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Demystifying Career Transition

“My friend’s cousin just decided one day to quit her job to travel the world and ended up starting a multi-million-dollar company that she runs entirely on a laptop from a villa she bought in Tuscany.”

We’ve all heard the stories like this; so fantastical, they almost sound like urban legends instead of inspirational breakthroughs.

Of course it sounds nice, but even if it is indeed true, this scenario seems to be missing a few key plot points. While I have no doubt that stories like this exist in various forms, it might help to know that it took this “friend’s cousin” eight years to start that company or that she worked a variety of odd jobs in the interim, hording away money to be able to buy that laptop from which all her dreams came true.

For the rest of us mere mortals, changing your career, and in many ways your life, requires a bit more detail. Here are a five key steps you need to follow to make a successful career transition:


Check your heart, mind, gut or whatever internal source of wisdom you call upon to make major life decisions. Change can be daunting enough all on its own, so it is important to know your reason and make sure that change is an honest one. It should not be driven by fear, desperation or obligation. Even if the catalyst for transition is not of your own choosing, the career path you move into should be one that energizes and inspires you.

As someone who had to have this internal conversation before my own career transition, I felt compelled to make sure I was moving toward something that was important to me personally, and not just in search of an alternative to my former career.


Take the time to create a vision of your best life. The vision should be more than, “I want to have 20 million dollars.”  While that may be part of your vision, it is important to really consider what your daily life would look like. Think about the activities you would do everyday. What career would make you jump out of bed every morning with excitement? What about the balance between your career and personal life? How much time would you want to devote to hobbies, volunteering and other duties? Make this vision as full, rich and detailed as you can, and revel in the feelings that vision invokes within you.

If you need a bit of help putting together a vision of your best life, get creative. Vision boards are a great way to keep you on track and can be fun to create. Put one together yourself using magazine and newspaper cutouts or even host a vision board party to garner support from friends and loved ones.


Once you have that vision of your future life, it’s time to put a plan in place to make it a reality.

  • Start assessing timelines for when you want to transition into your new career.
  • Determine the skills, training or education you will need to be qualified to move into this new field.
  • Review your financial situation to determine how your lifestyle may be impacted not only during the actual transition, but long-term as well.
  • Research the anticipated earning potential and work demands for your desired career path.
  • Set-up informational interviews and speak with people who are already successfully working in that field to get some real-life perspective, and potentially start to build your new professional network.

A word of caution. Planning is key to moving toward a new goal with confidence and the right qualifications, but don’t get so bogged down in this stage so that you never actually DO anything. It can be tempting to stay in “planning mode” forever, because it allows you to feel as though you are making progress, when in fact you may just be playing it safe in your current situation.

I have spent a lot of time and resources on education, training and study for my own life/career change. However, the time came when I had to ask myself, “What more will you have or know in three months that will significantly improve your chances of landing interviews, or heaven-forbid an actual position?”  The answer was that while I could continue to plan and learn, there was nothing holding me back from actually putting myself out there to get real-world experience.

Don’t wait for the perfect time – there is no such thing.

Let Go of Ego

No matter what your experience level or age, a career transition usually means you have to start over in one way or the other. The idea of being an intern or working for someone 10, 15 or even 20 years younger than you might feel like a step in the wrong direction. However, if you are making a drastic move into a new professional arena, that may be exactly what is required in order to learn, grow and be successful. That means allowing yourself to be open to advice and yes, even instruction, from someone that in other areas of life you could run laps around experience-wise.

It is important to let go of ego and embrace that in this particular case, you are the newbie. Be willing to absorb as much information as you can from all the resources available to you.

I really had to take this concept to heart when it came to writing my “new” resume. After almost two decades of a successful career, I was used to being able to tout my accomplishments. I realized it was a bit of a badge of honor for me not just professionally, but personally. I was at bit of a loss when I realized that my job history was no longer quite as impressive in the new world I was trying to enter. I had to take a look at my career in a different way, focusing not on titles and awards, but instead on my actual talents. I completely rearranged my resume to focus on my skills and education, which was actually something I was equally proud of once I compiled the information. Suddenly, 15 years of job responsibilities were compressed down into a few bullet points, and I was completely happy about it. I still have pride in my accomplishments, but letting go of my dependency on them allowed me to move forward into my new career with a sense of freedom.


There is no way around this one and it’s completely self-explanatory. After all the soul-searching, planning and study, the only way to move forward is to step out and make it happen. You have to go out and do it, even with some amount of uncertainty about the outcome.  There are no guarantees and usually no instructions. The time comes when you have to trust yourself and believe you can do it.

Starting a new career can feel overwhelming, but it is achievable. It is not a fantasy or a daydream to get you through the rough days. If you take the time to go through the process, not only with planning and education, but also within yourself, the transition can lead you to professional and personal growth beyond your own expectations.

And that is no urban legend!

Contact career coach Tonya Echols today for a free consultation or view our directory of career coaches on Noomii and begin your career transition with the support you need.

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About the Author Tonya Echols

Tonya is a life, leadership and wellness coach and certified fitness professional. She has two decades of experience in corporate management, business operations, and finance in digital/traditional media. A fitness enthusiast for many years, Tonya has made health and fitness an essential part of both her personal journey and professional life. Using her diverse background and experience, Tonya founded Thrive Coaching Solutions, which allows her to combine her professional expertise with her personal passion for wellness to help others discover their own paths to lives of fulfillment. Connect with Tonya on Noomii and her website.

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