How to Guide Yourself Through a Career Transition

Whether you work for a start-up, a corporation or are a "free agent," it's important to take inventory ­ both personally and professionally. Take time to identify your aspirations and goals, your skills, preferences and requirements. Doing this will greatly increase the odds that the job you obtain be a perfect fit.

1. Assess what your greatest talents and skills are. The answers to this question might seem obvious at first glance. Dig deeper and answer the question holistically. While technical skills are highly in demand, so too are people skills ­ don't neglect your personal attributes. Ask 5 people who know you in different capacities to write down what they see as your greatest talents ­ ask them to not hold back and to be honest in their replies. You may discover talents you previously took for granted. Listen to what others say.

2. List the functions of the jobs you've most loved. You might learn something about yourself in looking at the similar features and functions of previously held and enjoyed jobs.

3. List any criteria you consider important in a position. For one person, it may be autonomy, for another person, it may be working within a great team. The important thing to remember is that it's not only job function that brings satisfaction ­ it's also the context of the position. Think about the context of the positions you're looking into ­ then consider what contexts bring out your best.

4. Look around, listen to others, look to see the many possibilities available, but don't get lost in the possibilities. Sometimes seeing so many possibilities increases our confusion. Knowing what the options are is great, but it's important to be clear about what you most want, about what's most important to you in a position or career. Without this, it's easy to make bad choices, or make decisions for the wrong reasons. Stay focused on the internal questions while exploring the possibilities.

5. Opportunity isn't something that happens to you, it's something you create. There's an art to creating opportunity ­ it's an attitude and a skill set. It's a way of being in the world, and causing what you most want, to happen. Learn to create opportunity. Be open to the possibilities that exist on a moment to moment basis. Take initiative. Generate possibility!

6. Visualize the future ­ picture your ideal work day one year from today. Describe what you're doing and where you're doing it. Compare the results of your visualized workday with your current situation. This will help you to identify the gap between where you are and where you want to be. Doing this exercise will help you to more clearly refine your vision of the future.

7. Be prepared for the opportunities! All the opportunities in the world aren't going to open any doors for you if you're unable to act on them in a timely and professional manner. Learn to eliminate delay so you can respond immediately. Tie up loose ends so you're able to quickly respond to situations that are ripe with opportunity. Sometimes timing is everything; be prepared.

8. Become deeply and broadly knowledgeable about the industry you're interested in. The more you know about the industry, the marketplace and the position, the more informed you'll be when it comes to making decisions. Educate yourself and do research. Brainstorm creative ways to get the information that will answer your questions. Involve others in your research campaign.

9. Create your own personal Board of Advisors. Consider what perspectives are missing in your view of the world. Identify what those perspectives are, and who might fill in the gaps and become a member of your "personal board of advisors." Too often we limit the ways we allow others to contribute to us. Be open as to how a person might contribute to you. Remember to always express gratitude for their input.

10. Schedule time off for yourself. As focused as you might be on your career transition, it's important to take time off. Enjoy life independent from your role of employee, manager, or leader. Learn another language, take tai chi or music lessons, or do weight training. Develop yourself in ways that are unrelated to your roles in life. You'll be more powerful and effective as a result of taking this time for yourself.


Jan Gordon, LCSW is an Executive and Personal Coach who finds great joy in helping her clients achieve outstanding results! Ms. Gordon provides coaching to individuals and teams who are dedicated to enhancing their personal power and sense of fulfilment. Her coaching embraces the concept that challenge provides opportunity. Visit her website at: Jan can reached at

Copyright © 2001 by Jan Gordon. All Rights Reserved. This content may be forwarded only in full, with copyright/bio/contact/creation information intact, without specific permission, when used only in a not-for-profit format. If any other use is desired, permission in writing from Jan Gordon is required.

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