When faced with a catastrophic life event, such as a difficult divorce or the death of a spouse or child, the common advice is to avoid any sudden moves. Wait a year, you're told, before you even consider selling the house, changing jobs or relocating to your childhood hometown.
The logic, which is hard to dispute, is that you have been through a trauma and need time to recover before leaping into decisions with lifelong ramifications. Unfortunately, despite the inherent logic in this advice, it isn't always feasible to follow it, particularly when it comes to careers. In some cases, there can seem to be no other recourse but to move forward in a career transition or job search.
The following tips may help.
1. Build a support team. You need people you can ask for help, individually or as a team. This group might include friends, a therapist, a financial advisor, a career counselor and a spiritual guide.
2. Identify and resolve emergency issues first. You need to understand your finances before doing almost anything else.
3. If you have a job now, request as much flexibility as you can. You will have good days and bad days, making it important to “self-regulate” on the job, if possible. That is, on some days you will be perfectly capable of handling the most difficult tasks. But other days will find you with very little concentration or emotional fortitude. If you can't stay home, perhaps you can trade duties on those days.
4. Take a leave of absence if it's offered – but not too long. As hard as it is to return to work, you need to believe this: It will only get more difficult as time passes. Yes, there is such a thing as returning too quickly, but there is also a need to rebuild a sense of normalcy.
5. If you are unemployed now and need to find work, stabilizing your income takes precedence over finding the ideal job. One way to start is by reaching into your bucket of skills for the easiest work you can do without having to reinvent yourself. Perhaps you used to style hair or tend bar or run a daycare – can you revive that past career with a minimum of steps?
6. Keep a journal. While journals can keep us balanced emotionally, they can also be a future source of ideas we didn't know we were entertaining. By recording your thoughts now, you'll be leaving a trail that could help you make career decisions later.
7. As your finances and schedule stabilize, ease into making plans for your “real” work. Depending on personal circumstances, this plan could involve not putting so much energy into your career anymore, or it might mean finding a profession which absorbs you and fulfills dreams that you've been delaying. This is a good time to talk with a career advisor.
8. Create a timeline. Your career transition could take months or years, depending on factors such as retraining. Building a timeline with your career advisor's help will give you confidence that you're still on the path, particularly on days when you feel overwhelmed.
9. Keep going. “One foot in front of the other” is a cliché of course, but what choice do we really have? Rely on your support team and keep moving; a year from now, you’ll be glad you did.