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Tips for Surviving a Career Transition

Evan Taylor

Make a swift and smooth transition.

Whether it's a move to a new company, a complete career change, a jump to retirement or a company downsizing, career transitions are tedious. Follow these steps to make a smooth transition from where you are to where you want to be.

Focus on where you want to go.

Shira Harrington, founder and president of the career consulting firm Purposeful Hire, Inc., suggests those in transition start by picking a lane or a tribe. "Some are focused on a tribe or group they want to be a part of, while others are in a lane or career path," she says.

Warm up with STAR and CAR exercises.

STAR (Situation, Task, Action and Result) and CAR (Challenge, Action and Result) exercises help you evaluate your decision to switch jobs and tell stories about your employee contributions in your former jobs. Dorothy Dalton, talent management strategist and career coach, says a key first step is to "review a career to date, articulate achievements to create a coherent message and communicate strategically to the right audience."

Set some SMART goals.

Think about what you want to do and where you want to be. SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely) goals will help you get there. "You need a plan of action with short- and long-term goals. If you get off track you can refer back to them," says Carolyn Owens, professional speaker and career coach. Harrington adds that you have to know what you want and how you can reach your career goals. "Look at skilled areas and how they intersect with your career motivators," she says.

Answer your looming questions.

It's reasonable to ask yourself, "How long will it take to transition? Do I have to start over? What education and skills do I need?" Harrington says you want to answer your "when" -- whether you want to work part time or full time -- and two "hows" -- how you work best and how much money you would like to make. Dalton says the process for answering those involves research, networking and more research. "You have to identify your transferable skills and training needs," she says.

Conduct a resource assessment.

You may be concerned about how you're going to make it all work. Owens says a common pitfall is delving in without taking into consideration the factors that impact your transition. For instance, Harrington says more people are spending a minimum of six months job searching. Assessing your resources, savings and expenses can assure that you don't add the pressure of meeting financial obligations on top on your transition.

Find an accountability partner.

Harrington says career coaches can provide you with more clarity, assist with branding your résumé and help you navigate the interview and networking processes. Meanwhile, Susan Ruhl, president and chief financial officer of Innovative Career Consulting, says an accountability partner doesn't have to be a coach, but he or she should be objective about your strengths and weaknesses.

Decide on a plan.

Harrington says people who transition to a new job and don't do enough research before they apply and interview will be ill prepared. Dalton suggests allotting six to nine months minimum for the transition process if you don't need additional skills. During this time, those in transition should be researching, networking, submitting applications and interviewing. "It can be easy, but generally it's more about a rigorous and meticulous process," she says.

Network and connect with those who can help.

Networking is important whether you're just starting out or late in your career. Owens says you need to network both in person and on social media. Reach out to associations in your area, and follow companies and leaders on LinkedIn and Twitter in the field you're interested in. "Networking is critically important," Ruhl says. "It can allow you to find jobs that are never advertised."

Tailor your résumé.

Your résumé should show how you added value in your previous job and prove you can generate revenue, decrease losses and mitigate risks, says Greg Johnson, career coach at Above The Rim Executive Coaching. It should be tailored and specific to each application you submit. "Your keywords must line up with the job description," Harrington adds.

Make your LinkedIn profile more effective.

LinkedIn is a tool that helps you stand out when used properly. Ruhl describes a profile on the site as "a way to prepare for all parts of the career transition." To do so, update your profile on a regular basis and utilize your connections for leads to open jobs.

Keep your mind open.

Don't be afraid to do some freelancing, shadowing, informational interviews, trainee work and internships. You might also have to take a pay cut or demotion to get your foot in the door. Owens says shadowing and informational interviews combined with reading journals and trade magazines can help you pick up the language and culture of a new industry. "It can be like starting your career all over again," she says.

Practice before you interview.

A common mistake is not preparing for the interview. Harrington says hiring managers will be impressed when you can wrap your head around the job and how you can make an impact. Ruhl says you can use three to five CAR exercises to prevent what she calls "showing up and throwing up." "You need to show what you did and the problems you solved," she says. "It needs to specific and succinct."

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