4 Common Career Transitions and How to Handle Them

March 28th, 2019

During the course of your career, you’ll go through a lot of changes. You’ll transition across roles, companies, even industries, working in fields that didn’t exist when you were growing up.

These career transitions are hard to navigate, especially if you’ve been in your current role or location for a while and don’t know what to expect.

If you’re about to make a change - if you’re counting down the days until you start your new role and aren’t sure how to navigate those first few crucial weeks - then this article is for you.

The general transition rules

While specifics vary depending on the career transition you’re going through, the basics stay the same.

1. Create a comprehensive off-boarding plan

You’ve been a valuable, contributing member to your team for a while. The knowledge you have may be essential to your company. A proper off-boarding can help them retain the know-how and help you step away smoothly at the same time. 

Work with your current manager, HR and any other relevant people to record your work process, wrap up any projects and pass on important  information to your team or replacement.

2. Get all the legal stuff squared away, fast

Make sure you know exactly what you can share about your work (and what you can’t). Get all the proper information about your health plan, insurance plans, 401K and everything else that matters to you and your future.

3. Take charge of your own onboarding process

Whether you’re stepping straight into a leadership role or joining a team, thorough onboarding is essential. As the person most invested in your career, it’s up to you to ask the questions that will start you off right.

Susan Peppercorn, an executive career transition coach and speaker suggests asking your boss questions like:

  • How do you prefer to give and receive feedback and be kept informed?
  • What are your most important goals for the year, and how do they fit into the company’s strategic objectives?
  • What are the two to three most critical accomplishments I need to achieve within a year, and how will they be measured?
  • What should I accomplish in the next six months?
  • In what specific ways can I help you succeed?

That last one is a particularly useful one to ask your team as well.

4. Get to know your new team (and the way things are done) before making changes

The team you’re joining has a specific way of doing things. And there may be good reasons behind at least some of those processes.

Get to know the what’s and why’s before suggesting (or implementing) sweeping changes. This lets you win over your new team’s trust. That way, any changes you do make will be more likely to stick.

The four specific types of career transition you may face

But what about specific types of transition? Let’s walk through four of the most common kinds and how you can ace those first few weeks.

1. Moving across departments in the same company (and the same city)

You got the job on your new team. You’re excited, of course. But also just a little terrified. Because while the shift isn’t as massive as moving to a new country or a brand new company, it's still a leap into the unknown. 

Because while the company’s the same, the team isn't. The work is unfamiliar and yet it has this semi-comforting patina...

It’s ok to feel like things are different. They are.

You are getting to know a brand new team. They’ve got a different flow. A way of doing things that may feel tantalizingly recognizable yet fresh. Because just because it’s the same company, doesn’t mean that things work the same way. 

Kelsey Aroian experienced this at Asana, when she moved from the recruiting team to the marketing team. Her advice?

“Learn the vocabulary of your new team. You know a lot of things already. You just have to learn how to talk about them differently.”

Spend your first few days (and weeks) listening and learning. Ask lots of questions. Get to know the inner workings of your team and your role in it.

2. Moving across cities/countries in the same company

An opportunity opened up to work in a different location and you took it. Whether you’re taking a promotion, making a lateral move or staying in the same role, some things are definitely going to be different.

Take advantage of the fact that you’re moving within the same company. Ask your manager to connect you with your team and colleagues over Slack or whatever internal software you use. Meet up for a virtual coffee and get to know people.

Get the legal stuff sorted stat

The most important thing if you’re moving countries is your visa and any other legal documents you need to work there. If you’re moving with your partner or kids, it’s vitally important to sort all their stuff too.

Have a long sit down with legal, HR and whoever else you need to sort out work permits and health insurance before you leave.

3. A similar position at a different company

You hit the point where you just weren’t enjoying life at your current company. Maybe the opportunities for promotion were limited. Maybe it was just time to move on. 

If you’re making a lateral move to a new company you’ll face challenges, sure. However, you've got these key advantages on your side:

  • You’ve successfully done the role before so you’ve got a lot to the table.
  • You were hired for your knowledge and expertise.
  • You’ve got fresh insight from the different ways your old team did things.

Yes. It won't all be sunshine. That internal company knowledge you cultivated won’t be so handy anymore. You’ll need to master new software and processes. That stuff can be fun- just allow yourself the time you need to embrace the change.

4. The same/similar position in a different industry

Let’s say you’re a PPC marketer moving from a marketing agency to a big tech company. The way a typical day goes won't be the same. 

While you would've gotten a general idea of your role - and everything it’s likely to involve - during the interview, it’s unlikely that anything will fully prepare you for the experience.

So before you make the move, it’s important to immerse yourself in the language of your new industry. The language you’ll now be speaking in your day to day. Here’s how you can do that:

Consume content created by insiders in roles similar to yours. Go to webinars. Listen to podcasts. Read niche blog posts. And I don’t mean the kind written for the general public. Focus on the ones specifically aimed at people in roles like yours in your new industry. This will help you quickly grasp the language.

A sponsor can smooth out the transition process

While it’s a bit of a cliche to say this…

Change is hard. 

That’s why having someone who can guide you can help. Having someone you can talk to - someone who’s experienced what you’re going through and knows the inner workings of your new team and company- can be a life-easer. 

If you’re applying for a job through JobFit, your sponsor can be your bridge. They can help smooth out your transition by sharing some of the unspoken rules you’ll face in your new workplace.

Don’t have a sponsor? Don’t worry. Just focus on getting to know people on your team and across different departments as soon as you start so you can help each other out.

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