4 step-by-step strategies for career transition
While it’s true that it takes courage to make a big career change, I don’t see myself as an especially courageous person. Which is why I was surprised when a client asked me: “How did you find the courage each time you moved on to a new career path?” I have made some radical career moves in my time and in retrospect this did take some courage – but also, I’ve succeeded because I know how to think and act strategically to get the results that I want in my career.
The good news is that you can learn how to do this too.
When you intentionally make any major life change, you need adaptability, self-knowledge, and something that’s been called “strategic patience” – a quality that enables us to keep on moving towards our goals, even when we feel as though our progress has slowed down to a snail’s pace.
Yes, sometimes, career progress can be frustratingly slow. You may be tempted to give up on your goals because you feel like you’re not getting anywhere. One client described it this way: “it seemed that everyone else kept moving forward while I was left standing still”.
But it’s important to realize that you’re not standing still – you are actually making progress each and every day.
A lot of the time, people get stressed out by their job, upset by their boss, or impatient with their slow progress towards the desired promotion that they’ve been seeking. Then, they make a hasty career decision that takes them down a path that they later regret. Think of the great-sounding job that turned out to be more of a dead end than your previous position. Or the manager who seemed amazing when they interviewed you for the position, but became a controlling micromanager in real life.
Here are four step-by-step strategies for successfully transitioning to a new stage in your career – or to a new career altogether. I’ve used these myself, and I teach them to my clients. What I’ve found is that people who use these strategies are able to move ahead in their career path with greater certainty, and reach their goals faster, with less time and effort expended in trial and error. And as they move forward, they are able to take steps with courage, because they are moving strategically rather than reactively.
- Take time to get to know yourself
Maybe you think you know yourself pretty well. Perhaps you’ve done an assessment like MBTI or DiSC that gave you some insights into your personality and how you interact or work with others. But if you’re like most people, you stopped there, and gave this very little thought after taking the assessment. The fact is that when you invest the time to learn more about yourself, you open the door to greater success, more fulfillment and satisfaction in your work and life as a whole. I’ve developed a unique 6-factor approach that leads my clients through the essential areas of self-knowledge. This includes not just personality type, but also their unique ambitions, challenges, and other key factors.
- Get clear on exactly what you want
When it comes to your career, you’d probably say you want a job that suits your skills and qualifications, in a company where you feel respected and valued. That’s a start, but getting clear on exactly what you want involves a lot more: it includes taking stock of your interests, values, needs, requirements, preferences and your overall purpose in life. After doing this work, when the opportunities show up you are ready for them. This is exactly what happens with my clients time and again. After examining just what they want, to the point where they can list all the key features of their ideal next job, they often find, and land, that ideal job in record time.
- Build a picture of what is possible for you
This is where the practicalities and realities of life come in. While you don’t want to let self-limiting beliefs get in the way of that ideal job, it is important to understand there will always be restrictions and boundaries around what is possible. Some of these you can work around or adapt to, and others are non-negotiable. For example, if your “ideal job” requires you to relocate across the country, how would your family responsibilities influence the possibility of making this work? Or, if you discover that you’d need an advanced degree to qualify for the role that you aspire to, would you decide to study for the degree, or would you change your goal? Determining the boundaries of what is possible for you is key to avoiding missteps and frustration in developing your career, and building your courage and confidence in your own decision-making.
- Create a framework for your next steps
Once you’ve crafted the vision for where you want to go in your career, it’s time to map out the plan to achieve that vision. Far from the “trial and error” approach, this is a well-considered strategy that will take you step by step towards your goal. While there are apps and productivity tools out there that you may like to use, a spreadsheet also works well for this. The key is to know what to place into the framework, what to track, and how frequently to review your progress. Remember that progress is often slower than you’d like it to be, so it’s really helpful to have consistency in tracking how you are doing. Seeing your progress is motivating, especially at those times when you feel like you are standing still. Motivation and courage work together to keep you on track.
Your work life is a key part of your identity and it can be hard to navigate alone through these career challenges. Sometimes colleagues, friends and family members are good sounding boards and may have helpful advice to share. But clients who work with me as a coach find that my calm, unbiased perspective and solid knowledge of career development make all the difference. They find that they are able to exercise that “strategic patience” while also developing courage and taking concrete steps to achieve the results that they want.
Contact me to learn more about how I can help you navigate your career transition.