Two Ways to Navigate a Career Transition



We all experience transitions in our careers. Some are sudden and pull us out of our comfort zones like COVID-19, and a welcomed sense of career ownership accompanies others. Effective career guidance can help you get through career transitions. The term transition is essentially a life event causing role change or crisis.

Transitions can be: 

  • Predictable or unpredictable
  • Positive or negative
  • Voluntary or involuntary
  • Sudden or gradual 

What do transitions have in common?

  • Often involve stress
  • Require new behaviors and thinking
  • Benefit from new skills

The most common career transitions include:

  • A change in job function, industry or both
  • An organizational change 
  • A layoff or furlough
  • A move to a different country or state 
  • A career break 

Adam, Haynes and Hopson developed a seven-phase model of stages accompanying transitions. At the beginning of a transition, your mood and self-esteem start low and gradually increase. These phases, mainly, occur when a change has been quite sudden, like what we've experienced with Covid-19.

  1. Immobilization: the initial 'stuck,' shock and overwhelming feelings accompanying losing a job or navigating a difficult situation at work.
  2. Minimization/Denial: Often the phase of being in denial offers a temporary fix as you begin to minimize the situation perhaps with statements like: "I was getting bored," "I didn't really like my job" or "I didn't choose this path; I fell into it."
  3. Self-doubt and depression: Reality's settling in, and you feel anxious, powerless and begin to blame yourself.
  4. Letting go and Acceptance: when you begin to act positively.
  5. Testing and understanding reality: you begin to experiment, seek out job options, and think through things logically.
  6. Search for meaning: you have the energy to reflect, and so you use the experience to help you learn, grow and pivot.
  7. Internalizing: you have come to terms with the transition, and your thoughts and behavior have changed. You've accepted it.

In a career transition model by Nancy K. Schlossberg, former president of the National Career Development Association, the following process (indicated in bold) is recommended.

Situation: what is happening?

Identify the state (transition phase) you're in so you can best cope.

Self: To whom is it happening?

How have you changed, what are you proud of, what have you struggled with throughout the transition? Making a career change starts with knowing yourself, but it can be easy to lose sight when the transition is sudden or unwelcome.

Support: What help is available?

When seeking out support, consider whether you want that support to identify with your situational and self-concepts. Be sure you also resonate with how it will be delivered.

Strategies: What are the coping resources that would best meet my learning needs, values and help me achieve my goals? 

Although this has been an involuntary transition, and the ramifications of COVID-19 have impacted the world of work forever, you are resilient enough to thrive through it all. I believe in you, and you're right; this is a great time to reflect, pause and pursue making a fulfilling career change. Here's to your continued success!

Originally posted on




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