Career & Work Life Matters, ISSN 2150-6299, Vol 5, no. 3
The Ingredients of Successful Work Life Transitions
Have you ever been surprised by your response to a particular change in your life? Sometimes personal and professional transitions are easy and relatively smooth. At other times, it feels more like riding a roller-coaster.
Even when a change is a positive one, the adjustment period can be bumpy. Read this article to learn about the ingredients of a successful transition, and how to know where to focus.
The 4 S’s of A Successful Transition
In the model of transition she developed, Nancy Schlossberg suggests that our experience of change is influenced by four key elements: Situation, Support, Self, and Strategies. This model is useful because it can be applied not only to career change, but to other types of change in your life.
It provides a framework to think about current or previous experiences, as well as how to develop your resilience for future change. If you are experiencing bumps in the road, this model can help you decide what to do first.
The situation is your current environment. Your experience of transition will be influenced by the situation. A change that you have some say in, is very different from one that you feel is happening to you. How much control do you feel you have? How do you feel about your ability to manage the situation? What about the timing?
Work-related change typically affects more than one domain of life at the same time. Say for example, your promotion at work involves relocation. You experience the learning curve that comes with taking on new responsibilities. At the same time, you have extra demands, such as finding new housing, new schools if you have children, new services, and social activities. The cumulative impact can lead to feeling overwhelmed by events that at other times you would take in your stride.
In this model, the self describes your internal resources for change. This is a combination of factors such as your perceptions of the change and its importance to you, your temperament and how well your know yourself, past experiences, and your change management skills. During transition, day to day hassles that normally you would be able to handle can become significant sources of stress.
Supports encompasses all the types of resources that you need to manage this transition. Access to the information is one element that is often important.. If this transitions involves moving to a different country, your ability to speak the relevant language because a relevant resource. If you relocate to France and can speak French, you already have a crucial asset. There may be a lot of new things to learn to be successful in that culture, but at least you can easily ask the questions you need.
Strategies begin with asking “what can I do about this?” Sometimes you may be able to take direct action to change the situation, for example by negotiating with others or getting professional advice. At other times, there may be nothing you can do directly. In this case, an appropriate strategy is to find a way to increase your coping capacity. This might be by using humor to release tension or re-framing a problem.
Where to Begin
If you are experiencing a transition or planning one, this model can help you identify the resources you already have, and where there are gaps to fill. Feeling overwhelmed is common during times of change. Use this model to narrow your focus.
Begin by exploring your situation. Take a sheet of paper, and give yourself 5 or 10 minutes to write candidly about how you see “things as they are”. Highlight what you see as helping and hindering you as you move through this transition. Is there one action that you can take that will make a difference now?
There is lots of advice available about how to deal with change, but your experience of transition is personal. By understanding your own responses, you will be able to take more effective action.
|Jennifer Bradley 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. If you’re new to the Career & Work Life Matters Blog, and would like to discover more about your personal career management skills, request a Free copy of the Career Scorecard.|