Career transition can be one of the most challenging times in a person’s life. For some, the journey is difficult and demoralizing; for others, it is a time of great learning and refining values. The difference between these two types of experiences lies in your mindset. For a positive, successful career transition that helps you grow personally and professionally, pay attention to these factors: passion, attitude, confidence, baggage, expectations, and control.
You have to be driven in order to reach the next step in your journey. There will be good days, but a lot of bad days. If you don’t have passion, then you’ll just roll over and stop doing what you need to do to be successful.
Unfortunately, too many people in career transition are passionate about staying in their comfort zone. Repeatedly putting yourself out there to make connections and find the next job opportunity is uncomfortable, but when your comfort becomes more important than reaching the desired goal, you can’t make forward progress. You must discover what you are passionate enough about to be truly motivated to give your all in your transition journey. Perhaps it’s providing for your family, making a difference in your community, or finding work that is fulfilling. Finding your motivation is an internal process that will require self-reflection.
Human bias tends to go negative on new experiences. “This whole process is going to be drudgery,” say many professionals in transition. And with that attitude, it will be. Attitude is often a self-fulfilling prophecy, so commit to enjoying the journey. The way you talk and think about finding the next step in your career matters. Instead of talking only about the difficulties, say, “I will meet wonderful people. I will find the next step on my journey.”
Confidence is a bank account. Withdrawals will come automatically—the world just does that to you. You have to choose to make deposits. I find it interesting that we give kids lots of encouragement and compliments, or deposits. As adults, though, we seem to give and receive very few. But they’re still important and needed to build confidence.
When you leave an organization, it impacts your confidence level. You have work to do to get your “bank account” back on track. To make deposits, ask yourself: what is an activity where I can win? Perhaps that’s exercising regularly, pushing yourself a little harder, running a little farther each day. You can see the progress being made. Another activity could be gardening so you can watch and enjoy the fruits of your labors. The key is consistency and clear results. We worry so much about being perceived as arrogant that we don’t project confidence, but it is an important component of a healthy mindset while you’re in transition.
Leaving an organization always comes with some level of baggage. Maybe you were let go, ousted for political reasons, or chose to leave but had a chauvinistic boss, or worked in a toxic work culture. Regardless of your reason for departure, you need to deal with the mental and emotional effects of your former job.
If someone has something that’s gnawing at them, they can’t stop talking about it. When I ask clients about their exit story, they give a dissertation. When they’ve finished telling their story, they’re shocked they’ve been talking about it for 20 minutes. If you’re hurting, you’ll express it in some way.
In this process, baggage is like trying to drive with the brakes on. You’ll go nowhere. If you allow yourself to remain trapped mentally and emotionally by the negative things that happened to you at your previous organization, it will impact your ability to thrive in the transition process. You’ll talk about it with new connections, you’ll bring it up in interviews. Break the emotional connection to those difficult experiences so you can move forward.
5. Realistic expectations.
Career transition is the perfect time to stretch yourself, but at the same time, don’t set yourself up for failure. Write down what you want in your next opportunity. Imagine what it looks like. But don’t get ridiculous. Invite those who know you well to help you set some realistic stretch goals.
6. Control vs. influence.
We can fool ourselves into thinking that we control everything. But the fact is that there are things you can control, and then there are things you can only influence. For example, you can control the number of hours you work, but you can’t control the length of the career transition process. You can make a certain number of calls, but you can’t make people call you back. You can talk to people to expand your network, but you can’t make them pass your name along. You can get resumes to recruiters each week, but you can’t make a job appear out of thin air. Focus on what you can do, and let go of the rest.
For a successful career transition, you must be passionate, keep your attitude in check, build confidence, deal with your baggage, form realistic expectations, and focus on what you can control. Paying attention to these factors can bring you success not just in times of transition, but in every area of life.