Roller Coasters Are Fun, Right?: Learning in Career Transition

Career transition has its own flavor of freakout associated with it. You get worried about what you’re doing with your life and your career and it can send your mood to the deepest pit of the earth. But the second that phone rings with an interview, your heart leaps and you’re soaring…until the next plummet.

You feel me?

Transition is defined as the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another. You’re going from the known into the unknown.

Did you think that it would be all unicorns and rainbows?

There are moments when the transition is gonna present you with bumps in the road.

For instance, I moved to Florida in August and bought a car for the first time in 14 years. Six weeks later, I was feeling really great, like I was getting the hang of this living Florida thing. And I literally hit a bump in the road and got a flat tire. O. M. G. My mind went to “What happened?! If I was still living in DC, I wouldn’t have to worry about no car or tires!”

Look, you’re human. I’m human. You are going to hit bumps figuratively or literally, whether you like it or not. The question now is how do you want to respond to those bumps?

What to Do When You Hit a Bump

Give yourself the time to first feel through the emotions you’re having. Set a time limit for it and have the emotions run through your body like Hurricane Irma (too soon?). Then, get up and figure out what you want to do next.

It’s easy for us to get into the mode of “this isn’t convenient for me” and “this is the pits!” And while I definitely get that, the amount of energy you can put into that experience clouds your mind from moving forward in your life overall because you’re committed to those feelings rather than the thing you want to accomplish.

As an example, you’re on an airplane and it’s about ready to take off when the captains tell you that the flight deck said the flight is now cancelled. You can be mad about it, and yell at flight attendants, and tell them how you want to sue them or how you’ll never fly them again, but where are you getting with that?

Wouldn’t it be more meaningful to ask them what other flights can take you to your final destination, whether that airline or another one? The goal is to get to your final destination, not to spend time being upset about it in the process (and I’ve been upset about this particular thing happening to me before…).

What Does this Mean for Your Career Transition?

You’ll experience bumps in your job search, too:

  • Not getting an interview for a job you’d be great at
  • Not getting the job offer after killing it in the interview process
  • Not getting promoted
  • Maybe getting demoted?
  • Not getting a raise
  • Getting a mediocre performance evaluation

These are just to name a few. There are plenty of opportunities for bumpage.

So how much time do you want to spend focusing on what went wrong rather than how to move forward in your career? If you didn’t get promoted or if you receive a mediocre evaluation, ask why and see what you can do to course-correct (if applicable). If you are hearing radio silence from HR about jobs you’re applying for, look at what your strategy and make tweaks to it so you get better results.

Focusing on what’s going wrong prevents you from taking actions to make things right.

So the question is what’s more important to you: feeling the roller coaster of emotions or finding the way forward to get what you want in your career?