New Year, New Career Path?

Emilie Lapointe

As the new year begins, it is time to reflect on what we have accomplished and what we want for the future. Career-wise, it is a good time to take stock.

This past year, the world of work was characterized by high uncertainty and considerable ambiguity. Even career paths and occupations that were once considered safe and stable were shaken and reshaped. Many felt rightfully confused, perhaps even a bit lost.

Is uncertainty necessarily detrimental?

The world of work is changing – and so are we. Should we fight this? Change cannot be avoided. We cannot run away from it. Instead, we should embrace it.

Troubled times provide an opportunity to change – something that is much more difficult to do in a stable environment. From a career perspective, troubled times provide opportunities to refocus on what matters the most and to dare making moves that we have long contemplated.

Where are you heading in your career?

Taking on a first leadership role, switching industry sector, starting a business or breaking into consulting all represent examples of career transitions. Such transitions can be triggered by a profound desire to make a change as much as by external circumstances. Very often, both factors come into play.

Career transitions embody turning points in people’s careers.

When looking back, we see a ‘before’ and an ‘after’. This is because career transitions do not only involve changing what we do during a workday. They involve redefining who we are. Because careers are socially embedded, career transitions also influence how we relate to others and how others relate to us.

Career transitions do not happen overnight nor by snapping our fingers. It takes time and energy to concretely change path. It also requires a great deal of learning and adjustment.

How to get started if you are contemplating a new career path?

  1. Clear your mind. Take a step back. Be mindful. What do you really want at this point in your career?
    Change is not always desired - it is sometimes forced upon us - but it can certainly be intentional. A true sense of direction can only emerge from within. It can’t be found around us or given by others.
  2. Envision the future. Where do you see yourself? Who do you want to become? Very often, we are holding ourselves back from making meaningful career changes because we focus on the risks and the potential consequences that a change might have – the infamous ‘what if?’. Purposefully change your mindset. Remind yourself that pursuing a career that is unfulfilling also has adverse effects - and we should not get used to those.
  3. Prioritize. What is most important? What goal or project should take precedence over others?
    Research on goal setting teaches us that we are much more effective when we focus on a small number of meaningful goals. Trying to do it all at once rarely pays off. Be strategic.
  4. Take targeted action. Which initiatives are really going to help you?
    Time is a finite resource. Make the best use of it by focusing on actions that will bring true value. Remember to consider short-term and long-term perspectives in your action plan.
  5. Reach out! Who can support you?
    Although career transitions are self-led, others represent important resources in achieving career-related goals. Plus, career transitions do not have to be lonely journeys! Surround yourself with people who will encourage and support you.

Relevant references:

Akkermans, J. et al. (2021). Toward a broader understanding of career shocks: Exploring interdisciplinary connections with research on job search, human resource management, entrepreneurship, and diversity. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 126, 103563. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvb.2021.103563

Akkermans, J., et al. (2020). The Covid-19 crisis as a career shock: Implications for careers and vocational behavior. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 119, 103434. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvb.2020.103434

Sullivan, S. E., & Al Ariss, A. (2021). Making sense of different perspectives on career transitions: A review and agenda for future research. Human Resource Management Review, 31(1), 100727. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.hrmr.2019.100727

Published 11. January 2022

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