9 Stages of Career Change and How Career Coaching Can Help You at Each Stage

Career Change Stages

9 Stages of Career Change and How Career Coaching Can Help You at Each Stage

With the tumult and churn in the job market caused by covid19, hundreds of professionals are on the lookout for a career change. However, career change is not just about shooting off your resume to a bunch of head-hunters and then waiting for interview calls to land you that job.

The career change process, whether it is necessitated by external situations like the present covid crisis or because you want to voluntarily change tracks in your career, has a series of stages. And at each stage there are important questions to address. That’s where career coaching can make the career change process far more effective and elevate your job search to a different level.

What are these career change stages and how can coaching help you at each stage?

Stage 1: Self-Assessment

Begin by understanding your foundational skills and strengths. It’s really easy to under-estimate, forget about or lose sight of the skills you have accumulated throughout your career so far. Thoughtful questions and tools which an expert career coach can bring, give you an edge in being able to sharply identify and position your skills and strengths. For instance questions like

  • What were your key responsibilities in your most recent job?
  • What skills did you use?
  • What are you most proud of doing in your most recent/current position? What were some of your achievements?
  • What strengths have you refined over time?
  • What do other people come to you for advice for?


Tools like the Skills Quotient developed by David Blake and Kelly Palmer of Degreed, help you to identify your current level of skills. With a career coach, you can then figure out how to plug the skills gap.

Career Change formula

Stage 2 : Setting a Direction for Yourself

It is tempting to send your resume to every recruiter and to put an Open to Work badge on your LinkedIn profile, hoping that this will get you noticed for new opportunities. But a strategy like this is akin to standing on a platform on a train station and getting ready to board any train which comes along, without knowing where it is headed for. Sooner or later, you will find yourself shunted out of the train, because it was not meant for a passenger like you or it is headed somewhere where you don’t belong.

So how can coaching help you at this stage? Visualizing your future work self, brings the momentum to kick start your career change process. Otherwise it’s easy to get trapped in excuses for being stuck or not taking action. Working with a career coach can get you to visualize this future self. Too often, when we think of career change, we choose something too close to what we are already doing, because we can’t break out of the mold and paint a different future. Career coaching helps you find inspiration using tools like vision boards, mind mapping, drawing and thoughtfully unpacking the unseen, intuitive guidance that these tools will bring forth. Also, by asking open ended questions about how you want to feel through the work you want to do, where you see yourself and with what kinds of people, a coach helps to tease out important markers for your future work self and brings it all together in the form of an energizing career vision and direction which gets you to act.

Stage 3: Overcoming your resistance to the New You

Career change throws up a unique conundrum – as soon as you visualize an exciting future work self, your current self starts resisting the change – it makes this felt by bringing up your fears, doubts and mental barriers. Ask anyone who has been through significant career change and they will tell you that there was a scary state of uncertainty that they had to overcome. All kinds of fears – the fear of failure, rejection, loss of status, worry of taking the wrong decision or making a financially unrewarding move, put you in the ‘analysis- paralysis’ mode.

At this stage, working with a career coach can make all the difference between being paralyzed by your fears and hence staying in the rut, or taking small but sure steps towards the New You. Coaching can provide perspective on your fears (yes they are real, but there are also workarounds), help you in seeing other sources of energy and potential within you which can be used to constructively combat the fears and craft a support strategy which can see you through this phase of uncertainty.

Stage 4: Planning your change strategy

A sound career change strategy involves visualizing the future and then doing the spade work of researching what that future will need and how can add some of that ammo to yourself. This is the not-so-thrilling part of career change, it requires dogged determination to research target companies, industries and positions, draw up your contact lists to sift them into operational, developmental and strategic networks and make a plan to reach out to them. You may also have to upskill, take some bridge courses to plug experience/knowledge gaps and an expert, impartial eye can help you identify these and commit to a learning plan.

Expert career coaching in this stage of your career change strategy holds you accountable to take the necessary actions, failing which your career change dream remains just that, a dream. A coach is your advisor, supporter, accountability buddy and change lifeline all rolled into one during this stage of your career change.

