If you’ve been following our blogs on career change advice, you’ll know we’ve been talking about what to do in the lead-up to any change. In the Realisation Phase we considered what’s on the horizon, the knowns and unknowns, what you value and are willing to work hard for, and how you react to change, whether that change is planned or not.
In the Planning Phase, we encouraged you to start dreaming, taking big ideas and ambitions down to manageable action plans. We also looked at the benefits of looking around for role models, and for growing your network.
In our third career change advice blog, we focus on the Transition Phase. This is where things start to come together, and decisions and actions follow. Things may not, of course, turn out as you planned, especially if change has been forced on you. So as well as talking about handling transition, we’ll also focus on how recognise and manage anxiety, creating a psychological safety net to stay positive and optimistic.
Let’s pick up that career journal and continue!
Part 3: The Transition Phase
Whatever you’ve been doing in the past, you might like to think about how you elegantly exit from it. If you’re someone with a strong moral compass, then leaving a mess behind you, is unlikely to sit comfortably. Even if you’ve been made redundant or you are leaving due to unforeseen circumstances, you can still go to your new reality with dignity and grace.
Here are some tips to mastering the shift:
- Make a summary of what you have learned in your last job – skills and knowledge you have gained, and how you have grown as a person
- Think about what pressing projects need managing, what priorities and deliverables need attention. Think about what wisdom you would share with someone taking over your old responsibilities
- If you have someone to hand over to, take them through your summary or leave a copy with your line manager. Better still, if you get the chance, put the effort into mentoring someone else as you move on. You might be pleasantly surprised by what you learn about yourself along the way
- Make a note of how you can apply the skills, knowledge and learning from the past to what’s to come. Make sure you lean into these strengths as you switch over.
In addition to these hand over tips, as you become fully immersed in your career change, remember to plan how you will handle the first 30, 60 and 90 days of something new. Try Notebook Mentor’s the 1st 90 days in my new job to help you get started. You can make the most of any induction you’re given in a new job, even if it is listening to friendly advice from people doing something similar to you. You can also sort out all the practical stuff you will need for your career change, such as a new laptop, phone, workspace, clothing, training materials and/or other equipment.
When you start your new ‘position’ try and access or create your own job description. This will help you understand what is expected of you and what key deliverables are important. If you are not going into a new job but are taking time out or doing something for yourself, you can still create a summary of how you intend to make the most of the time you have ahead of you. For more information on writing a job description, visit our resource page
Finally, start building relationships with people who are relevant to this next phase in your career. Find ways to network and spend quality time listening to what people have to say.
As your transition starts to open up, these planful exercises can really help you cope with change. That doesn’t mean everything will feel comfortable. It may feel anything but.
Hitting the road and feeling uncertain
You’re in that phase where it’s all about commitment and action. For many, this moment will feel destabilizing and uncertain. Perhaps you’ll be faced with a ‘should I / shouldn’t I’ decision? Maybe you’ve taken a decision and are now fretting about the consequences? As you embark on the early stages of transition, it’s unsurprising that you might feel a certain degree of uncertainty.
To help you deal with these feelings, don’t just focus on what you’re looking forward to. Take the time to articulate your concerns and fears, by answering the following questions:
- What are you concerned about during this period of transition?
- What fears are you feeling? What negative thoughts are entering your consciousness?
- What are you most looking forward to?
- What benefits are you hoping will transpire from any change?
- What actions might you take to alleviate your concerns or fears?
- What opportunities might you seize upon going forward?
Common transition fears
Starting a period of transition can be unnerving. You want to dip your toes in and get going, but perhaps at the same time, you can’t see the bottom of the pond you’re about to step into.
Your concerns could be real for any number of reasons. For example:
- You are worried about money. Your finances are going to be reduced and you must adjust your monthly outgoings. This tightening of the belt is going to be hard.
- You are concerned about learning new skills. Perhaps you are re-training or are stepping into a role that is bigger and more complex. You might even be managing or leading people for the first time. It’s been a while since you learned something new – how will you cope?
- You worry about how others will perceive or judge you. Will people be critical of the changes you’ve made? Will they understand why you’ve made certain choices? Will they think you’re up to the job?
- You’re unsure about how your decisions will affect your later career. Might your choices now, impinge on your choices in the future?
The reality is that many of these worries while perfectly natural, will be out of your control.
For a start, you can’t fully control your loss of earnings. What you can do is be planful about what you used to live on, and what you’ll now be restricted to. Analyse your current spend pattern. Look for small ways to be extra resourceful. Make wise choices where you can. Alternatively, maybe that extra part-time job will be a necessity for a while?
You also can’t control how others will react to your choices. What you can do is manage your reactions, by keeping calm and positive. Encourage your friends and family not to worry on your behalf. It doesn’t help you. Instead, explain clearly what has happened and how you’re managing things.
You can’t exactly predict how hard or easy it will be to learn something new. What you can do is be diligent and hardworking and unafraid to ask for extra support.
