I just posted an interesting article on my Experience Matters Facebook page from the New York Times called “Feeling Stuck? Five Tips for Managing Life Transitions,” in which the author lays out his prescription for surviving what he calls “life quakes.” I have always looked for ways to use these life transitions to achieve personal growth.

Coming to Grips With Loss

It has made me think about how big transitions affected me and the lessons I have learned from my clients who have made significant career shifts. The early stages of a transition involve coping with loss. For example, in my divorce, it was losing my role as a couple and thinking of myself as “we.” In leaving the Federal Government for work in the non-profit world, it was the discomfort of discarding a professional identity that been mine since leaving school. Even giving up familiar rituals like a well-worn commute to work can set off alarm bells of disaster.

Reassessing New Possibilities

In every case, the early shock of change leads to an uneasy reassessment. What now? What is possible? How long do I have before I have to choose a new path? For executives, a change in position triggers concerns about financial support for children in college and significant mortgages. The pressure to make a quick move to a new job can often sabotage thoughtful reflection on what new work might bring the personal growth that leads to deep personal satisfaction.

In my own case, I continued raising money for non-profit organizations beyond the point where I had a deep affinity with their missions. At the end of these less satisfying assignments, I felt the need to do a top-to-bottom reassessment of how I wanted to spend my professional life. I wanted to combine my skills with a purpose that provided meaning.

My first instinct was to seek out career coaching. I found scant credible resources and realized that I needed intelligent, experienced, and empathic counseling. The career coaching field seemed crowded with young people who relied on standardized testing that yielded few results. I slowly began to realize that if I needed wise counsel, then others did as well. I also understood that my experience in the private, public and non-profit sectors could be useful to senior people who were less familiar. More importantly, I felt that helping people through confusing professional transitions would be a contribution worth making.

Committing to an Action Plan

The next stage beyond reassessment was to develop a plan and to take action. In my case, I had to research the practical requirements of career coaching, including getting a coach myself and becoming certified by the International Coach Federation. Moreover, I had to put together a successful coaching approach and take on the challenge of establishing a small business. During this stage, I was excited by new possibilities and unnerved by the uncertainty of success.

The key to managing the early action stage is persistence and openness to personal growth. That same determination has helped me to support over 550 clients in the last 15 years. So, any transition requires coming to grips with loss, a commitment to reassess new possibilities, the wisdom to develop a plan, and the courage to remain committed to its success despite uncertainty.

Things are changing quickly in our world, and we all face uncertainty, but your job satisfaction is essential. A career coach can help you through the process of managing a life transition.


Peter Sherer is a nationally recognized career coach who offers clarity and confidence to mid-career and senior executives in transition. His rigorous assessment tools enable his clients to identify a meaningful assignment that uses all of their skills and experience in just two short days. Learn more and get in touch with Peter today.