Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Soften the Career Change Blow

Last month I wrote about changing careers and things to keep in mind when undergoing that transition. It was a personal piece for me, as I was only one class away from completing all coursework for a PhD when I decided to quit. The decision to quit was very logical: I had become bored and listless in my studies and I felt that I was chasing a credential more than engaging with a subject that I felt passionately about. It didn't make sense for me to continue.

What ultimately made the decision difficult was telling the people who were closest to me that I was quitting. The reactions I received-shock, disappointment, fear, confusion-were entirely natural and what I expected. Careers are put into a different category than other aspects of our lives because we associate where someone works with who they are. So when someone makes an abrupt shift or change in career, we're forced to change how we see them, even though what one does is such a small component of their being. If I had told my friends and family members that I had stopped eating meat, I would have received a reaction...but not one as visceral as I did when I told them I was switching careers.

How do you soften the blow for those who care about you when you tell them you want to change careers? Follow these tips to make their (and your) coping process easier:

Expect a strong reaction: As I stated above, reactions to news like a career change can be powerful. Whether there is a financial investment in your decision or not, be ready to engage in a conversation with someone who might be reacting negatively. Listen to where they're coming from and show them empathy and understanding. It's unrealistic to get what you're not willing to show.

Be honest: When you tell your loved ones that you want to change careers, be honest and upfront with them. Explain how you are feeling about your current career and what prompts your desire to change.

Mobilize: The question your loved ones will ask you after "why" is "what now?" I recommend that you have some kind of plan in place before you broach the conversation will show your seriousness with which your treating your decision. Whether you know what you want to do next career-wise or you are unsure, show that you are committed to getting things figured out.

I was able to get the support of my loved ones and have embarked on a career that I find truly satisfying. The decisions you make don't just affect you; follow these tips to smooth over your transition.

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