And as for staring into the crystal ball of the future – you’re unlikely to ever see a clear picture. If you’re a risk-taker or are brave in the face of change, then you demonstrate qualities that will stand you in good stead – resilience, patience, acceptance, optimism, courage… hold on to these qualities and nurture them.
The key is not to waste your energy trying to control things that are out of your control – that’s energy into the bucket with a hole in! Instead, good career change advice suggests you stay calm, ask for help, and at least prepare an ‘elevator pitch’ to keep everyone else at bay. This is the thing you say to anyone who asks you, ‘what are you doing, and why are you doing it?’!
The elevator pitch
Having a snappy elevator pitch to hand gives you confidence. It also shows others that you have thought about your choices (even if change was thrust upon you).
Have a go at creating your elevator pitch – let’s say no more than 150 words. Do this by answering the following question:
Why are you doing this and what do you hope to achieve?
Here’s an example. We’ve used Sally-Ann our cake maker from our previous career change advice blog.
Sally-Ann’s elevator pitch
“I’ve felt stuck in a rut at work. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve really enjoyed working in recruitment as a researcher, but it wasn’t fulfilling my creative ambitions. I want to be my own boss, and I want to use my cake-making skills and creativity to the best effect. I’ve been making and selling cakes, as a pastime, for a while now. This is an opportunity to realise a life-long dream and make it a full-time job. One thing I learned as a researcher is that networking is so important. I’m going to really draw on my network as I get started. I can’t wait to give it a go.”
An elevator pitch is a great form of personal advertisement. Even if you’ve had change thrust upon you, it describes how you are optimistically dealing with it.
In the ‘go live’ phase it’s worth recognising when anxiety and stress creep in. Here are some clear signals for you to tune into. Equally, ask a close friend to point these things out if you display any of the following behaviours:
- You start to isolate away from others
- You stop talking and sharing thoughts and feelings with people close to you
- Your temper is on a short-fuse and the slightest negative comment sends you into a rage
- You don’t want to listen to any advice, however well-meaning
- You start to make poor choices, such as eating and drinking the wrong things
- You can’t sleep or your sleep is broken with questions buzzing around your mind
- You feel overwhelmed
- You feel under-appreciated
- You start to feel lost or stuck
- You can’t move forward
All of these symptoms are common signals of anxiety and stress. We’re not going to say, ‘simply let them go’ or ‘work harder to change them’. They are normal reactions and as such you need to acknowledge them first and foremost. Acknowledging uncomfortable feelings helps to not let them overwhelm you. It means allowing yourself some time to reflect and process them. For more help, check out our blog on how to deal with stress at work.
If you do start to feel really disenchanted, then re-orient yourself. Go back to the Realisation and Planning phases of our career change advice and consider whether you need to modify the parameters of your plan.
Your shifting identity
As you go through career change it’s possible there will come a time where you feel like you are losing your identity or perhaps creating a new one you can’t quite grasp. This is again common, particularly if your old work identity was strongly formed.
Remember that identity is bound to many things other than just ‘you’. For example, you are bound to your employer (at least while you work for them), your partner, friends, family, and other colleagues and acquaintances. This means you have a ‘social’ identity as well as a ‘workl’ one. When you feel like your identity is shifting, these other social identities can help you remain anchored.
To help anchor your identity and understand how it is impacting your thoughts and feelings, try answering the following questions:
- How would you describe your identity before your career change?
- How is your identity shifting as you change your career?
- What makes the change uncomfortable?
- How could your social identity and network help you cope with this shift?
Here’s an example:
Q/ How would you describe your identity before your career change?
A/ I was always career-focused. I wanted to do better, earn more and be proud of what I achieved. My identity has always been linked to working for a well-known brand. I’m going to be retraining and relying on someone else’s income and I don’t yet know how my new brand will develop.
Q/ How is your identity shifting as you change career?
A/ I’ll be working as a sole trader, instead of being employed by a company. I won’t enjoy the same benefits that came with my old job. I’ll need to do more for myself, but I will be my own boss. I’ll have the freedom to choose where and how I work. I’ll be earning less in the beginning, but will have the potential to earn more if I can make a success of it.
Q/ What makes the change uncomfortable?
A/ The unforeseen. I don’t know how things will go or whether my business idea will be a success. I can’t rely on a company to look after everything – like my training, office environment etc. I won’t be working in a team anymore.
Q/ How could your social identity and network help you cope with this shift?
A/ I’ll stay in touch with my old work colleagues. I can ask my friends and family for support too as they live quite close by. I’m still the same person – I’m a self-starter. I’ve got lots of energy. This means I’ll give it my all.
Taking well-planned action in the Transition Phase is important to help you feel psychologically safe. Hopefully, you have handed over and elegantly departed from what’s been. You will have structured your first 90 days of transition, dealing with uncertainty by asking for support and creating your elevator pitch. You should have managed your anxiety by allowing yourself to process negative thoughts and feelings. And hopefully, you’ve recognised how to deal with a shift in identity.
In our final Career Change Advice blog, we’ll be discussing the Reinvention Phase – part four.
See you there.