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The Perfect Career Transition Plan

When you see the word “perfect”, what does it bring up for you? I used to love the word “perfect”. It made me feel ... complete. It seemed like the job was done if it was perfect. The problem with being perfect is it takes so long to (almost) get there.

Like many things in life, if we go after perfection, we never quite get there. That works with a career transition plan too. If you are working toward the perfect career transition plan, you will never get there. There is no such thing.

Working with my career transitioning coaching clients, I get a lot of flack for that last statement. Many of my clients state that they cannot make a move until they have the perfect plan designed for their career. What that generally tells me is that they are just not ready to make a move. And, a lot of times that apprehension is based in fear of the unknown.

Recent challenges like economic downturns, housing foreclosures, high unemployment rates, and global unrest all have trained us to be apprehensive, especially when it comes to messing with our income stream. We may believe that the job we have is the safe job. And, why put ourselves and our income at risk by looking elsewhere when we have a built in safety net?

The reality is, the safety net is an illusion.

If you are employed in the US in the private sector, you are most likely employed “at-will”. This means, simply, that your employer on any given day can tell you that you are no longer employed. Period.

At-will employment is a term used in US labor law for contractual relationships in which an employee can be dismissed by an employer for any reason (that is, without having to establish "just cause" for termination), and without warning. There have been a number of challenges to this ruling and exceptions have been added related to laws such as the Civil Rights Act that put some additional parameters around when an employer can dismiss an employee, but generally speaking, any job can go away at any time a company chooses to do so.

When I first realized what being an “at-will” employee really meant, I was shocked. (I was young.) Then, I got mad. (I was downsized.) Then, I got real. (I was much wiser.) I realized that knowing my job could go away at anytime was a motivator to 1) be an outstanding employee, 2) always keep my skills and my network current, and, 3) always have a Plan B. I encourage my clients to do the same.

For my clients who wish to build a career transition plan, many are gainfully employed in jobs that they enjoy. However, knowing that at anytime that job could go away, they want to put a plan in place for the “what-ifs”, their Plan B.

To begin this process, we review their:

  • Current skills and competencies

  • Values and vision (related to life and career)

  • Financials considerations

There are a number of assessment tools and exploration methods that can be utilized to help clients clearly identify these areas.

We then move on to discussions around industry, professional, and personal contacts (i.e., their network). We talk through how best to utilize their contacts to help in the discovery phase for options and opportunities. (Engaging networking contacts is important at all times and it is important to maintain those relationships BEFORE you need a job.)

With these known considerations in mind, my clients start building their transition plan. As part of that plan, we build in a measuring system. For example, we look at what their next opportunity MUST include. For some folks, they want 0-10% travel, flexible work arrangement, 401k matching, and a salary between $90 – 120k. For others, they may require tuition reimbursement, a full benefits plan, and travel greater than 75%. Whatever they NEED from the next job MUST be identified. This then becomes an objective method for measuring all opportunities that come their way.

As a next step, we move into career mapping and exploration. We look at possibilities for different directions their career could take and the opportunities each might present. The choices that make the cut, then become part of their plan.

With a strong plan in place, my clients are ready for changes that may come their way—changes they initiate or changes their current employer initiates.

Life is full of variables and as such one can never have a perfect plan. However, a well thought-out, proactive plan that prepares you for your “what-ifs” may just give you the foundation you need if life hands you an unplanned change.

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