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Career Transition: An Opportunity or a Catastrophe?

Career Transition: An Opportunity or a Catastrophe?

In today’s fast-paced world, change is a given and most of us will experience a career change at some point in our lives. OCG’s Amanda Hamilton discusses the challenges involved with a career transition, and how you can cope with change, here.

In today’s fast-paced world, change is a given. The days of staying in one career or job for a lifetime are long gone and businesses need to be continually morphing to remain competitive in their respective markets. Given this, most of us at some point in our careers will experience a career change.

Changing jobs or careers can be a daunting prospect for employees, even when that change is instigated by yourself. However, career change that is instigated by the employer in the form of business restructuring or role disestablishment can be even more daunting for people, as they can feel that control over their lives and the freedom to make important life decisions has been removed. Despite the fear that career change can evoke in people, it can, at some point, be seen as an opportunity to make positive career changes and not just as a catastrophe.

Humans have differing responses to change depending on their own personalities as well as the circumstances under which the change has occurred. However, most people are likely to experience stages of emotions that can last varying amounts of time. The model based on a change curve by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in the 1960’s, outlines three stages of emotions:

  • Stage 1 – Ending Finishing a job can create a mix of emotions ranging from sadness and anger to anticipation and optimism.
  • Stage 2 – Searching – The person is moving towards accepting the reality of change and the loss of the old identity and activities. Can lead to feeling restless, questioning life’s purpose, and feeling the effort to restructure time around meaningful goals. This stage can be unpleasant yet is almost always temporary.
  • Stage 3 – Engaging – The person feels ready to make a “new beginning”. This stage is characterised by an increasingly clear direction and the energy and confidence to carry out a new step in the person’s life plan.

Different people will spend varying amounts of time in each stage and part of coping with career change is acknowledging that these emotional responses are normal and part of the process of change.

Some individuals (going through a career transition) that I have dealt with welcome the change as they could see the possibility of it happening and were ready for a career move. Other people may have been aware of the change, and although they may not welcome it, they have been able to prepare. Others go through the shock and surprise of the change and do not welcome it, and are left feeling disillusioned and vulnerable.

Whichever of these categories you might fall into, even if you start out shocked and feeling disillusioned, there is hope for you to move through the change response stages and eventually be able to perceive the change as an opportunity.

Beating oneself up for feeling sad, doesn’t make the sadness go away. At the same time, sinking into sadness for a long timeframe isn’t conducive to moving forward either. Stephanie A. Sarkis (Psychology Today, Jan 2017) provides a few tips for coping with change:

  • Acknowledgment – Try not to mentally fight the change or fight your feelings in response to that change. Acknowledge things are changing.
  • Seek support – Ask for help. This may be from friends and family, someone who has been through a similar change, a Career Change Coach or an Employee Assistance Program.
  • Keep up a schedule – Once the routine of going to work has ended, it can be difficult to keep up a regular daily schedule. Your career change research, networking activities and job search can form part of your day-to-day routine. Remember to schedule breaks and time to do something nice for yourself.
  • Eat healthy and exercise – This can help people stay healthy and positive.
  • Write down the positives of the situation – It can be easy to dwell on the negatives, so how has the change brought about some positive changes? It may simply be realising that you have pushed yourself out of your comfort zone to seek a role that you have always wanted but been afraid to apply for.
  • Social media Use social media for networking without falling into the trap of comparing your life to that of others.
  • When ready, be proactive – It is important to emotionally vent to your support people and to do your research and planning. Remember to also take action and take advantage of those career opportunities that you have uncovered.

Have you or someone you know been through a career transition? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Amanda Hamilton

Amanda Hamilton | Senior Consultant - Psychological Assessment

Amanda is a Registered Psychologist and joined OCG in 2008 having spent the last seven years working with Chandler Macleod in both New Zealand and Australia. Amanda’s core area of expertise is in the provision of psychological assessments for the purposes of selection, assessing general potential, career counselling, succession planning and outplacement.

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