A Few Thoughts On The Difficulties Of Making Major Career Transitions

by Charles Hugh-Smith

Many of us are either considering major career transitions or are being forced to undertake the voyage due to layoffs/downsizing, etc. Correspondent Joe G. recently asked me about my own experience in transitioning from one career to another, and it made me ask what, if anything, can be generalized about the process of making major transitions.

Here are some initial observations:

1. Transition is stressful. The key stresses in life are all transitions: death of a loved one; divorce; moving; loss of job. We know this but tend to expect too much of ourselves in terms of making rapid, fluid transitions.

2. Some transitions are extensions of our previous job/location, but this does not mean they’re easy. When I became a licensed builder at 27, it appeared to be an extension of my previous 8 years of construction experience working for other contractors. But it was actually a much riskier (and potentially more rewarding) transition that required an entire new suite of skills and a quantum increase of financial, human and social capital. The similarities masked the critical differences and risks of the transition.

3. Other transitions require cutting entirely new pathways, skills and networks. Becoming a free-lance writer and doing public-relations for a non-profit organization in my early 30s had little in common with running a construction business. Some basic skills were transferable–supervisory skills, working in groups, the fundamentals of marketing, for example–but the implementation was entirely new.

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In terms of moving, the analogy is moving to a new country, state or equally different environment: from city to rural, from town to urban region, etc.

4. The road ahead is never as clear as the moment of realization that we want out.

5. The path to a successful transition is often circuitous. In many ways, the traits of resilience–low costs of innovation, flexibility, willingness to adapt/try things, ability to accept risk and absorb the lessons learned from failure–help us navigate major transitions.

This essay is excerpted from Musings Report 4. The Musings Reports are basically a glimpse into my notebook, the unfiltered swamp where I organize future themes, sort through the dozens of stories and links submitted by readers, refine my own research and start connecting dots which appear later in the blog or in my books.

The Musings Report includes an essay and three other sections: Market Musings, on the financial markets and trading, The Best Thing That Happened This Week and From Left Field.

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