Category Archives: career transition

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!