked as “weekend interests,” and what were the key skills and knowledge that could translate into different careers.
  • Seek help: Transitions of any kind have ups and downs that can leave us worn out. The process is not usually a straight line to success and is often unpredictable. Friends, advisers, mentors or others can help us clarify our thoughts, encourage us, and help with a plan. Be aware though, that sometimes help can pull us in different directions. So trust yourself as well on what feels right.
  • Trade-offs are a natural part of the decision-making process: It’s important to be clear on your life and work goals. Sometimes, however, it feels like there are competing priorities. Asking yourself questions like the ones listed below can help clarify what is key to this transition.
    • Where does my passion lie?
    • What skills and talents do I want to focus on with this career move?
    • What do I want to have time for in my life?
    • What type of work environment/culture would I thrive in?
    • What do I think I would need to change, learn about, or let go of to move forward?
  • Networking: The idea of networking can often create fear or anxiety in people. They wonder, “What do I say?” or “What do I do?” It helped me to change my perspective from “Oh, I have to network” to “I would like to have a conversation with this person to learn more about them, and share what we love to do.” It becomes much more engaging. I have heard so many amazing stories about how people’s careers developed and the different roads they have taken. It can help to hear how others have handled career changes and transitions. Be genuinely interested in those you network with, and, who knows, you may develop great, mutual support throughout your lifetime.

As you explore your passions, talents, interests and skills on your transition journey,  allow yourself to have the help and support you need and deserve. While transitions can be challenging, they can also be inspiring and enlightening. Who knows what unexpected opportunities could be uncovered!



Should You Search for a Job in December During the Holidays? Yes!


Every year, the question arises – “Does it make sense for job-seekers to continue their search in December especially during the holiday weeks?” – and my answer is a resounding yes!

While it’s tempting to postpone any job search activities, December can be a great opportunity to informally connect and meet people.

I speak from personal experience. Twice in my career I interviewed and received offers in December. In one case, through networking, I interviewed for a position, was accepted, and actually started the day after Christmas. In another December example, I became aware of an open position – I applied not thinking I would hear. But I did! They asked if I could interview between Christmas and New Year’s. I was offered the position shortly after the holidays. The interviews were more relaxed and there was time for in-depth conversation.

Here are several points to consider:

Informal Networking:  With all kinds of social gatherings and volunteer opportunities during December, connecting can happen in the most unexpected ways.

During a holiday gathering, I met and talked with a couple. We enjoyed sharing our interests and family life. At some point, the conversation turned to discussing what we loved to do. It turns out “Joe” was in a job search for a Director’s position for a non-profit agency. He wasn’t having much success and in truth, he was discouraged. I let him know about a networking group that I thought might be helpful. He went the following week. He received lots of ideas and support on how to manage his search, and took advantage of all the interview practice sessions. Eventually, through pro-active networking, he received a job offer in his field. He fully credited the help he received as a factor in getting this position. I often think how unexpected a casual conversation at a holiday party started the journey to his new job!

Hiring Does Happen in December:  As a former HR Business Partner, I can attest that hiring does happen in December. While it may not be at the same level as throughout the year, it’s a great way to have time to talk to people. Managers may have more time to discuss the position, and you may even reach a senior leader who normally wouldn’t be available. I once reached out to a recruiter about a position a few days before New Year’s and wound up talking to the Director of the group! Everyone else was on vacation! So definitely respond and follow-up.

A Group Gathering & Review: This is a great time to gather a few people who may also be in a job search. Meet with them for an informal review, practice and assessment. Are there interview questions that stump you?  Are you powerfully presenting your skills/knowledge in all your communications? How is your presence on social media? Help each other celebrate successes, generate ideas, and create goals for 2018. Make it a pot-luck and mix supportive company with great food!

So if you’d like, take some time to socialize, relax, volunteer or even learn a new skill during the holiday season. Just keep that job search energy and flow going!

Enjoy the holidays but also gain the support to continue your progress.

Tips To Get Unstuck And “Jumpstart” Your Job Search!

Janice Heller Career Coach rollercoaster image

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity…”
Amelia Earhart

There is no doubt that the job search can feel like a wild roller coaster ride – one minute you’re up and feeling great, and the next you’re down and discouraged. We may go through times of  interviews and activity, and then times when we have few or no responses. There may be days when we’re confident, and days when it seems anxiety and fear rules – and the “what-ifs” take over. Sometimes we may even feel, “Why bother.”

The emotional ups and downs – the fears and unknowns – are often part of this journey. This especially can happen when a job search lasts longer than expected.

I recently worked with a client who was discouraged and overwhelmed by the length of her search. “Jane” had been laid off as part of a business group re-organization. In the beginning she was motivated and in daily action – setting goals every night for the next day. She had a number of interviews and thought surely after a few months she would have a new position. However, she was surprised to see the search taking longer than expected. Jane’s confidence and activity began to wane. She started to put off looking, saying, “Tomorrow I’ll really get going.” Tomorrow would come and she just couldn’t seem to get focused. She began spending more time watching TV, playing games on her computer, and doing other “non-job search” things to occupy her time. Finally, with the encouragement of friends she reached out for help and contacted me.

In our initial conversations, Jane didn’t feel as if anything would make a difference. “I’m tired of looking and looking with little to show for it,” she said. We acknowledged and talked about the frustrations of this process. As a first step I shared that when we feel stuck, a key to re-energizing is to focus in on a few simple, concrete and achievable steps. As challenging as it may seem, focusing in on a few actions can help by changing our energy and “jumpstarting the engine.”

Jane and I came up with several ideas that were specific and she felt attainable. We redefined success as focusing each day on at least one step/task that she was willing to take and complete. This included:

  • Identifying Specific Actions
    • Instead of having general statements or a large list of tasks, Jane and I identified several concrete actions. For example, she listed going to a local networking meeting with the intention to speak to at least one person and share an aspect of her career interests. In the past, Jane found it challenging to start a conversation at these types of events, so she created and practiced a few conversation starters that were comfortable and natural. I also suggested she make a list of things she was proud of. It’s a great way to remember our strengths and accomplishments.
  • Increasing Support
    • Jane realized she was spending a lot of time alone and in the process, had become isolated and focused on her fears and negative beliefs about not finding work. She decided to reach out to a friend for support, encouragement and the opportunity to socialize. She also joined a networking group that provided additional positive encouragement and ideas.
  • Physical Activity
    • It’s been shown that even brief physical activity can help relieve stress, and create a change in our emotional and mental state. Jane decided that once a day she would go outside and take a short walk. The intent was not to go from “a to z” – from sitting on the couch to saying “tomorrow I’m getting up and walking five miles.” Instead the intent was to take smaller steps such as “I’ll start out be taking a ten minute walk” so it leads to consistent action.
  • Understanding Expectations
    • Jane began to understand more fully the challenges and unpredictable nature of a job search. We identified a couple of additional coping techniques such as calling someone when she got frustrated, or taking advantage of a continuing education program to keep engaged. Just as important was the need for Jane to acknowledge the positive steps she was taking.

Jane and I continued to assess her progress. By developing this focused “step” plan she was able to start moving forward again. Just by being able to get up off the couch and in action brought some relief. She also developed a more honest assessment of the emotional impact of the job search, and the ongoing challenges of moving through those roller coaster ups and downs!

Having specific and concrete steps and support is critical to weathering and being successful in the twists and turns of the job search journey.

For ideas and help with your job and career journey, feel free to contact me at

Further information is available at

Let’s journey together!