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Managing the Emotions of Career Transition

There is no doubt about it. Career transitions extract an emotional toll. Emotions show up as soon as you realize change is necessary or when change arrives completely unannounced.   Although it may feel lonely, rest assured these emotions are normal for anyone facing a major life change.   You cannot prevent them and blocking them is unhealthy.   What, then, are some of the best practices for riding the emotional roller coaster? Here are some considerations:

Recognize the emotions: Every life transition brings an emotional reaction.   A helpful 3-stage model which describes this process was developed by change consultant William Bridges:

  • Stage 1: Endings, Losing, Letting go – Characterized by feelings of anger, denial, fear, sadness or depression that accompany the experience of leaving the career comfort zone.   These feelings must be experienced and acknowledged before moving through them to the next stage.
  • Stage 2: The Neutral Zone – While on the bridge to a new beginning, fear and anxiety might dominate one minute, while excitement and a sense of adventure dominates the next.
  • Stage 3: The New Beginning – A time of acceptance and energy where a new initiative is embraced and feelings of optimism and anticipation dominate.

Acknowledge the feelings: Realize that feelings and emotions are a temporary state. There is another side to them (a better side), but you must walk through them to get to the other side. Blocking, denying or wallowing in them prevents you from getting there.

Make a plan: Avoid getting stuck and paralyzed by the emotions of transition. Positive actions can create a positive mindset, will replace negative mind chatter and will lead to the next transition stage:

  1. Create Goals – Accomplish small wins everyday. Develop a structure or map of the daily job search and focus on actions that can be taken every day to advance the ball.  Be sure to include daily actions that will improve well-being such as physical and social activities.
  2. Conduct a self-assessment – Inventory knowledge, skills, preferences and competitive position.
  3. Be Proactive – Research and determine your target position, target industry and target companies.  Alternatively consider that the right fit might be starting a business, buying a franchise, consulting, or exploring retirement options. Keep opening doors and exploring possibilities.
  4. Seek Out Emotional Support – A friend, partner or family member will keep you grounded in love, support you while you process challenging emotions, and remind you that you are a person with talents and value.   Engaging with a coach can also help uncover limiting beliefs that are holding you back, clear obstacles and enable you to present your best self.

The end of the ride for the emotional roller coaster of career transition is reaching The New Beginning.   The fastest way to reach this destination is to be proactive, face the (sometime brutal) facts, make a declaration and ride the emotions.

For additional support, resources, structure and accountability, consider hiring a coach.   Contact me for a free consultation and to explore possibilities.




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