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Navigating Career Transitions: How to Successfully Make The Move Step by Step

Navigating career transitions can be challenging- whether you are fresh out of college or have been active in the workforce for several years.

As the job market continues to boom and unemployment decreases, millions of workers nationwide find themselves leaving their long-term jobs due to a dislike for their careers.

In 2022, the U.S Department of Labor revealed that 60% of people reported being “emotionally unattached” to their work, and another 19% feeling “miserable” with the job they currently have; the time for career transitions is at an all-time high (Collins, 2022).

Approximately 52% of Americans considered making a career change in 2023, with that number only rising as we enter the first few months of 2024. This article navigates the phases of a career transition, finding which career path is best for you, and caters to building a better understanding of a positive work environment.

Episode 110: No Regrets: Planning for a Life-Altering Career Transition

What are the three phases of a career transition? 


A career transition is different from a career change. A “change” is an external change in one’s life, while a “transition” is an internal shift in one’s self. A career transition has more to do with the psychological repositioning that occurs when someone decides to leave their current job for another. It’s the beginning of a new personal chapter. Career transitions can be explained in three phases: The Ending, The Neutral Zone, and The New Beginning. 

  1. The Ending—During this phase, you must let go of your current career and all the relationships, systems, and routines to create room for a new environment. This includes accepting that the transition has to be made while also acknowledging your own resistance throughout the entire process. Finally, understand that transition takes time. It can be difficult, especially if you’ve been at one job for an especially long time. 
  2. The Neutral Zone – The “neutral zone” is considered the bridge between the old career and the new, where self-discovery is most prominent. In this stage, seeking solitude is essential to constructing a new life. A career transition changes many things, not just where you work. It also changes how you work, who you work with, when, and why. Reflecting on your needs and reviewing your strengths and weaknesses may lead to clarity on your future career paths. Taking the time for self-introspection during this stage is critical. 
  3. The New Beginning – This is the stage where you embrace the new challenges and create the foundation for a successful career transition. This means taking action in the new workplace by integrating with co-workers and exploring your new environment. In this setting, you have to think of the long-term purpose of this new career and how it aligns with your personal goals, which keeps the path clear and the objective concrete. Finally, enjoy the process. Take the time to celebrate even the most minor accomplishments within your new career because each milestone is significant.

Before You Begin Your Career Transition

Now that you know the stages of a career transition, there are a few questions to consider before making the leap. The more honest you are about your answers may affect how you navigate each phase of this journey.  Let’s look at each of those. 

Why do you want to change?

Leaving an environment you’ve been accustomed to for so long has its challenges. But it’s important to understand why do you want to change.

Change looks different for everybody and happens for various reasons, but identifying why a career transition is necessary is crucial when moving away from a long-term career. Millions of people leave their jobs every year for reasons such as:

  • Workplace dissatisfaction.
  • Incompetent wages.
  • Losing passion for their work.
  • Even a yearning for more career advancement opportunities.

Regardless, it’s essential to identify why you want to change careers and ensure it’s for the right reason. For example, wanting to transition from a firefighter to a police officer because the uniforms are more comfortable, though understandable, is not the only reason you should be so eager to switch careers. Consider the pros and cons, alongside the personal benefits and gains of a career transition like that. The “why” is the most important thing and the stepping stone for the following three phases. 

What do you want to do?

The three phases of career transitions prove that going from one career to another can be scary. People worldwide go to the same job for years before ultimately deciding to change paths. Most people find comfort in being in one place for an extended period of time, especially when they have developed relationships with co-workers, created a strict routine, or have become experts on the work they do. Leaving an environment you’re used to has its challenges. So when transitioning careers, it’s also imperative to understand “what do you want to do?”. Shortly after identifying the “why,” you must recognize the “what.” You’ve listed the reasoning for leaving; now, what career path offers the best solutions to these problems? How will this new path benefit you? How is it different from your old one? How are they the same? All these questions are important to answer when first considering a career transition and its benefit to you. If you need more help searching, we have just the article to get you started here.  


How do you navigate career transitions? 

From the day an individual decides to transition into a new career, they begin a series of necessary steps to navigate the next stage of their life. Small changes can eventually build into significant transformations. This can be achieved by taking things step-by-step instead of giant leaps, so let’s take these one at a time. 

  1. Identify your relevant skills and strengths. List all the things you thrived at in your previous work experience. This can be something specific or a general skill or expertise you have. After identifying these skill sets, you want to be more transparent with yourself. What skills do you lack? It’s always attractive to employers when candidates are conscious of their weaknesses and eager to improve them. To achieve self-growth, you have to be able to identify things that need to be worked on. 
  2. Research your desired industry of employment. Note your skills that match the position and areas you lack. How do you make up for this shortfall? Do you meet or lack any educational requirements? How could this affect your journey to reaching your goals? Not only this, but what does the work entail? Deciphering what you need to meet your goal helps you understand what efforts must be made to reach them.
  3. Acquire new skills. Closing skill gaps is imperative when trying to get noticed by employers within your desired field. Picking up new skills allows an individual to reach their full potential, not only within the workplace but on a personal level, too. Acquiring new skills also opens the door for other potential career paths. For example, for someone looking to transition into a non-profit career, a candidate may hone in on their volunteering experience. This includes improving their communication skills, becoming more sociable, and developing a passion for community-based work. The more practice and time they spend strengthening these skills, the more they will stick out to employers. 
  4. Network, network, network. Many jobs are about who you know and how invested you are in that community. Volunteering within the community is one of the best ways to get your name and resume out there. Participating in professional associations and career fairs and attending local events where companies of interest will attend is an easy way to get a company’s attention. On social platforms like LinkedIn, following companies and their employees to get noticed is another form of successful networking when transitioning careers. 
  5. Consider a bridge job. A bridge job is a transitional role that allows you to gain experience in your desired field while receiving an income. Bridge jobs are like the internships of the more experienced. You can develop the skills needed for the new career while gaining hands-on experience. The most important thing about bridge jobs is they can help with personal growth, too. They’re known for helping gain confidence and comfort during the transition and making the new job experience less stressful. It’s a steady way to move into a new career without all the drastic changes occurring simultaneously, especially if you’re still learning more about yourself and what you want to do. 

Take The First Step 

Career Transitions can be challenging but also exciting. 

A lot of self reflection and discovery is conducted in order for an individual to decide what career is best for them. 

But if done with the right amount of introspection and self reflection, that psychological shift that occurs can lead into a new career and a new you!

No longer will you dread going to work each day. You will finally be on a path that leaves you with a feeling of working with purpose and that will make all the difference in the world. 

You will continue your days of working satisfied that you have contributed in a positive way to your world and to the people around you. 

Are you brave enough to take that first step?

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