Stage 5: Generating options and defining criteria

To avoid the typical mistake career changers do, which is to look for something very close to what they were doing previously, you need to broaden your options. Coaching can help you make bold, think different and find opportunities where you had not been looking. In fact, taking a design thinking approach to careers can be immensely useful at this stage.

Also Read – Top 7 Principles To Design A Career

One of the things to remember for career changers, is that new formats of work are fast emerging, which means that while you keep up the search for your ideal work/role, you can do a number of things which can help you get there faster. Volunteering, starting an online gig, job sharing (where you and another individual share the same job), portfolio work (where you monetize different skills and streams of work) are ways to get your career change process off the ground immediately. You substantially increase the odds of finding your ideal role, if you hit the ground running through these non-traditional forms of work and coaching can help you quickly create a plan and get moving on this. During this process, you will also be able to refine your criteria for your ideal next step – whether it is flexibility, maximizing income, finding time to upskill for a new kind of role, autonomy etc.

Stage 6: Putting the shine on your transferable skills

Once you’ve generated a bunch of options you have to think about how to ease into those quickly. Enter the term Transferable Skills – these are the magic words in your career change process which act as a bridge between what you’ve been doing until now and where you want to go next. But when you’ve been in a particular role, industry, function for some time, it’s hard to visualize how your experiences can be relevant in a different role, function or even a different format of work. And if you’re gunning for a full time role, it’s harder to present a compelling case around why the hiring manager from your target company and domain should take a bet on you, preferring you over more traditional hires from the same domain or functional experience.

Here is where career coaching can be the clincher by enabling you to identify and put the shine on your transferable skills. Coaches are trained in mapping your career, spotlighting your significant achievements and experiences and drawing out the most important transferable skills from these, giving you a much better shot at your next opportunity.

transferable skills development

Stage 7: Planning the Milestones for your Career Change

Once you’ve reached this far in your career change process, now it’s about tracking your plan according to milestones that your coach helps you to develop. You can assign an overall time frame for your career change process, say 3 months, 6 months, 1 year to get to your desired career state. Then working backwards, figure out the milestones you will need to hit and what you will track to know your progress.

The milestones may include things like target level of income, number of days of independent consulting work you land, progress on learning/skilling courses you have started, getting your website up and ready, connecting with people in a new domain, updating your social media profiles, reworking your household budget to carve out a portion for upskilling etc. Your coach can ensure you review your milestones and keep you on track to work towards them

Stage 8: Networking and enhancing your Personal Brand

A longer term strategy in successful career change is to cultivate new and diversified networks who can give you access to a wider set of opportunities in the future. With your coach, you need to look at different elements of your career change strategy -your career direction, your transferable skills, your criteria for selecting new roles and accordingly identify which kinds of networks you need to strengthen. Expert career coaches often have wide networks themselves, having worked with people from diverse areas and they can connect you to relevant people. They can also advise you on your networking strategy, especially about how to reach out to strategic and developmental networks.

While you are in the midst of career change, it is also a good idea to give your personal brand a makeover. You have anyway done much of the ground work around this already, having identified your core skills, interests, your transferable skills and what unique value you are positioned to bring. Coaching can bring this all together in the form of a well-articulated, visible personal brand that speaks for you, through artifacts like your resume, your Linked In profile, how you make yourself visible on social media etc.

Stage 9: Keeping up the energy for Career Change

Career change is intense work, enjoyable and exciting for the most part, but it can also get tiring and frustrating at times. This part of the journey becomes easier with the support of a coach who can help you keep up your energy till you reach the new career state you want to be in. Coaches are experienced in understanding behaviours, emotions and motivators; so using a combination of gentle nudges and sometimes more pressing reminders, they help you stay the course.

So what are you waiting for, get started on your career change process and create a new you!

Also Read – 8 Ways To Grow Your Career Sustainably


Kavita, an alumna of IIM Ahmedabad, brings 20 years of experience in Experiential Learning, Coaching, Personal Growth & Change. Her forte is Career Transition Coaching and Leadership Development for mid-senior individuals, helping them find success and fulfilment at work . She also teaches Career & Self Development courses at leading management institutes including IIM Kozhikode, IIM Udaipur, IIM Indore and at the IITs.