13 Feb The many kinds of Career Transitions
Career transitions are brought on by external and internal triggers. While there are parts of the transition process which are common to both kinds of transitions, there are also particular skills and mindsets which are more helpful in each kind of transition.
First of all, what are external and internal triggers?
External triggers for transition are often found in the environment e.g.
- An organizational restructuring because of which one’s role is redesigned/eliminated. With the increasing trend towards digital transformation, strategic transformations, mergers/acquisitions, cost restructuring, spin offs etc, there is no knowing when a career transition is likely, based on such changes
- New waves of skills emerging because of which one needs to upskill/reskill quickly or switch because one’s existing skill sets are no longer relevant.
- New opportunities coming one’s way but not with a great deal of supporting information which gives clarity
- Career adjustments in dual-career couples, when one of them has to move to another city/country, one takes a sabbatical/study break etc
Internal triggers for transition are unique to each individual and often include life situations such as
- Increased care-giving responsibilities such as parenting, taking care of aging parents, single parenting
- Burnout, stress, lack of fulfilment at work, health concerns
- Desire to start an entrepreneurial venture
In transitions caused by external triggers, a critical part of successful transition is Sensing what is going on in the external environment – having one’s antennae keenly attuned to trends, opportunities, market intelligence. This calls for the skill of Active Listening by tapping into networks – both of people and ideas at the intersections of one’s expertise and interests. And it’s not just enough to actively listen – you have to tell your network what you are looking for, especially the ‘weak ties’ in your network – they become your extended receptors of information for sensing what is going on outside and relaying it back to you when the right opportunity arises. So really put yourself out these – cultivate the mindsets of openness and curiosity and being intentional about reaching out.
Living under a rock, ignoring the signals and portents for change is harakiri in today’s times. I have met capable, diligent people like this, whose very diligence tripped them up as they continued to go about doing what they knew and did very well, without acting on the signals from the outside which were foretelling a different story. Agility, or the ability to process external information and respond to it through a new set of actions and behaviours is the other critical skill in a transition of this kind.
Transitions which are precipitated by internal triggers require what I call Sense-Making, or taking the given situation and interpreting it from an internal lens of what really matters to oneself. The skill of Deep Listening where we listen in an open, non-judgmental way to ourselves, to understand our values, abilities, motivations and aspirations greatly helps in a transition of this kind. Just as in Sensing, the key mindsets were of openness and curiosity, in Sense-Making, the mindsets of resilience and clarity are gold.
Being in a rush to take the immediate next step, and skipping this sense-making process, often brings one back to the same unfulfilling/confused state as before or sometimes makes it even worse. I have met a number of people who process the internally triggered transition in a haste, and take action without deeply listening to themselves, only to find that they have little conviction in the action taken and are wracked by feelings of guilt, remorse, doubt and fear.
No doubt, in both kinds of career transitions, whether caused by internal or external factors, we have to go through a difficult period of changing how we see ourselves and reframing our narratives of who we are – whether in terms of new skills, new behaviours, new roles or new actions. Supportive relationships who can both challenge our entrenched ways and show us new, expanded possibilities are a must to navigate transitions successfully.
In the case of externally induced transitions, having a set of mentors from diverse areas, especially those areas which lie at the intersections of different domains, will ease the process of moving into a new and unfamiliar domain. A typical example would be of veterans who are transitioning into the corporate world and find it immensely useful to seek out mentors from specific domains that they wish to move into.
For transitions triggered by internal factors and life events, working with a career or life coach can make a huge, positive difference. While friends and family often give us ‘safe advice’ in such times, a coach can bring much needed clarity in an unbiased way and also show us possibilities which we may not be aware of, by expanding our awareness of our own potential.
What kind of transition are you going through? And what is helping you in dealing with this transition?