You are reading this article because you have recently or are now experiencing a career transition. So I write this with an assumption, that we all:

  • Want to do good work, and want to be valued for it and supported in achieving our efforts. We have expertise and a desire to serve and in return receive compensation that supports our families and the things we love. The data is iffy on a real ability to have this consistently.
  • Want to be engaged in good, satisfying, hopefully enough long-lasting relationships. Harvard’s 75 year longitudinal study (and many others) indicates that relationships are key to happiness.
  • While we may approach THIS CAREER TRANSITION as an isolated incident, however when we get real about it, life is a constant series of transitions. Especially in this day-and-age when data shows most people will experience a career transition seven times. Young people experience an average of 4 by age 32.

Stop to think for a minute… quickly tally the number of career transitions you’ve been through so far:

  • Those you chose?
  • Those imposed?
  • Those created by life circumstances outside your control—e.g. birth, death, illness or other life events– maybe even a spouse’s job change

Some career transitions we navigate more gracefully than others.

For everyone I’ve encountered in the work world, it’s a high desire to feel empowered, confident and take job-seeking, career-development steps that are generated less out of fear or anxiety and more out of purpose and values.

Career transitions cause changes that can be exciting, anxiety provoking—or both.  It often depends on what instigates the career change.

If the transition is desired and self-chosen, such as when you are ready for a new advancement or choose to go to a more desirable company, or you are ready to launch your own venture people experience more positive.

If a career transition is imposed from the outside, such as due to lay-offs, mergers, being over-looked by your boss or simply not living up to expectations, most people report feeling a lack of control, anxiety about the future, a bubble burst or fear and trepidation about what is to come.

There are also the career transitions that arise out of life circumstances not fully under your control. These might include an illness, birth or death in your family. Or a necessary move brought about by a spouse’s career. The needs of young children, a disabled or older person under your care.

A sense of shame at not succeeding—even when a job loss or shift may not be your fault—can pervade a person’s self-worth.

It takes time to recover. Plus it can just be hard work putting the pieces back together, re-visioning, looking at options—and getting yourself back “out there” in the networking and connecting, interviewing and putting yourself in front of the right people.

So when I titled this “Career Transition as Opportunity” I hesitated because I don’t mean it as Pollyanna or fake positive, like it’s all fun and games and just get over it. Even a self-chosen career transition is stressful and challenging.

What I mean by opportunity is that it’s important to empower yourself or take back your power especially if a career derailment is out of your control.

Revisit Your Foundation

With so much focus on day-to-day demands and so little time, it’s easy to forget that career and business are not ALL of life, but rather one important element.

A life in which career and business thrives—no matter the ups and downs—requires thoughtfully interlinking four cornerstones that create a rock-solid foundation for a whole life.

These cornerstones should be visited on a regular basis to make sure they are functioning well together. Typically they need some strengthening during down-times and discouraging times.

So, if you are experiencing a career transition, do yourself a favor. Take the opportunity to visit and re-evaluate these cornerstones. They will remind you of your values, what’s most important to you and help you stay focused as you pursue or build the next step on your career and life path.


Busy people always put themselves last. Yet some attention to your own learning is often the type of challenge you want in a career. When this is not overtly happening on the job, remember those pastimes you used to do or intend to do someday, outside of work. How might you integrate one or two of them into your life right now to satisfy your soul, your need for play or your desire to grow as a human being.

Examples of small but impactful self-development activities my clients choose are quite varied. They include everything from taking out a guitar that’s been sitting in a closet or making another wooden flute. Setting aside 10 minutes every morning to read a special meditation or passage as a start to the day. Walking, skiing or some outdoor activity to reset the energy each evening.  Learning a new language, taking voice lessons or an improv class can get you out of your comfort zone.

Other self-development pursuits are connected to professional growth and include volunteer work or participation on a board. A commitment to become a better listener or focusing on changing a behavior pattern at work. These can be a private but important learning that benefits your entire life.

Core Values and Future Vision

Many people make assumptions they know the future direction they are aiming for. Or they live in the day-to-day and don’t think much about it.

Living such a long lifespan means we go through many phases or stages that are somewhere between 7 to 10 to even 15 year spans of time. Taking time to think into the future does many things. It can be fun to imagine what else you’d really like to do. Sometimes it’s an evolution of a current career and sometimes it’s expansion of a side gig. Or something totally different from current pursuits.

Such evaluation often puts the present in perspective. Paired with evaluating your values, people often find it easier to focus on what’s most important and let other things go.

For more on this, read the article:

Crafting the Arc of Your Career and Life Story One Life Stage at a Time

Knowing what direction you want to go and grow in also brings up the need to recommit to a current course, commit to a new course or to lay the stair-steps to a next stage. This links your self-development, career or business choices, and always impacts the next cornerstone which is about solidifying your most important relationships.

Relationship Development

Long-term and closest relationships are typically the ones most taken for granted be they a mate, children, close friends, even extended family. This is an opportunity to self-evaluate how you and your relationships are functioning. Are you as hell-bent on achieving in this arena as you are in your career or business? If not, why not?

It’s also a great time for conversation about needs, desires and dreams with one another.

Without this revisit, sometimes the anxiety, frustration or bitterness leads to self-isolation, mates become disconnected and children grow up without engagement. People end up facing a new stage and no longer know one another.

We are who we are everywhere. So, becoming more present and engaged as a parent, mate, close friend, sharing your concerns and inviting theirs opens new possibilities, ideas and often direction, even sense of meaning and greater purpose.

Sometimes people realize they need to attend to these relationships more actively and this is re-energizing in a way that is different from work life, but can also benefit and enhance feelings of connection and purpose in a career.

Career and Business Development

Within the context of three other cornerstones, Career and Business Development take their rightful place as part of a whole. A whole life context—including head-on acknowledgement of current life stage and the arc of this story and potential arcs to come—also puts things in a broader perspective.

Input, conversations with mate, family, close friends brings up where greater attention may be needed in the personal life to balance the career or business focus.

Future vision may chart a new or unexpected pathway to pursue now as you work toward your next stage. When attended to, each cornerstones can gives the career and business focus greater purpose and context. Revisiting all four cornerstones helps to map a short-term and long-term more meaningful career development path.

Putting It All Together

Instead of scrambling or simply listening to what other people might say you “should” do when career changes happen, taking the time to visit these four aspects will empower you to make next steps and choices from a place of self awareness.

Putting the next steps all together out of this awareness often requires new thinking, facing gaps and new challenges as you create your next new reality, rather than being the victim or passive by-stander to a change or career transition.

Dr. Jan Hoistad