DEEP CAREER CHANGES ARE TOUGHER AND TAKE LONGER THAN YOU THINK

“Allow yourself a transition period in which it is okay to oscillate between holding on and letting go. Better to live the contradictions than to come to a premature resolution. The years preceding a career change necessarily involve difficulty, turmoil, confusion, and uncertainty. One of the hardest tasks of reinvention is staying the course when it feels like you are coming undone. Unfortunately, there is no alternative but foreclosure—retreating from change either by staying put or taking the wrong next job. Watch out for decisions made in haste, especially when it comes to unsolicited offers. It takes a while to move from old to new. Those who try to short-circuit the process often just end up taking longer.” (Herminia Ibarra)

The end of my last assignment was a period of true misery – it was clear I urgently needed a change. My professional identity of that time didn’t suit me anymore and due to several organizational changes, it was a highly stressful period spiced up by a nasty legal matter that fell into my responsibility. The new thing was a vague idea, but by no means visible yet and as well highly unlikely to happen. It was also held back by family phase realities, lack of funding and plenty of other obstacles. Lots of mails contacting people went actually nowhere.

Once my career change materialized against all odds, despite all the excitement, a career in research proved to be difficult in itself. I didn’t get good data for quite a while, had little success in grant funding and my publication efforts – once I had data – got rejected. In between I was half-joking to my family that even our ten-year-old was now a published author ahead of myself, due to a writing competition in school that he won.

These career transition periods are really busy – to some extent you are working in two jobs at the same time, although there is in most cases very little to show for your efforts. Even once you make the jump into the new function, you’re still missing crucial sector specific skills, so things take much longer compared to your more experienced colleagues.

Still, Herminia Ibarra makes a strong point from her career change interviews, that it is a price you have to pay – and there is a high likelihood that it is a worthwhile investment of your efforts and time. Very slowly I’m getting better at my new tasks AND I start seeing the synergies to my old world.

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