Each month, Marci Alboher, a Vice President of Encore.org—a nonprofit that helps people find meaningful careers in their second half of life—will share ideas and strategies for experienced job seekers. This is an excerpt from her book, The Encore Career Handbook.
For most people, career transitions are intensely unsettling. So it’s important to get comfortable with feelings of uncertainty – and to develop techniques to get you through any rough patches.
You might have a free block of time to jump feet first into a transition. That’s great. But if you’re working full time in a job you’re not planning or able to leave for a while, exploring something new can occur alongside the familiar.
Either way, you will no doubt hit a time when you are neither fully invested in what you have been doing nor fully involved in what you hope will be a new kind of work. When you’re in that in-between nowhere space, expect to feel uneasy or even anxious. Reactions of others may rile you. How will you introduce yourself when you meet someone new? How long can you hang onto your former title as a way of explaining who you are? What do you do with your time – when only so much of it can be consumed by reinvention.
Making the transition to a new career
After 27 years, Betsy Werley left a corporate career in banking without a plan for what would come next. “There was a period when there was nothing going on and I didn’t know where I was going, and I remember walking down the street and looking at all these other people and feeling so envious because they all seemed like they had somewhere to go,” she said.
Werley survived her transition and is now the executive director of the Transition Network, a national nonprofit that helps women over 50 face a wide variety of transitions together. Hard to miss the irony there!
In his classic book, Transitions, William Bridges defines the stages of transition that accompany all sorts of big life shifts – marriage, divorce, a job change, a birth of a child, a loss of someone you love, or even an inner change like a spiritual awakening or adjustment in self-image. In each instance, Bridges identifies a process that needs to happen. “First there is an ending, then a beginning, and an important empty or fallow time in between,” he writes.
That time is an important part of the process. Here are some ways to navigate the transition:
- Make time: You’ll want to set aside some time for thinking, planning, and reflecting. It can be part of a weekend, an evening, a long walk, or a coffee date. It can even be a full-on vacation or sabbatical.
- Find a sounding board: Talk to a friend whose opinions you always trust, a mentor or colleague who has a great sense of your potential, even a spiritual leader you turn to in times of confusion.
- Join a group or take a class: The number of organizations focused on helping people through career transitions is growing. Check out the map here for a current listing of local organizations. If you don’t see your town listed there, check local community colleges, community centers, faith organizations, Rotary clubs and other service organizations, women’s or men’s groups, alumni associations, and libraries. Consider even starting your own encore transition group.
The key to any transition is finding support. Are you in the midst of your own transition? Let us know how it’s going (and check out the free Encore Transition Group Guide).