Stages of Career Transition – What is the process?

Stages of Career Transition – What is the process?
December 14, 2020 Linda Murray

There comes a time for most people where they are faced with having to change their career trajectory through no fault of their own. We certainly saw a lot of this in 2020.

Whilst the initial realisation can come as a shock, it is the stages of transition that follow that will then impact your future decision making and career path.

The main thing to remember when faced with a career change, whether by choice or necessity, is that there are stages that you’ll go through and experiencing them is a crucial part of how you move past the change.

Your career is by far the biggest influence on your life other than your family/partner. It, therefore, stands to reason, that when you’re facing this kind of change, you will experience similar stages of grief. You are experiencing a form of loss, not just of the job and the people you work with day to day, but of the dreams you had for your role.

Renowned psychiatrist and author, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, in her book “On Death and Dying”, wrote about the five stages of grief we go through when we are confronted with loss. The five stages are equally as relevant when it comes to career transition as you deal with redefining who you are.

Let us look at the stages and how they impact your career transition.

Stage One – Denial

At this stage, it seems far easier to pretend that nothing has changed and plead ignorance in the hope that things will stay the same. The reality of course is that they will not stay the same.

Stage Two – Anger

Once you have realised that denying the change doesn’t mean it won’t happen, you then move into the anger phase. At this phase, you will look to blame everyone else around you and often take out your anger on workmates and your employers.

Stage Three – Bargaining

In the bargaining phase, you begin to look for ways to “make a deal” to prevent the change. Just as you would when praying for a miracle, you begin to alter your behaviour in the hope that your employer will have a change of heart. You may find yourself working longer hours, putting in more than expected in the hope that you are noticed and possibly not made redundant.

Stage Four – Depression

Eventually, you will get to a point where you realise nothing you say or do can change the trajectory of what is about to happen.  When you get to that point it begins to feel like life is all too hard and sadness and depression can rear their heads. You may be thinking “why bother” or that there is nothing bright in your future because of what is happening. This of course is not the reality and with change comes the opportunity to make improvements and fulfil your goals and aspirations both personally and in your career.

Stage Five – Acceptance

With acceptance comes freedom. When you reach the point of accepting that this change is going to happen regardless of what action you take, then you can start to see further into the future and make the necessary changes and plans you need to prepare for your career transition and new direction. This can be a time of great clarity and often some of the best career decisions can come from this phase.

These stages are of course not set in stone or necessarily always in the order written above. There will be times where you may go through one or more of the stages in the same day or timeframe as you deal with new information, make decisions and search for the way forward. For some people, this process might take a week; for others, it might take months! There is no right or wrong experience. But it is certainly helpful to know the stages, recognise where you are at, and just focus on moving to the next stage.

What is important however is that you allow yourself to go through these phases. Trying to ignore them or denying their existence will only prolong the time it takes for you to take the necessary action to rebuild your career and move on to a brighter future.

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