Dr David Moffat
Not that long ago many young people were able to decide upon their preferred career path and predictably pursue this path. However, the developing complexity of careers today has led us to believe the need to change jobs or occupations frequently is now the rule and not the exception. Today, jobs are subject to many changes and uncertain prospects as a result of growth in automation adoption, the increasing geographic concentration of employment, the shrinkage of labour supply, remote working, the shifting mix of industry sectors and occupations, and searching for a greater work/life balance. These uncertainties require people to continuously adapt to this changing employment landscape.
In this article, I would define career transition as the period during which a worker objectively takes on a different role and/or subjectively changes the orientation of a role. In short, disengaging from their previous work situation and engaging in a new one. Moreover, career transition can take several forms, for example, ‘organisational change’ – moving from one department or division to another within the same company, and ‘occupational change’ – a transition from one type of job to a different type of job. Whatever the kind of career transition it often requires a change of focus and direction in terms of objectives, purpose, attitude, individuality, and vocational routines. Faced with such changes, people react in various ways and no rules exist as to how they are experienced as each individual has their resources and barriers to deal with.
Career transition can lead to new opportunities and the benefits are many, but equally, career transition can also lead to increased pressure and unwanted stress (i.e., psychological, interpersonal and financial). In other words, the consequences of career transitioning may be either stimulating (e.g., challenging oneself, identifying new opportunities) or negative (e.g., increased stress, family pressure, lack of confidence, financial risk). These consequences depend largely on the individual’s capacity to manage the different demands relating to the transition and particularly on their psychological resources (e.g., optimism, extroversion, self-efficacy, commitments, and values). Experts have identified certain characteristics that are particularly relevant for those coping with career transitions; these can be categorised into five factors:
1. Readiness – reflects how individuals appraise their motivation for making a career transition.
2. Confidence – assesses how capable a person feels of completing the tasks required for a successful career transition.
3. Control – reflects what extent individuals view the career transition as being in their control.
4. Perceived Support – relates to how much support individuals feel they are receiving from people around them as they contemplate a career transition.
5. Decision independence – indicates the degree to which individuals view the career transition as being an independent decision rather than a choice forced on them by the relational context.
Having a narrative
Career transition is a big step for you but also for those around you who are likely to doubt your decision and will ask lots of questions. Typical questions that may be asked are “why now when you are so successful at what you do?” or “is it not a little risky?”. To deal with answering these questions and others you must communicate your vision for the future effectively. You do this by creating a persuasive narrative explaining the utility you bring to the new venture. If you achieve this you are well on your way to winning their support. Below is a list of questions that I think everyone who is considering a career transition should answer. It will also help you construct and create your narrative. Moreover, the answers you provide will help in identifying your levels of motivation for change and your belief in your abilities to make a successful transition.
1. Why do you wish to career transition?
2. How do you see the career transition process unfold?
3. What changed in your current or past work orientation to contemplate a career transition?
4. What will improve in your life if you are successful with your career transition?
5. What are the external forces that led you to consider a career transition?
6. How would you describe your professional identity in your past and/or current career?
7. How will you describe your professional identity after your transition?
8. People may change with experience and adult development and come to find their interests and preferences change, what changes have you experienced in the workplace recently?
9. Are you in search of a greater life/work balance? if yes why? if not why?
10. Even though there are risks, how do you rate your chances of finding a better career choice and why?
11. What were the key trigger events to motivate you to career transition?
12. Some would say that career transition is a risky venture, please explain what you will do to minimise the risk of failing to transition?
13. Even though the solution to your career transition may not be readily apparent, please explain how you will successfully work through it.
14. Why are you ready to risk the security you have in your current career to gain something better?
15. If people you respect say they think you can make this career transition successfully, why do you think that is?
16. Within your social network do you have anyone who has responded negatively to your career transition? if yes, how do you deal with this negativity?
17. Do you have a role model or any guiding figures who believe in you and can offer advice and support in helping you throughout your career transition?
18. External relationships are valuable. Please explain how your existing networks will help you transition.
19. While family and relationship needs are important when it comes to career transition, how do you prioritise those needs versus your own needs?
In this article, I have aimed to granularly define career transition and activities to better understand the benefits and risks associated. Indeed, there seems to be no better time to reflect if you are on the right career path. If you are considering a move from one industry to another or starting over in an entirely different field, or entrepreneurship; these insights will help you make sense of what’s next in your journey. To chat with Dr David Moffat please contact him by email: