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Career Transitions: Reflections during the Pandemic

Professional life is full of change and transitions and many HR leaders have been reflecting and adapting their careers over the last 18 months.

I have known both Miriam Higgins and Barbara Greutter for several years and have seen how their lives and careers have changed over time.

Developing a process to work through transitions is key in any position or role. These are some of the insights that Miriam and Barbara shared with me:

Having an overall commitment/intention for transition

We gave ourselves permission at the start of this process to take the time and be in deep exploration of our contributions – both active and reflective. In other words, to try new things and explore our motivations: What am I good at? What do I want to do more of? What do I no longer enjoy?

From this, we found that we gained a sense of purpose and identified the drivers for job satisfaction. This then gave us clarity in communicating them out into the world through storytelling, network interactions and job interviews.

Giving Back

Personal reflection and introspection are important and helpful, however doing something good in the world and giving back, especially right now, seemed to be the first thing we all wanted to do and the right thing for us to do. It is also a way to find out more about your purpose and skills. There are many ways to volunteer and to contribute with the wealth of experience that we have. For us, this has been within the communities we live in, our business and our HR communities.

Opportunity for Learning

It may have become cliched with everyone wanting to learn a new skill like bread-baking or a new language, but it became critical for us to use this time efficiently. What skills will I need in the future? What areas do I want to explore and become better in? There are books to read, virtual courses to take, webinars to listen to, virtual coffees to get involved in, the opportunities are endless and it was energising to finally have the time to dedicate to this.

The importance of our network

Everyone speaks about the importance of networks. If you network just because you want something from others, it becomes transparent. To overcome the isolation that we all felt, we found it crucial to just check in with our contacts and see how they are doing. Important also for a confidence boost when feeling demotivated.

However, we have also learned that you need to carefully choose your trusted network and shield yourself from those that negatively impact your self-confidence or make you feel small by expressing a false pity for the career transition that you are in. Often, during these times of career transition, it is also OK to withdraw and to only be “out there” when your confidence allows it.

Allowing ourselves to stay in dream modus, thinking big and be creative in the future, being entrepreneurial – practising courage and curiosity

Allowing ourselves to be in dream modus: Being brave and courageous and asking ourselves the crazy question: what would I want to do in the world if money and income were not important in the equation? What could the Next Big Thing be? If not now, when?

Looking after well-being – managing our energy

Some of our strategies to help us in the past year have been:

– Not being paralysed by shame (it happens to all of us!), move through it, see where we can contribute, interrupt it and not listen to the voices that pull you down.

– Reframing. We know from neuroscience research that the same neurons fire for anxiousness as they do for excitement. If we are feeling stressed and nervous about the future we try and reframe and tell ourselves that we are excited by all the new possibilities that can open up, and all the great people we are meeting on this journey.

– Keeping ourselves grounded and focused for us meant being on the yoga mat or just walking the dog in the woods. It calms the nervous system, allows us to check in on ourselves and our emotions, be compassionate with ourselves, allows us to be more positive and focused.

What Does The Future Hold?

Miriam and Barbara’s experience also shows us some important parts of the future of work are controlled by the individual but they are also impacted by organisations. While we all need to manage ourselves and our careers, companies and senior business leaders, both at an organisational and governmental level also need to help support what the future of work will look like.

Companies are addressing the topic of flexibility, especially around hybrid working. But there are still more questions than answers.

The pandemic has made it clear to us – the challenges that we face are not individual challenges. They are challenges to our society and the ways we work. There is a lot that we can do individually to manage career transitions and to stay employable with our humanity and sense of fun intact, however the big shift in the ways of working still has to come!


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