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Career Transition Strategies

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Hopefully, you're reading this because you've chosen to be proactive in your career pursuits. There is nothing more dangerous than entering into a transition phase with a reactionary mindset. If you're beginning to contemplate a move, make sure your priorities are in order. For many of us, that first means figuring out what our priorities are. This is the purpose of this article. It outlines the entire process from start to finish, step by step. So, if you are ready for a transition, let's get started.

1. Why are you thinking about this in the first place?

Everyone has goals, ambitions and desires, but few of us ever write them down. After a period of time, we lose track of what we really want and what's important to us. A good first step in planning your career is to write down where you are now, where you believe you should be, and where you want to be a few years down the road.

This step takes a lot of thought and should not be brushed over lightly. Only when we know where we are at, do we have any hope of getting to where we want to be. What's important to you? Once you've established your list, you now have some parameters to work within. Let's look at an example, I'll use my list to illustrate.

  • Family.
    Our two children deserve the best we can give them, even if that requires relocating. They need to have the best schools available and live in an area that is relatively free from crime.
  • Quality of life.
    That's what we've chosen over living in an area that may have myriads of opportunities, but is lacking in the other areas. To do anything less would simply be selfishness on our part.
  • My business.
    It has to be in an area where there are enough companies to work with, but not so many as to compromise priority 1. I need to have the freedom to do what I believe is necessary to be successful at my job, and the flexibility to create a balance between my work and family.
  • Cost of living.
    It has to be an area that we can afford to live in and not have to sacrifice at the expense of our children.

I hope this gives you some idea of the process involved in determining your objectives. Keep in mind that each persons list may differ greatly and your's may look totally different from mine. That's the point, you're looking for what's important to you. I'll show you a little later how this all fits together, but for now, lets go to the second step.

2. Look at your current situation and see what's missing from the picture you've painted.

If there's nothing missing, then stay where you're at! We only make moves when something is lacking. I have people tell me over and over, "I'm looking for more money." For most of us, this is not a motivating factor. We all want to make more money, but seldom act on it unless there's pain somewhere else in our lives. It's simply cause and effect. Some examples of real motivating factors would be:

  • You're bored with the work you're currently doing, and it appears as though nothing will change in the near future.
  • Your performance is being evaluated using criteria that no one can explain.
  • You were made promises that have gone unfulfilled.
  • You're working in an area of technology that is rapidly being replaced.
  • There is no personal recognition for the work you're doing.
  • You listen to what your managers say, then watch what they do, and the two don't add up.
  • Your managers don't care what you think anymore.
  • You're ready to take the next step in your career, but don't have the opportunity.
  • Your company has adopted a policy of progressive micro-management.
  • Your company is beginning to downsize.
  • Your company is being sold.
  • Your being asked by your company to take a cut in salary, or hours.
  • You're expected to produce more and more in the same period of time.
  • You're ready for new challenges, but there are none on the horizon.
  • You want to work with a specific technology, but don't have the opportunity.
  • You feel like you've contributed all you can at your current company.
  • Your company is losing, or has lost it's ability to compete.
  • Your company has no specific direction.
  • There's too much "red tape."
  • There's a lack of focus.
  • There's no excitement anymore.
  • There's no sense of urgency.

I could go on and on, but you've probably caught the drift by now. Examine your situation and see what's motivating your decision. Once you've found your pain, you'll know what you need to see in a new situation. By the way, the examples listed above only deal with the workplace, you may have pain in other areas as well. No matter where your pain is, be proactive, take control and outline steps to remedy it.

3. Make as many decisions as possible on the front end.

This is something I've mentioned in other sections, but it deserves mentioning again. If you wait until you're under the stress of an offer to evaluate all of the variables, you will only have one decision, to turn it down. Even if your ship has come in, you'll sink it because human beings can only deal with a few things at any given time before they short-circuit. Here are some examples of decisions that can be made in advance.

  • What's important in each of your areas, and are there any trade-offs that can be made.
  • What are your geographic parameters
  • What does your ideal job looks like?
  • What salary would you accept?
  • What do you have to do to relocate? Temporary housing, storage...etc.
  • Is there anything in your personal or professional life that would prevent you from accepting an offer and giving a two to four week start date?
  • If relocating, what things do you desire in a new community?

As you may have noticed, step 3 focuses the research and analysis of steps 1 and 2, into a tactical plan. If you have answers for each question mentioned above, you have made a number of decisions already and you haven't even interviewed yet. But when you do, you're in control of the situation instead of it controlling you. Now when you interview and get an offer, you should know what your answer is as soon as you see the figures. No more gut-wrenching, "mull-it-over" sessions and no more "I hope I'm making the right decision." When you're in control, you know you made the right decision.

I mentioned earlier that I would tie all this together using my personal list as an example. This is because I went through this process not too long ago. I was working for Management Recruiters in St. Louis, MO. I had a manager that had been in the business for 25 years and was mentally tied to a very specific way of doing the job because it worked well for him 25 years ago. He thought email was a waste of time, websites were just alot of hype, a state-of-the-art database was a waste of money and following his schedule was more important than adapting it to meet client and candidate needs.

As you can see, I had a lot of pain in my job, not to mention the deteriorating condition of the city, a failing school system, rampant crime and a generally low quality of life. I was ready to make a move. My wife and I discussed the situation at great length and came up with the list of priorities I presented earlier.

We decided that if we were going to relocate, it would be to Colorado. We had vacationed here several times and really liked the area. My wife had also done some research and found that the Ft. Collins school district was ranked number 4 in the Western United States, and number 29 in the nation. The cost of living was slightly higher than St. Louis, but not much. The crime rate was substantially lower and there was a large number of technology based businesses here.

I worked several leads I developed through my personal network, one of which offered the opportunity to move out here, but all fell short of the mark. Finally, after nearly a year of trying to find the right opportunity, a client that I had been working with for nearly four years approached me to do some contract recruiting due to their increasing hiring requirements. I could work on my own, implement any systems I deemed beneficial, continue to work with other clients who were not in direct competition, and because of my no-compete contract, ( I had to move at least 100 miles away), they agreed to help with the relocation.

Don't get me wrong, this wasn't a perfect situation. There were some trade-offs that had to be worked through, but when it was over, I think we came as close to our list as possible. This brings up another interesting point. When I was investigating the other leads I had turned up through my network, nothing worked out. Then I got a phone call out of the blue, and I was the one being recruited. I didn't initiate anything and wasn't even aware that they were considering this until they called. So keep this in mind the next time a recruiter calls. It may be the answer to your pain!

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