Article by Ann Hermann, career counselor and assistant director for student programs.
One of the most challenging parts of a career transition for experienced professionals is managing internal messages about your position and financial status, thoughts that ultimately question your self worth. Thoughts like, “I am used to making x salary and have a certain amount of prestige in my position, and I have a hard time letting go of these things and starting over” can keep you from moving forward. Additionally, if you’ve been the “go-to” person and have served as a mentor for others, it can be hard to change roles and be the person asking for help.
Each person experiences career transition in his/her own way. Letting go and/or grieving the loss of one’s past role (whether voluntary or involuntary) varies by person. Developing a support system for working through your feelings is critical. This is where an established support network of friends and family and a trusted and experienced career counselor/coach can help.
Reframing your experience can also help move you from feeling “lost” to wanting to explore “what’s next.” For example, instead of focusing on losing your position, try this approach: “I’m using this experience as an opportunity to pursue what I’m truly interested in.”
Marc Mueller (Edu’94) decided to take a break from teaching and make use of his packaging engineering and management background and pursue an opportunity in the home improvement market. This ultimately was unfulfilling in a market that went through a significant downturn. So he reapplied his technical and educational background to pursue the position he is currently in, educational specialist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder.
Marc shares his experience.
“I am an extremely motivated person by nature, but I also tapped into some other areas of my life experience to stay focused, using meditation, yoga and my family’s support to pursue a new career with a positive focus and an appreciative physical and mental persona. I had to have side jobs to pay the bills (working in landscaping and at Lowe’s for example). I tried not to focus on ego issues.”
“I was open and willing to pursue anything that brought me passion in the job,” he says. “My mission was to seek a new purpose and better use of my background, that of educating and helping others, so I looked at every experience as a stepping stone to getting there.”
His advice? Use absolutely everything at your disposal. Get out and network with others. Talk to them, rely on them and thank them for spreading the word about what you are good at, and what you can do for others.
“You have to work on you at the same time you are working on collaborating with others,” he says. “Seek and find support. You have to be proactive to gain that next position. It will not just come to you, and luck is not worth relying on. You have to work at it diligently, with purpose, with a positive attitude and the ability to believe in yourself. It will not be easy. It will be scary. But it will also change your life and be worth every effort you give it.”
Tips when considering a career transition:
- Examine your talents, skills and interests and what you’d like to do. Seek a trusted and experienced career counselor/coach to help you with this process. Career Services offers up to six career counseling sessions per year to alumni. The first two appointments are FREE, and the remaining four appointments are $30 per appointment. To schedule an appointment, please call Career Services at 303-492-6541.
- Don’t be afraid to connect with people in other fields and occupations. You will be surprised to see how many people out there are willing to help (especially CU-Boulder alumni), offering advice, providing suggestions and answering your questions. Check out the CU-Boulder alumni chapter in Boulder. The entire list of alumni chapters is here.
- Tap into the University of Colorado Boulder Alumni Association LinkedIn Group as a source of networking contacts.
- Attend a CU Career Fair. The Fall Career Fair (the largest of the year) is Wednesday, Oct. 5, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.. in the UMC Ballroom. See all career fair dates.
- Consider going back to school or seeking training in a different area. Consider meeting with a financial aid adviser to learn about funding and income options.
- Consider moving to another location. Various reports indicate more jobs are opening up in the Midwest and Southern states. Go here.
- Tap into various temp and staff agencies in the area to gain experience. See page 12 of the Labor Market & Information Handbook (Boulder Workforce Center).
- If you are not able to leave your current position, offer to volunteer your time to gain new skills, stay busy, do something rewarding and make new contacts.
- Get involved in a community organization to give back and make connections with others with similar interests. One resource here is Volunteer Connection of Boulder County.
- Seek support from friends and colleagues. Schedule regular get-togethers to share experiences, offer advice and keep each other motivated.
- Attend CU-Boulder alumni job search and networking support groups.
- Check CSO job listings for alumni: http://careerservices.colorado.edu
- See Colorado Labor Market info.