Going through a career transition process can be very stressful. Sometimes it may feel like being in a roller coaster – it goes up and down very fast, with short moments of stability, full of intense emotions and uncertainty.
Maybe your position was eliminated or changed due to company restructuring and now you need a new job; or you have recently moved to a new country and are job searching in an unfamiliar market; or you have decided to leave a job to pursue new areas that are more aligned to your values and passions. Whatever your case may be, the uncertainty and pressure of career transition bring anxiety, concern, and stress to most human beings.
Leaving aside the more traditional activities related to job search (Resume, LinkedIn, Target Market, Interviewing, Financial Planning, etc.), here are 5 ideas that can change your experience and reduce your level of stress during times of transition:
1 – Establish a routine for yourself, and take action!
Assuming you have initially taken some time off to rest and reflect upon the events/changes that happened (I strongly recommend you take at least a few days for this), and you have defined your career objectives, it is time to start the process!
You may or may not like having a formal structure to your routine, but during career transition, the more organized and structured you are, the less stressed you will feel about the things you are doing, not doing, or believe should be doing. Making a weekly schedule to ensure you dedicate enough hours to your job search makes the process smoother and more productive. We typically suggest a minimum of 30 hours/week, with a high percentage of that time being focused on networking initiatives.
The structure that comes from having a routine and following it with concrete actions will decrease your stress, as for many of us the stress comes more from the “thinking” about what needs to be done, versus the “doing” it. You may want to be specific in terms of the types of activities to include in your search time: networking, job hunting, trainings, meetings, etc. Think creatively about the resources you have available, such as connections, tools, and skills.
Remember to include in your schedule time for family, friends, hobbies, sleep, exercise, and other things that may be important to you. If you had an exercise routine while working (we all know the benefits of physical activity to our system), maintaining it now would serve you really well. If you have a meditation practice or any kind of spiritual routine, that would certainly be helpful as well.
I have seen clients with children decide to dedicate time every morning to take their kids to school as part of their new routine. In many cases, they have never done such a thing before, as they used to get to the office very early in the morning. Take this opportunity to do things you have not previously had the chance to do, which may bring you more fulfillment.
Reflect on what deserves your focus and how other activities will fit in. Most people find that keeping weekends off for leisure and family is the best strategy during career transition. Why not? You deserve it!
2 – Be your own leader! Use this time to learn and to acquire new skills.
From a personal development standpoint, this time may bring you an opportunity for inner reflection (what I like to call, your “soul search”). You may want to do this alone or with the help of others. You can revisit your values, purpose, motivations, beliefs, talents, passion. Have you ever thought about your life purpose? What is the reason to exist? What drives you? What is most important for you now? What has changed? What are the things that need to be present right now in your life, and what can you let go of? How do you connect with others? These are just a few questions to consider. In today’s time, many are realizing the importance of finding purpose in the work they do, and connecting their own purpose with their professional activity. How important is that for you?
Many people acknowledge that during their busy working lives, they do not have the time to look outside their companies, to study market trends and get in touch with new ideas in their field. So this may be an opportunity to set some time aside in your schedule for learning. Whether you are pursuing a formal certification (always a good idea!), studying on your own or taking classes, remember the importance of keeping yourself up to date with your market and field. Check out new books, learn about thought leaders in your field, enhance your toolbox with new skills. This may help you land a better position, be more successful in formal interviews or exploratory conversations, and feel more confident. As you may have heard before, it is your career, so you drive and lead it whichever direction you decide to go!
Nowadays you can find a lot of online trainings and free webinars. You can purchase “used” materials for lower prices, or join different groups online that share knowledge and ideas amongst themselves. If you can’t afford to invest in formal, be creative and use the resources and technology available!
During transition, I usually suggest a reflection on the lessons learned from your previous work experiences. Understanding your strengths, your differentiators, and your unique experience in your field can be very useful. There are strengths assessments available in the market (some even free) that you can take to help in this process. Analyzing 360 reviews and feedback you received can also bring some insights to this process. In this context, it is also important to reflect upon the things you want/need to develop to be more successful, or to make the career shift you desire. There may me some technical competencies or knowledge you decide to pursue, or some behavioral changes (or soft skills) that you want to strengthen. These are important reflections, and you currently have the time and opportunity to change and transform!
As Marshall Goldsmith wrote in the title of his 2007 book, “What got you here, won’t get you there”. Market dynamics change, technology reshapes the way we work, new skills become relevant (and others irrelevant), and diversity is the name of the game! There is a need to adapt and change, constantly, as we are always in motion. If we get comfortable with what used to be important, we won’t be fully connected with the possibilities of the present and future, missing the opportunity of learning and growth.
3 – Engage in some type of professional activity that will bring you fresh perspectives!
