At one time in my life, I thought I had landed the job that I could have stayed in forever, and I was prepared to do that, but things change, and I’m very glad they do.
A couple weeks ago, I had the privilege to attend a local event called “Women in Transition” where two inspiring women, Jodi Simpson and Karen Schulman Dupuis shared their stories of transition within their careers. I was drawn to this event, not only because I had already made some major career transitions, but also because I knew that statistically speaking, my generation (Generation Y) will hold almost 4 jobs over their first 12 years in the job market, and will stay shorter on average at each job (2.7 years) in comparison to previous generations. That’s only the first 12 years.
I’ve made a few professional transitions within my life. Having begun my career as early as I could, I moved from the nonprofit sector, to manufacturing and technology, to human resources and the corporate world, to education, to international work, and now I am hovering in research with a special focus in engagement and knowledge translation. I’m lucky that I seem to surpass the average tenure for most of my jobs, which speaks highly to job satisfaction. Right now, I love the area I am working in and plan to stay here for a good while.
Many of my transitions have been by choice or by opportunity, or natural life progression. However, not all have been in situation within my control, executed with grace, or with outcomes I’m particularly proud of. Going through a job transition, while incredibly exciting, can also be incredibly traumatic, not only hard on the individual, but the family. I’ve heard that going through job loss or major career transitions can be often close to as traumatic as an illness or death of a loved one, and having experienced both, I can somewhat attest to this. When we lose or leave a job, we lose or leave a part of our self. In addition to being our sources of income, jobs are linked to our interests, our pursuits in education and training, but most of all our professional identity.
Recently, I chose to leave the job that at one time I thought I could have stayed in forever. That job became my dream role I never knew I wanted, but will forever be a defining feature in my career. I grew up in this role, and grew as a person and a professional, through some incredible triumphs and tough lessons.
I had made the decision to transition out of my role a couple years before I actually did (after 6 years!), was often scared to, or just couldn’t find the right opportunity to do so – most of all, I just loved what I did, and who I worked with, and was comfortable. But I grew, and needed and opportunity to make an important transition from something so meaningful to me.
I eventually made the transition through a string of events and interactions that allowed me to recognize that it was time. I was in a work situation working within a program where things just no longer lined up for me, and I felt a sense of incongruence with the work I had been involved with, and the work I wanted to be involved in. After a long, grueling process, one that involved many hours of therapy, some tears, and A LOT of introspection, I made the leap and found a great opportunity to transition. I DID IT!
In the spirit of sharing experiences as Jodi and Karen did so eloquently in the Women in Transition event, here are a few things I agree with these women on, and a few lessons and realizations I picked up along my way (and continue to pick up!)
Career transition help you know your own value
One thing Karen Schulman Dupuis noted is that transitions help you know your own value. They allow you to step back and assess all you have done through your career, and all the kickass skills you have acquired along the way. They allow you to recognize and revel in why you were invited to work within amazing organizations, within amazing initiatives with gifted people, and take all that value to offer to a new opportunity. Transitioning in my career gave me the breathing room to assess myself, and taking myself out of my role allowed me to open my eyes to the infinite world of opportunity I had available to me, and what I had to chase those opportunities with a rate of success. Through my transition, I met amazing people, got invited to participate in awesome opportunities, and by recognizing my own value, others did too.
Career transitions allow you to let go
Every job I have had, I’ve poured 150% (or more) into. I can remember one leader asking me to calm down and step back because I cared too much about my work. In fact, I have a bit of a reputation of going Mach 10, a pace that people aren’t always ready for. Choosing to transition out of a role that was overwhelming at times allowed me to step back, while ensuring and having confidence that my work was left in good hands. I slowed down, to a speed I no longer recognized. I needed to slow down and let go in order to have the space to restore my own equilibrium. While it was hard to let go, I get equal satisfaction of knowing that the work I was so passionately involved in has new life and new direction, while I find my own new path. It also allowed me to set a new pace for myself that allows me to understand my own work style so that I work most effectively, with only having to give 100%, which I’ve learned is enough.
Career Transitions help you know your tribe
One tough yet necessary truth that I’ve had to come to terms with, and that I’m still coming to terms with, is that career transitions can have the potential to have important relationships tested. Sometimes a decision to transition comes from a difference of vision, or for me, an incongruence of direction, values and vision for the future. When I transitioned once I made that tough decision to do so, I unfortunately lost some incredibly important relationships to me, that I had fostered for many years, and with people that I actually very much loved. This is an unfortunate casualty of doing business, so I’m learning. From these losses, however, grew something greater. What I value most about this transition, is while I lost some valued relationships, I gained many more through my experiences and through (re)connecting with all those who had always been a part of my tribe, and stood there unwaveringly so. Through my transitions, an overwhelming number of many people came out to support me and stand behind me, and as a result, my network grew, and I got new opportunities and created a new tribe of treasured relationships with new ones being fostered every day. I’ll always be grateful for all those who were a part of my journey and will always wish my old tribe well, while poised and ready to create and innovate and do new things, with new visions with those in my new extended tribe. The singer/songwriter Don Henley wrote in his song “My Thanksgiving”, “sometimes you get the best light from a burning bridge”, and this couldn’t be more true in my experience.
Career transitions allow you time for yourself
Career transitions aren’t always easy times, but anyone who is in one remarks on the fact that the transition period has given them the opportunity to concentrate on their mental and physical health. My transition period finally gave me the opportunity to find time to talk to others who could help me find new directions. My transition period finally gave me the space to try anxiety medication for the first time in my life, which I am so glad I finally did (another contributor to reduction of my capacity for work from 150% to 100%). My transition period allowed me to reconsider what my work meant to me, and for my life. My transition period made sure that I have enough steam to put my best into everything going forward, and now I am able to more intentionally and in a way that produces the best outcomes for all involved.
Transitions are scary, and sometimes can be traumatizing, yet I can’t wait for my next one, when it eventually comes when the time is right. While I absolutely love the area of work I am in right now, I know that the world is big, and opportunities are vast. With technology and the world the world integrates globally so rapidly changing, jobs will be available in the future that I can’t even conceive of right now, but I can’t wait to get hired!