Successful Job Transitions

Last week, I brought my 18-year-old daughter to college. As we moved her into her dorm and helped her unpack, I thought about all the change this move entails. She’s creating a new home, leaving her close friends, and becoming increasingly independent — all at once!

We all experience transitions in life, although not every one is as monumental as leaving home for college. But large or small, each professional transition brings its own challenges. Whether you are starting a new job, switching departments in a company, or changing careers, you want to feel good about how you handle the change. After all, I’m guessing you don’t think to yourself, “I want to do a horrible job with this new experience. I want to be miserable and tired and angry.” Right?

Here are a few strategies that will help you stay in control and feel good about how you handle yourself during your transition.

Research your new environment before you start.

If you are starting a job or moving to a new company, find someone who is familiar with that organization’s culture to act as your “culture liaison.” Each company has its own culture, and you want to have some idea of what yours will be like. You might want to ask about lunch. For example, do people go out? Eat at their desks? You might be curious about the social scene at work, and whether people socialize outside of work. You might want to know who the “need-to-know” employees are.

Be compassionate with yourself during the transition.

Researcher and professor Dr. Kristin Neff stresses the importance of self-compassion. Being very critical with ourselves undermines our motivation and causes increased stress hormones to be released in the body. In contrast, when we are compassionate with ourselves and feel safe and comforted, we are in an “optimal mind state to do our best.” When you are anxious or overwhelmed, remind yourself, “It’s OK. I will be OK.”

Have faith in yourself and in your abilities.

Reflect on your professional and personal life, and remember times in the past when you have made a transition successfully. Identify your strengths that were present during those times, and focus on the strengths you currently have that will carry you through this transition. Start with what you do know and what you can do, rather than with what you don’t know and what you can’t do. If you build on your knowledge and abilities and take it one step at a time, you will find your way.

Lastly, after you feel settled in your new job or career, don’t forget to look back and celebrate just how far you’ve come.

The Time Has Come. The Time Is Now.

This line comes from the Dr. Seuss book “Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now!” In the book, the author exhorts Marvin K. Mooney to leave the room and suggests many ways he can do this. At the end of the book, we see Marvin go — but only when he is ready.

Just like Marvin, when we think about making a change in life, we have to decide when it’s time for us. We have to decide when to say “enough!” Whether it’s a job that is ulcer-inducing, a relationship that both parties know is over, or a life that feels constricting and confining — we each have to choose for ourselves when the time has come to make a change.
Clients come to me because they are thinking about making a change. Here are some questions I ask them to gauge where they are at:

What are you wanting?

We talk about their vision, and how their job, relationship, or personal growth would be if it were a 10 out of 10, instead of a 3 out of 10. We all have big dreams, but we rarely take the time to stop and imagine them. Thinking about what we truly want is helpful to start uncovering our values and priorities.

What’s the cost to you if you don’t make this change?

People usually respond quickly and say something like, “It would feel bad.” It’s important to really think about this question, though. For example, what is the impact on your friends and family if you stay in a job that makes you miserable? What is the impact on your future customers and clients if you do not launch your business or hang out your shingle?

What would have to change in you for you to take the next step?

When we think about making change, we often think of to-do lists and tasks that would need to be accomplished. But without changes in how we think about ourselves and act, our to-do lists are likely to sit untouched.

To create change, we need to believe that change is possible, and we need to believe in ourselves. Then, just like Marvin K. Mooney, we get to choose how we start this journey.