The ‘Write’ way forward for career transitions

The ‘Write’ way forward for career transitions

With more time on our hands due to work from home, if you are even half serious or interested in career transition, career change or career development, then here is something simple and powerful to get you started right away. And it’s based on solid, scientific research.

In 1994, Dr. James Pennebaker, a professor of Psychology at University of Texas and his team ran a study. In an experiment with 63 recently unemployed professionals, they split them into 3 groups. The first group was asked to write about their unemployment and how they felt about it. The second was asked to write, but not assigned any specific topic/subject. The third was not asked to write at all. 

It was found that the first group, those assigned to write about the thoughts and emotions surrounding their job loss, were reemployed more quickly than those who wrote about non- traumatic topics or who did not write at all. Expressive writing appeared to influence individuals’ attitudes about their old jobs and about finding new employment rather than their motivation to seek employment.

Write your way forward in a career transition

Pennebaker believed that by writing, they were able to download and declutter the chaos of their minds, and organise their thoughts in a way that allowed them to move forward in a meaningful way.

Doing work which feels unsatisfying/frustrating/stressful/no longer exciting/not aligned to how we see ourselves, produces strong emotions. The idea of a career change/transition can also make us feel anxious/nervous/uncomfortable/foggy along with experiencing excitement/thrill/adventure, a perfect cocktail of emotions which ends up confusing us.

Writing about these is the first step to acknowledge them and their impact on us and declutter our minds. Not just with jobs that we don’t like, expressive writing is used to work through several difficult experiences. And it can be remarkably useful for career change/career transition and often far simpler and more actionable than many other steps we take like posting our resume on innumerable job boards and making attempts to ‘network’ our way into other jobs. These steps come later. 

First, download the feelings about your current work. Some questions to get you going

  1. What is your current work doing to you
    1. Your mind and body
    2. Your relationships
    3. How you see yourself 

And if writing is just not your thing, speak into a voice recorder, but get it out of your head, where it’s making a lot of needless noise, and into a place from where you can make sense of it and take it forward. Remember,

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” –Terry Pratchett

  • Aparna Mathur
    Posted at 10:45h, 23 March Reply

    Kavita, Acknowledgement of our emotional state is the key to rebuilding oneself. As a consultant not having any clarity of what the future holds evokes strong discomforting feelings. In the last one week I have shifted between anger, exasperation, fear, sadness, hope. Meditation and journalling are 2 tools that are helping me be more collected. I still don’t have answers but atleast my thoughts on planning for the months ahead is not shrouded in panic and misery. I am redefining myself and what I can do going forward. This article provided the much needed validation, scientifically evidenced. Nice title!Thankyou

  • Co-existing with covid19 - Kavyata
    Posted at 20:57h, 30 March Reply

    […] WRITE […]

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Kavita, an alumna of IIM Ahmedabad, brings over 16 years of experience in the domains of Experiential Learning, Adult Learning, Personal Growth & Change and Organization Development.

Kavita has completed her internship in Applied Behavioural Sciences from the Sumedhas Academy for Human Context She has worked with leading Indian and international companies including Johnson & Johnson India Ltd, Xseed Education, Goldman Sachs and Usha International Ltd. As a facilitator and coach, Kavita brings sharp insights along with a deeply supportive and empathetic style. She has worked with clients across domains, including IT, higher education, social entrepreneurship, development sector and healthcare.

Kavita’s forte is Transition coaching and facilitation. Her work around Transitions is influenced deeply by developmental and social psychologists (such as Robert Kegan, Jean Piaget,  Clare Graves, Suzanne Cook-Greuter etc) and looks at how individuals and collectives (such as organizations) go through stages of development, with associated behaviours, perspectives and challenges.