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How to make a career (or any other kind of) transition

How to navigate a major personal or professional change in a mentally and emotionally sound way.


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Aristos Michaelides

3 years ago | 4 min read

Person jumping from one cliff onto another (Unsplash photo by Kristopher Roller)

Before you start reading, I just want to be clear with what this article is and isn’t about. It isn’t about job search tactics or networking tips to land the “dream” job. If that’s what you’re looking for, you’re in the wrong place.

But if you want to better understand the thoughts and emotions you will most likely experience when dealing with the unknown — whether it’s a career change, the end of a long-term relationship, moving countries and the like, then this is for you.

I wrote this because I genuinely wished someone had told me this stuff when going through this period of my life, and so I really hope you find this helpful in one way or another :)

Earlier this year I decided to quit my management consulting job to pursue my passion for UX Design. When attempting to make a transition to a new field or making any sort of big life changes, you have to learn to deal with two types of fears — fear of the unknown and fear of not getting what you want.

Conquering your fears

The hardest part about quitting my old job to retrain as a UX Designer, was not knowing how long it would take me, where it would lead me, and how good or successful I would be at it. And as someone who likes structure, this made me feel really uncomfortable.

On top of that, I was constantly being rejected — by the end, I had been rejected by over 50 companies, turned down or ghosted by half a dozen after interviewing and completing design tasks, regardless of my performance, and without much constructive feedback whatsoever.

I admit that, initially, I would feel jealous and annoyed that someone else got the job over me, but I never liked feeling that way. I knew that, if I was going to get through this transition in a healthy way, I had to loosen up, and become flexible to get to a place where there was nothing in my way — including my own obsession with certain expectations and outcomes.

While it’s easy to resort to feeling frustrated and angry about things not working out the way you want them to, it’s way better to be vulnerable and try to understand why you’re feeling the way that you are.

And that’s what I did, by embracing the unknown with vulnerability and compassion — that is, learning to be okay with feeling scared or demotivated and not always having the answer.

So, whenever I felt this way, I allowed myself to be vulnerable, respected myself enough to do so without self-criticism and opened up to those closest to me. Instead of labelling my situation as a failure or bad, I chose to reflect and ask myself tough questions:

  • Where am I standing in my own way?
  • Why am I so worked up about this?
  • What’s the smallest step I can take towards that big goal today?
  • What blessings can I count right now?
  • Do I rule my fears, or do they rule me?

Doing so, helped built up my confidence, see things clearer and address them in a more health and formidable way.

By looking inwards, I began to feel more comfortable with the unknown and started to approach life from a more observational view rather than a controlling one.

3 ways to making the best of any transition

As stressful and trying this transition has been, there are practical ways to make such an experience more enjoyable and to make what you can, with what you have been given.

Build a routine

When I was unemployed, I would wake up to face the day as an endless barrage of bewildering choices one right after another. What should I do first? What should I do after? What should I eat? Where should I go?

Needless to say, this is exhausting. It’s a whirlwind of conflicting impulses, incentives, inclinations, and external interruptions. It’s hardly a way to get the best out of yourself. Try to automate and routinise the trivial parts of life, to free up resources to do important and meaningful exploration. So, get your day scheduled. Limit the interruptions and limit the number of choices you need to make.

For me, that meant knowing when I work best which is from early morning and early afternoon. I structured my day to allow for my most challenging tasks to be done during these times. I usually went to the same coffee shops each week, ordered the same pastry or juice, and even sat in the same spot (I know, right?).

Find a hobby

A hobby is a physical action that somehow replenishes and strengthens the soul. And the good news is, a hobby can be anything from learning another language, running marathons, knitting, taking dancing or photography lessons, or as it was for Winston Churchill, painting and bricklaying.

I found tremendous joy and relief from cooking and exercising. The preparation of equipment, herbs and vegetables by following a recipe, the challenge of lifting heavy weights and the breathlessness of a run — it’s a cleansing experience even if it’s accompanied by suffering.

The point isn’t to simply fill the hours or distract the mind. Rather, it’s to engage a pursuit that simultaneously challenges and relaxes us.

And while we don’t want our leisure to become work, we do have to work to make time for them. And if Churchill made the time, so can you.

Find a community

Surround yourself with other like-minded people that have similar interests as you and are encouraging and genuine.

Attend meet-ups and events, participate in design challenges or hackathons and go to places where you could find your “people”, cause once you do, things will get much easier. You will realise, you are not the only one going through this process.

Closing thoughts

Instead of lingering on the past or fretting about the future, just remember that the moment you are experiencing right now is a gift (that’s why it’s called the present). Even if it’s a difficult experience — it’s a temporary one too.

So, develop the ability to be in it, to put everything you have into appreciating the plenitude of the now.

Be here. Be all of you. Be present.

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