Career Transition Tips From An Expert Coach

Juliana Casale • Jul 25, 2017 9:00:00 AM

We’ve all had moments where we’re so dissatisfied or fed up with our current jobs that just about anything sounds better than where we are today. But just as we begin to think about what the plan would be from there — we hesitate.

Will the grass really be greener on the other side?

If this job isn’t the right fit, what will be?

How can I be sure the next move won’t sabotage my career?

Whether you’re just beginning to think about making a career transition or have already begun to put the wheels in motion, there are several considerations we encourage you to keep in mind to ensure the next job you land is a great fit — perhaps even your dream job.

We sat down with Boston-based career coach Hanneke Antonelli, who specializes in helping people with big career transitions, to get her advice. Here’s what she has to say:

1. Keep An Open Mind

Especially if you’re thinking about changing industries or roles, having an open mind is the single best thing you can do. “Don’t disregard any opportunity right away without doing some research first,” says Hanneke. As she often explains to her clients, it’s important to focus on all the things you enjoy doing. “Brainstorm what lights you up and make a list,” she advises.

Most of her clients are really good at explaining what they don’t love about their current jobs, but what they’re not so good at is knowing what they do enjoy. But without this information, it can be really tricky to effectively explore new and unique opportunities and career paths. As you begin this journey, get creative and really explore what’s right for you.

2. Weigh The True Cost Of Staying Vs. Leaving

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While leaving the comfort of your current job for the unknown can be daunting, what if the costs of staying are even higher?

“Keeping yourself stuck in a job you don’t like will guarantee that you won’t be happy, and that can take a toll on you,” says Hanneke. People often avoid making a move for fear that their dream jobs don’t actually exist, but there is a real cost associated with that. “It’s like wanting to win a million dollars but never buying a lottery ticket,” she explains.

When you embark on a new career path, it can go one of two ways:

  1. You’re successful and really love it
  2. You’re unhappy again

But if you stay in your current job and are unhappy, you will only continue to be more unhappy. In this way, the cost is actually higher to stay. “The clearer you can get on what it is that you enjoy doing, the faster you’ll be led down the right path,” says Hanneke.

3. Be Proactive

For most, there will never be a “right” time to make a big move, but Hanneke recommends not waiting too long:

“I see many people who are clearly unhappy in their jobs, but never do anything about it. And then they do what I did and show up one day and quit without a plan."

Don’t wait until you reach your breaking point and feel like you have no other option. Instead, put plans in place early on. Be open to new and different opportunities, gain new skills to be qualified for a role you desire, and aim to have something set up by the time you’re ready to move on.

“You can do all of this while you’re still employed in your current role and have a regular paycheck and benefits,” Hanneke explains. The key is to take action as soon as you feel the role is no longer a fit, not when you’re at the end of your rope. “You can financially shoot yourself in the foot like I did if you up and leave without a plan,” she says.

4. Don't Look At Job Boards (Yet)

As the saying goes, don’t put the cart before the horse. “So many people feel they need to figure out the details of their next career move before they even figure out what it is they want,” says Hanneke. “They want to know the ‘how’ before they even know the ‘what,’” she adds. A good analogy Hanneke uses here is, “You’re trying to find out what flight number you’re on and what you’ll pack before you even pick a destination.”

To prepare for the next phase of your career, you need to first focus on what you want and why, and then put a plan in place.

A big mistake Hanneke sees people make over and over again is getting hung up on job boards too early in the process. If you're not sure what it is you want yet, you’ll be trying to force yourself into a position that isn’t right for you. “If you’re not careful, you’ll end up in the same position again, especially if you’re rushing your decision,” Hanneke adds.

Instead, create a list of non-negotiables you need in your next job, including culture, responsibilities, leadership, and so on. “Once you have your list, then you can see if any jobs fit with that,” she says.  

5. Lean On Your Network

Don’t embark on a big career move alone. “I remember when I was working on Wall Street, I had no idea what other jobs were out there because I had no real network,” says Hanneke. “In fact, I didn’t even know my Wall Street job existed until I found out about it from someone I knew,” she adds.

As you begin to explore possibilities, lean on your network early and often. “Your network can be a way to get more familiar with other types of jobs and other areas that may be of interest that you may have never even thought of,” says Hanneke. Whenever she is working with a client who is unhappy in their current role and doesn’t know what to do next, she encourages them to talk to as many people as they can in different industries.

If you don’t have a network of connections, start by asking friends, family members, managers at previous companies, or even college professors, who they may know that would be willing to talk to you.

To get the most out of these conversations, be prepared with a few questions such as:

  • What does your job involve?
  • What does your day-to-day look like?
  • How did you get to where you are today?
  • How can someone get into this industry or role?

These questions can help you evaluate what might be a good fit for you — and what isn’t.

Pursue Your Ideal Career With Clarity 

You’ll never find the perfect opportunity if you’re spending all of your time and effort perusing general job boards and applying aimlessly to hundreds of jobs. To find the career path that’s most rewarding to you, you need to get clear about what it is you want. “People who love their jobs didn’t search for them, they hunted! They hunted for something specific, with purpose, intention, and clarity,” says Hanneke.

So, if you’re ready to make a big move and find a career path and job that will truly light you up, begin by looking inwards.

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