A Career Transition Checklist

Career transitions are often challenging periods to navigate.

Even when we willingly embark on a career transition, the starting point can feel overwhelming.

I like to start this conversation from a holistic perspective as every career transition has its own unique and overriding narrative. Guiding clients through a reflective process at the beginning helps to gather important information including personal attitudes towards work and career, the relationship a client has with work and career, the meaning work and career hold for the client.

These reflective conversations reveal a client’s motivation, their acceptance of, or tolerance for, change. They reveal personal dreams, goals, disappointments, and fears. They reveal practical considerations unique to that client’s life.

This gathered information helps to inform and shape a specific career transition strategy that is relevant and attainable for that individual client.

The following is a sample of 6 areas to help you begin to reflect and gather personal information:

Motivation and Stamina. Transitions can be exciting, and they can also be challenging and destabilizing. They can take a short period of time, or they can drag on longer than we anticipated. It is helpful to do a motivation “check-in” on a regular basis during a transition.

Do I have the motivation and emotional stamina for a career transition? How is my energy, motivation, focus and mood today, or this week? What can I realistically accomplish today, or this week? How do I feel about what I have accomplished so far? What needs re-adjusting, what should be prioritized? Can I identify when and under what circumstances my motivation drops? Am I avoiding next steps? How organized, or disorganized, do I feel?

Capacity or tolerance for change. Many of us can envision a different job or career but for a variety of personal reasons, feel resistant towards the change(s) that most transitions require. Others have no hesitation in taking a leap into change. Most of us are a combination of these two in varying degrees. When we have a better understanding of our attitudes toward change, when we gather personal information and feel more personally invested in, and accepting of, the changes to come – even the unknowns – we can move forward with more confidence.

Transitions often include changes in salary, in “professional status,” in which skills we are using, in day-to-day responsibilities and will likely require a period of adjustment and/or training. Transitions include new work environments, new leadership styles, new colleagues, and new team dynamics.

How do I feel about change? Can I accept this transition and the changes I will experience? How do I feel about changes to my salary, taking on a new professional identity, re-training, being in a different work environment?

An honest and compassionate “check-in” gives you information about your capacity or tolerance for change(s). This information provides perspective, opens possibilities, including the possibility to adjust a career transition strategy.

(Re)defining your expectations of work/career. We all carry expectations and internal narratives of what work should look like, feel like, and what we want it to provide – from financial compensation to personal fulfillment. Understanding your expectations gives you more of this valuable reflective information.

What are my expectations of work and career? How do these expectations influence the choices and decisions I make with respect to work and career? What am I open to do? What am I resistant to or unsure of? Can any of my expectations be re-defined, expanded, or changed?

Reassessing skills and capacities. We often associate our skills and capacities with our current work or career. It is not uncommon for many clients I work with to see a career transition as a loss of skills. In truth each of us comes equipped with a portable value and a diversity of learned and transferable skills. In addition, each of us possesses innate skills and talents and a continuously expanding “experiential expertise” derived from our accumulated life and work experiences. We have a unique way we approach our work (“how” we work) and equally unique perspectives shaped from our experiences and contributions. This living, expanding personal value should be re-examined, re-assessed, and can be leveraged in new and creative ways during a transition. This re-assessment opens a wider horizon of potential opportunities or new areas to research and network.

Can I identify some of my innate or natural skills? What makes these skills “portable,” transferable? How would I describe “how” I work? What unique perspectives, experiences, skills, and contributions shape the roles or positions I have had? How would I describe my expertise, my value, at this stage in my work and career life?

Finances. Career transitions may mean a period of unemployment or at the very least changes in income. These are very real considerations that influence whether a transition is possible, and how a transition could be planned for.

Is a career transition feasible financially for me? Do I need to remain in my current work role/profession while looking for a new career direction? Can I be without work for several months, or even up to a year? Is it possible to go back to school or to re-train?

Support and self-care. Support and self-care are key ingredients when navigating a career transition.

Do I have the support of family, friends, colleagues, mentors, career counsellors/coaches? Where can I reach out for conversation, support, and perspective? Am I practicing self-care, including taking time away from the transition process to experience other areas of my life, other skills, other personal interests, or responsibilities? How compassionate am I towards myself during this transition? How flexible am I when I do not accomplish that “to do list” regarding job searches?

As you go through the reflective exercises in this sample checklist, what personal information emerges for you? What new perspectives emerge? How can you leverage this gathered information to create a series of attainable steps during your career transition?

Career Counselling can help at any stage of your career life. For help, guidance, and support to navigate a career transition/change contact [email protected] for more information or to book a consultation.