Navigating Career Transitions

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Over the years I have had the privilege of working with thousands of clients who were endeavoring to navigate career transitions-─some weary of their career path, others interested in pursuing a lifelong dream, and others still looking for a life change. One young man told me that he had all the accountabilities of a manager without the title. He wondered how he could navigate a transition to the coveted management position he felt he had already earned.

I couldn’t resist quoting Shakespeare. My father loved his work and was always quoting his writings. In “Romeo and Juliet”, he penned his famous phrase, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” So I told my client that was in fact,  a “manager” though being called by another name. And we worked together to create literary snapshots of him doing the work of a manager and showcasing his accomplishments in that capacity. In so doing, we helped his audience to see that he had everything but the title. Sure enough the young man sent me a letter telling me he had secured a wonderful position and a commensurately rewarding income. So helping our audience to see us in the framework in which we need to be seen, painting a portrait of ourselves that demonstrates our capabilities in action, is the best way I know of navigating successful career transitions. Of course we have to use our legitimate experience. We can’t earn new career opportunities by writing fiction. So we must take our real life experiences and characterize them in such a way that we help our audience to see us fulfilling the very role we wish to play.

You see somewhere along the way we were fed the misconception that life is like a geometrical path─a road we must flawlessly travel as if we were navigating the shortest distance between two points. But we soon learn that life is full of detours and missed turns that constantly require backtracking, rerouting, and remapping our course. That’s what makes life interesting, fascinating, and adventurous. But when we were in kindergarten or even younger, someone told us that every move we made in life would make an indelible and unchangeable record that would follow us the rest of our life, and so we had to go to the right school, choose the right major, take the right job, and pursue an unbroken path to the illusive “success” that we were inspired to seek. Nonetheless, the reality is that life changes, our interests expand, our talents develop, and everything we do invites us to seek new challenge and change course many times. That’s psychological health─not pathology! I often tell my clients that we must understand that the “gold watch” era has passed. While our parents and those before us achieved recognition and stature for staying with one company their whole lives, the young professional today will job change and career change many times in their lifetime. Therefore, the sooner we dismiss this false premise, the more psychologically prepared we will be to reinvent and present ourselves in the most positive light and transform our desire for change and transition into an asset instead of a liability!

So transition is not a correction, evidence of a failed course. It is a mark of progression. Everything we have done allows us to bring something new to what we do next. My dad was a printer, and from as early as 4, I have memories of doing small jobs in my dad’s print shop. I was a bindery girl, a typesetter, and later, a press operator. As I used to tell my dad, “I’m still in printing dad. I just write it first.” So realize that every place you have been, everything you have done, however small and insignificant, adds depth of experience to whatever you wish to do now. Transitions are good! Transitions are possible! With skill, you can navigate change and the career transition you desire and achieve your greater aspirations.

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