By Linda Van Valkenburgh, MS, CCMC, CJSS, CSMCS
The FutureThis is the time of year when transition comes to the forefront with it being the end of the academic year and graduation time, where speeches fill the air with discussions about the changes that the graduates will be encountering. As we sit and listen to these graduation speeches, we often reflect upon our own lives and where we are at in the process. If you are in career transition, this is particularly apropos.

TransitionsIn the  book, Transitions, by William F. Bridges, the author explains that transition is different than change. Change is more the outward manifestation of the circumstances. Transition is the psychological process that we go through as we move from one stage in life to another. This includes relationships as well as our work lives.  “It is not those events, but rather the inner reorientation and self-redefinition that you have to go through in order to incorporate any of those changes into your life… Without a transition, a change is just a rearrangement of the furniture. Unless transition happens, the change won’t work, because it doesn’t take.”

In his book, Bridges uses his wealth of experience and research to explain that “all transitions, (including transitions in our work lives), are composed of 1) an ending, 2) a neutral zone, and 3) a new beginning.” He further states this is “based on a theory of personal development that views transition as the natural process of disorientation and reorientation marking the turning points of growth. Throughout nature, growth involves periodic accelerations and transformations: Things go slowly for a time and nothing seems to happen – until suddenly the eggshell cracks, the branch blossoms, the tadpole’s tail shrinks away….” He says that the same happens in a less clear manner with people. There are “key times of development and self-renewal.” This means that throughout our lives, as many of us realize, change will happen, it is the “norm” and we have to develop ways to deal with it. This applies in our work lives as well.

One of the novel ideas that Bridges speaks about is that “it is the ending that makes the beginning possible.”  Think about it. You cannot go on to your next job without the ending of the first one.  You cannot move to your next career without the ending of the current one.  With this ending comes the psychological change that needs to be dealt with. For some people, the change is planned, and you have had the time to mentally prepare for the orientation shift that is required to move on.  In other situations, such as a layoff, the change happens, you get laid off, but, if it was sudden, you have not yet dealt with the feelings behind this transition such as the mourning of the loss of your job.

Another concept that Bridges describes that applies in search, is the fact that after the ending there is a time of “lostness” or emptiness before we get to the new beginning.  There is a lot of fear during this time. It is scary. Our ship is afloat and we are not always sure which way to go. Without realizing it, this is a very important time in our lives.  While we feel like we are floating aimlessly, there is often a lot of work that is going on in the background to prepare us for the next stage we will enter. This happens during a career transition.  It is a time of reflection, self-examination and ultimately, renewal in some fashion.

One of the important points that he brings forth in the process of work transition is that “in order to develop a new attitude or outlook, you have to let go of the old one you have now.”  For many people this is a very hard thing to do especially when a career transition is thrust upon them with now warning.  However, embracing the concept will go a long way to help you move forward.  When you are in career transition, now is the time to explore the possibility of moving in a completely new direction with your life’s work. However, you cannot do this is you cling too long to the old way.  You have to learn to “let go of the person you used to and then find the new person you need to become in the new situation.”

So, how do you do this?  Well, Bridges offers two questions to ask yourself. The first is “What is it time to let go in my own life right now?” The second one is “What is standing backstage, in the wings of my life, waiting to make its entrance?”  These are very powerful questions that require for some serious reflection and self-evaluation.

The book, “Transitions,” is a wonderful, easy read that can help you on the road to trying to understanding what is happening as you move through the many stages of life and career transition.  Sometimes people can do this on their own.  At other times, they need the assistance of a professional to help give them the support and guidance when they find that going it alone is just not working for them.  In the work environment, a career coach can help you through in many instances.  A certified coach has been trained to help you understand and explore the way to get through the stages to successfully reach your goal.

Please leave me a comment and let me know if this posting helped you. As always, if you are struggling in search, please feel free to contact me at [email protected] or 203-323-9977.

I wish you every success. Let’s get to work!