Ronen Gafni and Simcha Gluck, entrepreneurs and authors of the book “The New Entrepreneurz, changing the way you play life”, bring us several interesting concepts related to the new economy and the new business mindset (also discussed through the FreshBiz Game experience). One of their concepts is about how human beings are multi-dimensional and not just professionals in one field of work. Remember your different dimensions: parent, runner, food lover, software engineer, entrepreneurial, etc. Explore and value all the dimensions of your life. Take this opportunity to review them, add new ones, and bring them more actively to life!
I have noticed that those in career transition who are engaged in some type of professional activity or project feel less pressured and more engaged in the whole process. I have seen clients who have decided to take on small consulting gigs during this time and have used this opportunity not only to learn new things, but also increase their network. In some cases, these initiatives lead clients to identify new fields of work. If consulting is not for you, this could be a volunteer activity in your community (if you don’t know where to start, you can check LinkedIn for volunteer work, or research in your local community). Some clients decide to help a friend or colleague with entrepreneurial projects; for example, helping develop their website, advising on business plans, or any other area where you believe you could use your skills and expertise.
Engaging in such activities can also open yourself to think about other plans (plan b, plan c) in terms of what you can do professionally. If job searching is your priority, you just need to ensure the activity will not take you away from your main goal, so time commitment may need to be reviewed carefully.
Finally, another concept that I love from the FreshBiz Game: Entrepreneurial Thinking is our ability to transform ideas into actions. We don’t need to open new businesses to have/develop entrepreneurial thinking. Reflect on this and how you can apply this concept to your career change, job search, or to your life during this transition. How are you expressing yourself in this process? What it is like to be the leader of your own journey? What ideas do you have? What actions will you take? How will you be effective in doing it? What resources will you rely on? What game are you playing?
4 – Connect with people!
Quite often we see people frustrated with the lack of success they face during their job search efforts. In most cases, the pattern is that they are not having much human interaction, or don’t have networking strategies in place. Instead, they are keeping themselves busy at home, behind computers, checking and applying to open positions on job boards and websites.
Whether you are in a formal outplacement program and have the support from an organization, or you have hired a career coach, or you are working on your own, it is critical to interact with people throughout the process. This can be done through individual conversations, group meetings, events, workshops, or other social gatherings. We know social media is nowadays a key tool for connecting (and LinkedIn is effective in connecting professionals), but it does not replace a phone call or face-to-face contact.
As an example, I have clients who decided to pay for co-working spaces so they can have a place to go every da – keeping a routine and feeling more productive. They meet and see people daily, learn about new initiatives from their local market, have coffee and lunch breaks to chat with people, and identify new opportunities through these interactions. Remember that networking is about building relationships. It is not about asking people for favors or for a job. It is about having conversations, sharing stories, exchanging ideas, which may or may not lead to new professional opportunities. But it will certainly open your mind for new perspectives.
Finally, as human beings, we need to be connected. As author Brene Brown explains in her book “Daring Greatly”, “Connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard and valued. When they can give and receive without judgment”. Think about your own style, preferences, and how you can fulfill the need for human connection during this time of transition.
5 – Practice self-compassion!
During career transition, we may open a lot of space in our heads for our “saboteurs” to take over ourselves and make up all kinds of negative stories. Whether your saboteur is telling you that you are not good enough, or that time is passing and you are stuck, it is important to connect to your inner strength, your inner leader, and find the real truth about yourself. Review your limiting beliefs, throw away what does not fit you and replace it with what will serve you best. Our thoughts influence our actions and results!
I have seen some very talented professionals and executives unemployed at some stage of life. Every one of us, regardless of our position, knowledge or performance level, may go through a company reorganization at some point in our career, which may result in job elimination, transfer to another location, or new opportunities. In some cases, we may make the decision to leave an unfulfilling job in order to pursue other passions and dreams. As a matter of fact, some studies suggest that people will change jobs (and even careers) several times throughout their lives. This is especially true now for the new generations, such as millennials and the z’s. How would you face your career transition as if it was your choice?
Many, many people reach a better place after all. They find something they enjoy more, that matches their values, and connects with their purpose! Successful career transition may happen at all ages and stages of life. I have seen it happening at 20’s or 60’s, or in moments of life when people decide to reinvent themselves. It is fascinating!
So my invitation to you is to practice self-love and self-compassion. As experts Dr Kristin Neff and Brene Brown explain in their research, “self-compassion allows us to tame our inner critic by encouraging and supporting ourselves in the same way we would talk to a loved one. Unlike self-criticism, which paralyzes us, self-compassion makes us braver”.
Reflecting upon this, think about how you have been treating yourself during these times of transition, uncertainty and change. What could you do differently? What are you learning about yourself? What would make you fulfilled and energized? How would you stop self-criticism and replace it by self-compassion? Finally, how can you make your career transition less of a roller coaster, and more of an opportunity for growth, deeper connections and joy?
Beatriz Nicolau – Org Development Consultant, Career & Executive Coach (June 2018)