Career transition—whether anticipated or unexpected—can be a trying time in a person’s life. But in the transition process, there are lessons you can learn, skills you can develop, and habits you can form that will make you a better person, a stronger leader, and will serve you well as you continue to progress in your career.
Tell your story.
One of the first things we do with a new client looking to make a career transition is to search for their name and organization on Google. What is being said about them right now, or in the past? What is being said about their organization? What is the reason given for their departure?
Too often we see an information gap—articles that offer “no comment” from the organization, or departing executives who were “unresponsive” to phone calls. The nature of the world is simply this: if there’s no available explanation for someone’s departure, people build stories that tend to be negative, rather than positive.
When making a career transition, silence on your part allows someone else to create your reputation. It is essential that you tell your own exit story. It must be true, realistic, and consistent with your references, and offer an explanation of what is being said by those outside your organization.
A well-articulated exit story creates a win for you and for the organization you have left. Everyone can leave with their reputations intact. Learning how to tell your story in a way that makes sense and resonates with others is a skill that will serve you well, even after you’ve landed the job. Telling your story doesn’t just pertain to your exit story but also to how you talk about yourself and what’s important to deliver to your audience.
Share your expertise.
As part of our career transition program, our clients write and publish articles to share their expertise and leadership wisdom with their networks. I believe this is a practice worth cultivating even if you aren’t in transition. In our content-driven age, positioning yourself as a subject matter expert or thought leader can increase your or your company’s exposure. Just as importantly, it can also increase your impact by allowing you to share something that might inspire a colleague or give insight that addresses a pain point another organization is experiencing.
Establish and maintain healthy habits.
Making a major life transition is an excellent time to develop habits that will be helpful tools once you land your new job. As an example, networking is important in times of transition but is most effective when you’re already gainfully employed. If you have a deep and wide network, you’ll have a much shorter transition in the future. The emphasis on forming relationships in the time of transition can give you the momentum to maintain your network in your new position.
In particular, I find that the concept of work-life balance comes to the forefront during career transitions. Too much work and not enough personal life is unhealthy and is shown to actually hurt your productivity (not to mention your overall happiness). If we can help build balance into the transition period, those healthy habits can carry over once you’ve started the next step in your career.
Lean on your strengths.
Our clients complete assessments to help them identify their unique skills and strengths so that they can continue to develop them during their transition. Utilizing your strengths is essential for a successful job search.
For example, if you have excellent interpersonal skills or emotional intelligence, don’t just save those strengths for building trust once you have an executive team again. You need to use those talents in transition by getting on the phone, meeting with people in person or virtually rather than relying on emails or social media to make connections, because you are at your best when you’re in conversation with others.
We want people to not just find the next job or the next better job, but to be better at what they do when they land that job because they’ve developed their skills and new skills during their transition.
Create feedback loops.
Seeking and incorporating personal and professional feedback is a crucial part of bettering yourself in the career transition process. But I find that when most executives land the next job, they do not intentionally create feedback loops. If you don’t know how your peer group, your boss, your boss’s boss, etc., see you, then you start believing only how you see yourself. You start to believe your own press.
So few executives formally create feedback loops, but they help you monitor how you’re doing. They help you see how you actually show up in your spheres of influence, rather than how you think or hope you show up. Feedback is not always easy to receive, but it can make you a more effective leader.
For most people, a career transition is a humbling process. If you’re willing to let the experience shape you, you become a better person because you realize what a challenge it is to be in transition. You are more willing to reach out to others looking to make a change in their career and can understand their challenges and celebrate their successes. The ability to empathize with others will make you a better leader.
So the next time you find yourself in transition, embrace it knowing that if you fully engage in the process with a positive state of mind you will come out the other end a better person both on the business and the personal side. Always enjoy the journey.