Career & Work Life Matters, ISSN 2150-6299, Vol 6, no. 3
2 Essential Approaches to Overcoming Career Change Obstacles
In an ideal world, career transitions are smooth. You make the choices. You leave one job to move to something better. A promotion. A new challenge. But of course, career transitions are often not that straightforward.
Do you have a point of vulnerability that prevents you making the career changes you want? Something that you anticipate employers will view negatively.
Maybe you have gaps in your work history. Or frequent job changes. Maybe you’ve had a series of temporary positions since getting laid off. Or you left a job suddenly to avoid getting fired. Or you were fired.
If you’re changing careers in less than ideal circumstances, here are some tips on how to move forward.
How to Approach Obstacles to Career Change
The best approach will of course depend on your goals and the details of your situation. There is no single solution that will work for everyone. But there is a way forward.
Whatever your situation, there are two ways to think about overcoming obstacles to your career goals. Two approaches that you will need to take to make progress.
First, there is the internal work you need to do.
Then, there is the external work to connect to new opportunities.
Let’s begin by focusing inwards.
Make Sense of your Experience
Start by taking a close look at your personal experience. If your career change is precipitated by a negative event, you may feel that the last thing you want is to do is “dwell on it.” Family and friends around you may be nudging you to “get over it.” But understanding your experience is essential to moving forward successfully.
Begin by acknowledging the medley of thoughts and feelings that are likely to be present. Both negative and positive. Feelings such as disappointment, relief, anger, fear, excitement, or shame. And a myriad of thoughts as you try to make sense of your situation. Thoughts about fairness, your future, decisions, and what other people have done.
Notice your instinctual response to these thoughts and feelings. Is it to vent? Is it to keep quiet? To avoid thinking about it? Or to tell as many people as possible as a way of relieving the stress?
Allow Time to Process
Paying attention to your responses increase your awareness. That’s the first step. The next is to identify your immediate needs and give yourself time to process your experience. There are many ways to do this.
Think about what has worked for you in previous stressful situations. Maybe it’s talking to friends and family members or trusted peers or mentors. In the early days, choose your listeners carefully. This is not the time to go on a networking binge and open every conversation with your career problems.
If you don’t feel like talking about it much, journaling can be a great choice. In one research study, engineers who followed a simple structured journaling process found positions more quickly than their non-journaling colleagues laid off at the same time. Simply writing about their experiences in a structured way had tangible benefits.
By doing the internal work of processing your experience, you will feel more confident that you can regulate your responses. Now, you’re better able to present your best self as you shift to an external focus and go “out in the world” to look for your next opportunity.
Prepare your Messages
It’s well established that the quickest route to new job opportunities is through the connections you have and the new connections you make. To make the most of your network, you need to communicate effectively.
How do you do this?
By being strategic and having a plan. It’s true that you never know who you will meet. Opportunities may come up unexpectedly. But don’t rely on luck. Prepare to connect.
Regardless of your situation, you will need a variety of messages to communicate with people in different contexts. The conversation you have with someone you’re meeting for the first time will be different from the conversation you have with former work colleagues. But by doing homework to prepare appropriate messages for different situations, you will be more effective. Knowing that you have prepared will also boost your confidence.
Your career transition may not be as straightforward as you would like. But having an obstacle doesn’t have to be the end of the road. By working on both internal conversations and external conversations you can move forward successfully.
|Jennifer Bradley, PhD helps professionals lead their own careers, empowered with the information, tools, and resources that they need. She offers individual coaching and consulting, teaches classes, and publishes articles on career development and career transition.
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