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The 5 Stages of a Career Transition

Once upon a time, people left school, got a job and stayed with that company until they received their gold watch at age 65.

How times have changed.

Nowadays, the average Brit will work for six different companies in their lifetime and almost half of them will switch careers entirely. And the trend is accelerating: Millennials are twice as likely to job-hunt and career-switch.

For all the grumbling of old-fashioned employers, changing up your career is generally a good thing. If variety is the spice of life, taking on a new challenge is only going to help you develop and grow as a professional and a person.

No matter how old or experienced you are, if you’re thinking of making a career transition, here’s what you need to be prepared for:

1. Denial

“I don’t need to change career. It’s too hard and it’ll mean a pay-cut/demotion. Even though I’m unhappy, it’s better to just stay at my current job forever.”

There is a myriad of reasons why people end up in the wrong career. Perhaps they just wanted any job so they took the first offer they received. Perhaps they didn’t know what they wanted to do when they started out in the workforce, so they wound up in an unsuitable industry. Or maybe they were pressured into a certain career by family or social expectations. Or it could be that they once absolutely loved their job, but as they’ve grown older their needs and goals have changed.

Whatever the reason, be assured that your motive for changing career is valid. One-third of your entire life will be spent working. That is too long to spend doing something which makes you unhappy. Remember that the longer you leave it, the harder the switch will be, so as soon as you are sure you need to make a change, get planning.

2. Anger

“Why did I leave it so long to switch career? I have none of the skills or experience I need, and it’s all my own stupid fault!”

There is harmful notion about success swirling around our society. We think that we must decide our future career as a child and plug away at it with an inflexible iron-willed determination for the rest of our days. That is not how life works.

Every human life is a discovery of the self. People change; their minds, their personality, their dreams. Some of the world’s most successful people came to their chosen career late in life. Many of them changed, switched and failed, over and over again.

Stop blaming yourself for decisions you made a long time ago. The past should not be your focus – the future should. Spiraling into negativity will only make your journey harder. Take the day you decided to make a change as ‘Day Zero’, and think positively and proactively about the steps you can take to achieve your new goal.

3. Bargaining

“I really want to work in this new field, so I’m going to take that online course and volunteer in a related business to build up some work experience.”

This is the stage where you start to put your plan into action!

First, figure out what skills and traits will help you break into your new career. A great way to do this is to check out a bunch of job specs for the type of roles you’ll be applying for and conduct informational interviews to get more detail. Note down the transferable skills they mention (communication, teamwork etc.) and spend some time thinking of examples from your current career which demonstrate those abilities.

For specific skills – being able to use a particular piece of software or having a particular type of knowledge – put aside some time to work on it. Almost anything can now be learned online, for free, in your spare time. Investing in yourself now will make landing those interviews much easier.

If the job specs require work experience which you don’t have, look into internships or volunteer roles. Stop thinking of these types of work as a step back; you’re never too old to learn something new.

4. Depression

“My dream company turned me down. I’m never going to get hired in this career.”

You’ve worked incredibly hard making your skills relevant. You agonized over creating the perfect application. But then the rejection comes.

It’s so easy to get disheartened at this stage. Don’t. Receiving one, two, or even 10 rejections does not mean you’re not cut out for this career. Jobs are competitive, but people who persevere will catch their break eventually.

Ask for feedback and take it on board. If you need to further build on your skills and experience, do so. But stay strong and keep believing in yourself, because if you don’t, no one else will. Keep remembering that success comes only after multiple failures.

5. Acceptance

“Oh my god! I got the job I wanted! This is incredible and completely worth it.”

You put in all the effort. You kept plugging away. And lo and behold: it finally paid off. Amazing things can happen with hard work and perseverance.

Chances are you may have to start a few rungs lower than you would like to be. That’s fine. With time and determination, you’ll climb the ranks. There may even come a time when you decide you want to change careers again. Be bold and do it.

It is never too late to be what you might have been.

Thinking of hiring a career coach to help you make a successful career transition? Browse our directory of career coaches or request a personalized coach recommendation!

About the Author Beth Leslie

Beth Leslie writes graduate careers advice for Inspiring Interns, who specialize in matching candidates to their dream internship. Check out their graduate jobs" listings for roles.

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