There are two times each year when I get a jump in calls for career coaching: September and January. It makes sense; they’re the classic months for starting something new. I also get a lot of calls as people approach birthdays.
These natural transition times inspire people to make changes, but they also can be incredibly stressful. Transitions mean taking one path and leaving behind another. Sometimes it’s of your own choosing, and sometimes not. But moving on and closing a door behind you is hard.
I try to remind clients, and myself, to imagine six months from that transition. So many people imagine being in the middle of the transition, all the awkward, awful moments, but what if you imagine life after the dust settles? What will it feel like? Really picture it as clearly as you can.
Close the Door
What I’ve learned in my life and in my sessions with clients is that we will do anything to avoid those moments of closing the door on the past when we’re in transition, but once it’s closed, once we’ve faced whatever emotions there are to face, we’re a tiny bit relieved. We’re not completely free of the dithering, the fretting, and the waves of emotions that often conflict. Definitely not. But we feel a little bit better. We get to work, because that’s what we have to do, and we’ve done it before.
If you choose to change jobs, you’ll have to be the new guy again. It will be awkward, and your new office mates may be weird, and you won’t know the best parking spots and the best place for lunch. In some corner of your mind, a voice will remind you that you could fail with a capital F, but you’ll try to avoid that corner if you can.
Of course, you’ll have to do the dreaded job search. If you haven’t done an interview in awhile, you might encounter a tech-enhanced panel interview, in which, joy of joys, the hiring manager can Skype 12 more people into the room of six who are grilling you.
Skip to the Good Part
Chances are, it will suck, so skip ahead to the good part. Go on, you’re allowed. Imagine six months or a year from now when the awkwardness has dissipated, and you’re chugging on with your life. How would you like that new job, school, or career to feel? What would it be like to wake up and get ready for a day there? How will you commute there? Imagine the best. Doesn’t that look great? You can even go so far as to journal about it, or collect some photos on Pinterest, or sketch it out. Whatever your jam is.
My town, Ellicott City, is in a transition, to put it mildly. We had a horrific flood, out of nowhere. It was just another rainstorm, except the downpour didn’t stop after a few minutes. It went on for hours. And so many townspeople lost so much.
We have to keep our eyes on the prize. Skip ahead a bit. I was born nine months after another flood, Hurricane Agnes. It hit my area of Pennsylvania hard in the 70s, and I was part of a little baby boomlet in the area. Good things can come of bad, I like to believe.
Opportunity for Greatness
There’s no avoiding the pain of big, unwelcome transitions, but there is a way to make meaning out of them. Joining together, people can help one another. True acts of heroism were on display the day of the flood. We forget how great we truly can be when faced with this kind of tragedy.
Transitions can be spaces in our lives for greatness, for our best selves to be on display. It’s a terrifying place to be in many ways, so you have to remind yourself of all those times when you’ve made it through a transition.
We don’t rise to greatness if our head is in the wrong place, if we’re filled with thoughts about how we’re going to crash and burn. Think about another big transition in your life that went well. How did you manage it? What did you learn? When you got that first job, how did you do it? And don’t tell me your friend got you that job. How did you convince a friend to stake their professional reputation on you?
You did it once, and you can do it again. And imagine that desk with a potted plant on it, and a really good cup of coffee. Then put your head down and get to work.