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.