Career Transition: An Opportunity or a Catastrophe?

Ocg Cm Blog Amanda Hamilton Cm Featured

​In today’s fast paced world, change is a given. The days of staying in one career or job for a lifetime are long gone and businesses need to be continually adapting to remain competitive in their respective markets. Given this, most of us at some point in our careers will experience a career change. Add to this the unexpected events of 2020 and the expansion of our daily vernacular (“COVID-19”, “lockdown”, “bubble”, “social distancing”), and there is a recipe for potential emotional turmoil as we wait to understand the impact on the economy and, in turn, our jobs. However, the way we view change can influence our capacity to take positive action.

Changing jobs or changing careers can be a daunting prospect for employees, even when that change is instigated by the employee themselves. However, a career change that is instigated by the employer in the form of business restructuring or role disestablishment can be even more disconcerting for employees, and can elicit the feeling that the control over their lives and freedom to make important decisions has been removed. Despite the fear that career change can evoke in people, at some point the change can be perceived as an opportunity to make positive career moves rather than a catastrophe.

The Emotional Stages of Change

Humans can have varying responses to change depending on their personalities as well as the circumstances under which the change has occurred. However, most people are likely to experience certain stages of emotions that can last varying amounts of time. The model below (based on a “Change Curve” developed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in the 1960s) outlines three key emotional stages someone will likely experience when faced with a career change:

Stage 1: Ending – Finishing a job can create a mix of emotions ranging from sadness and anger to anticipation and optimism.

Stage 2: Searching – The person moves towards accepting the reality of change and the loss of the old identity and activities. This can lead to feeling restless, questioning life’s purpose, and looking for ways to restructure their time around meaningful goals. This stage can be unpleasant yet is almost always temporary.

Stage 3: Engaging – The person feels ready to make a “new beginning”. This stage is characterised by an increasingly clear direction and the energy and confidence to carry out a new step in their life plan.

Different people will spend different amounts of time in each of these stages. Coping with career change includes acknowledging that these emotional responses are normal and are part of dealing with the change.

Some people may have seen the change on the horizon and were able to mentally prepare for it, whether they welcomed it or not. Others go through the shock and surprise of the change and do not welcome it, often left feeling disillusioned and vulnerable as a result.

Whichever of these categories a person falls into, even if they start out shocked and feeling disillusioned, there is hope for them to move through the change response stages. Eventually, the person may be able to perceive the change as an opportunity to enhance their career, learn a new skill set, challenge themselves or open up new professional networks.

​Tips for Coping with Change

Beating yourself up for feeling sad doesn’t make the sadness go away. At the same time, sinking into sadness for a long timeframe isn’t conducive to moving forward either. Stephanie A. Sarkis PhD (Psychology Today, Jan 2017) provides the following tips for coping with change, staying positive and moving forward:

Acknowledgment – Try not to mentally fight the change or your feelings in response to that change. Acknowledge that things are changing.

Seek support – Ask for help. This may be from friends and family, someone who has been through a similar change, a Career Change Coach or an Employee Assistance Program.

Keep up a schedule – Once the routine of going to work has ended (whether it is commuting or working from home), it can be difficult to keep up a regular daily schedule. Your career change research, networking activities and job search can form part of your day-to-day routine. Remember to schedule breaks and time to do something nice for yourself as well!

Eat healthy and exercise – This can help you maintain your physical and mental wellbeing.

Write down the positives of the situation – It can be easy to dwell on the negatives, so how has the change brought about some positive things? It may simply be realising that you have pushed yourself out of your comfort zone to seek a role that you have always wanted but been afraid to apply for.

Social media – Use social media for networking, without falling into the trap of comparing your life to that of others.

When ready, be proactive – It is important to emotionally vent to your support people and to do your research and planning. Remember that whilst planning is important, you also need to take action by making that call and applying for that role so you can take advantage of the career opportunities you have uncovered.

At the end of the day, by accepting your situation, allowing yourself to process the emotions that come with it and finding positive ways to cope, you can turn career change from a catastrophe into an opportunity.

If you are currently undergoing a career transition and need support finding your next opportunity, get in touch with our team to discuss your options. 

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