4 steps to a successful career transition

“You’re not qualified to do anything other than [insert what you currently do here].”

Heard this from your colleagues before? Thought it yourself? It’s easy to question your capabilities when you’re considering moving into something new.

In this post, I want to convince you that it is absolutely possible to do something new in your career: whether moving to a new role, company, or industry. You already have the skills and intellect that you need to make any move you can imagine.

There are four things you’re missing, which I’ll walk through as a series of simple steps here:

  • Making the choice to move on.
  • Deciding on what you want to do next.
  • Landing a job in that new area.
  • Transitioning effectively into that new job.

Below, you can find pointers for each of these four steps drawn from my own experience in having made two major career transitions and from coaching more than 50 people through their own career transitions. These four steps should help get you started, but if you’d like additional support along the way, check out a link for my free career transitions Q&A at the end of the post.

Step 1: Am I ready to move on?

  • Your target mindset: Introspective and accepting.
  • Skills you’ll need: Self-awareness, self-reflection, decision-making.
  • Potential pitfalls: The “I can make this crappy situation work” approach, loss of hope.

One of the hardest things to do in a career transition is to make the decision to move. It’s easy to get caught feeling that you can, should, or have to make things work where you are.

I know you’re capable of staying in your current job, should you choose to do so. The key question I have for you is:

Do you want to stay in your current job?

If, in your gut, the answer is no, my request of you is to have the courage to listen. If the answer to this question is, “yes, I want to stay,” you still have unfinished business where you are.

Either way, what’s critical in step 1 of any career move is the skill of self-reflection – asking yourself what you want. For those of us who are new in this area, it’s often easier to spell out things that we don’t want. That’s fine too. The important thing is to connect with your desires and make a conscious, deliberate choice to stay or to move on.

Provided you’re ready for the latter, your next step is to explore.

Step 2: What do I do next?

  • Your target mindset: Curious and exploratory.
  • Skills you’ll need: Networking, info-gathering, self-reflection, decision-making.
  • Potential pitfalls: Skipping this stage entirely.

Once you’ve decided that you’re ready to move into something new in your career, take a moment to pause and celebrate. You’ve opened doors for yourself by making that decision!

Your next step is to gather information on what it is that you want to do next. Give yourself a few weeks or months to investigate what’s out there. Identify what’s missing from your current role, and what new roles, industries, or companies can fill those gaps. Identify what will play well to strengths that you want to emphasize or what will enable you to grow in areas that you’re excited about. This exploration will enable you to focus on one or two target roles for your resume and interview preparation in the next step.

Too often, however, I see folks rushing to apply for jobs, skipping the exploration stage entirely. The risk in doing so is that you can end up applying for jobs that you’re not that excited about, may become deflated from rejections from that smattering of jobs, or may even land another job that you’re not satisfied with! My recommendation, therefore, is to explore comprehensively before applying so that you can hone your sights on what it is you’re truly excited about.Your goal in the exploration stage is not to obtain a job – it’s to obtain information. My favorite tool for information-gathering is:

The informational interview

An informational interview is a 30-60 minute conversation with someone who can provide more information on an industry, role, or company that you’re interested in. In these conversations, you are not asking for a job. Your goal is to ask questions and acquire information. In fact, there are three things you can gain from an informational interview: 1) you can learn from the person you’re speaking to, 2) you can practice speaking about your career experience, and 3) you can grow your network.I recommend conducting at least five informational interviews before making a choice on what to do next, if not more. After each interview, take note of your gut read on what you heard, how well you delivered your “career journey elevator pitch” (more on this below), and what paths you’re excited to move forward with. This will help give you focus for the next phase, when you apply for roles.

Step 3: How do I get a new job?

  • Your target mindset: Targeted and confident.
  • Skills you’ll need: Clear communication, careful listening, self-advocacy.
  • Potential pitfalls: Applying without focus, viewing interviews as a test that you need to ace.

Once you’ve identified one or two roles that you’re excited about, it’s time to start applying. There are plenty of resources available in this area in terms of resumé and interview prep, but I’ll add my two cents as well.

By the time you interview for a new role, you should have what I call a “career journey elevator pitch” – a 90-second description of what you’ve done in your career thus far, where you want to go next, and how the role you’re applying for will help you to get there. If you’ve been conducting informational interviews, you’ve gotten a chance to practice this pitch so that it will be easy for you to recount in your eventual in-person interviews. Ideally, this pitch will be similar to the summary statement at the top of your resumé.On resumés, my view is that they should contain a summary statement up top, should be brief, and should reference the jargon and action verbs used in the job listing that you’re applying for. For example, if the listing asks that you “lead,” be sure to have some bullet points that mention your history of leading. If the listing asks for knowledge of SQL, be sure that “SQL” appears on your resumé.On interviews, a critical mindset shift for me was that they are a bi-directional assessment of fit, not a test. If you’re in a “test” mentality, it can situate you in right/wrong thinking and elevate your anxiety. Give yourself the flexibility to problem-solve with your interviewers and allow yourself a chance to perform at your best by remembering that you’re assessing them, too. If your interviewers are not people whom you would enjoy solving problems with down the road, that job isn’t the right fit for you.

Finally, on recruiters: treat them with kindness and respect. You’ll be negotiating with them if you get an offer and they may be an advocate for you during that process, so I recommend treating them like a person, not a robot.

Once you’ve landed a role, the last component of making an effective career transition is successfully starting out in something where you’re brand new.

Step 4: How do I transition effectively into a new role?

  • Your target mindset: Humble and ready to learn.
  • Skills you’ll need: careful listening, networking, self-care.
  • Potential pitfalls: Frustration, perfectionism.

When you’ve gotten a new job offer, take another moment to pause and celebrate. You’ve done something remarkable! Congratulations.

To stick the landing in your new role, it’s important to stay in a learner’s mindset. Many folks want to deliver results right away in a new job, but in doing so, they forget to ask the questions that only newbies can ask.

The good news is that if you’ve done informational interviews, you already have networking and careful listening skills in your toolkit. Now’s the time to deploy them again in your new role. Identify the who’s, what’s and how’s of your job and ask as many questions as you can. Gathering context and building important relationships can be more critical early on than getting results out the door.

Finally, throughout all four steps of this transition, but particularly in your new role, it’s critical to keep an eye towards self-care. It’s possible to burn yourself out quickly when doing something new, finding yourself frequently put in situations where you’re frustrated or confused. Remember that your career is a marathon, not a sprint, and give yourself the sleep, food, and relaxation time that you deserve.

Need help with your next step?

I’m confident that with these four steps, you will be able to navigate a successful career transition. If you’d like to hear more insights on how to transition effectively in your career, you can subscribe to my newsletter here: https://mailchi.mp/3c130034ae42/i6tjf7mpf5

My hope is that you’ll use this post and the newsletter to make your career transition as smooth and free of frustration as possible. Happy searching!

This article is from Elpha.