Career Transition #3

Beginnings (Where You Must Decide to Start)

Several years ago, career researcher Herminia Ibarra from the London Business School wrote a fascinating article in the Harvard Business Review about unconventional strategies for career transitions. Her first point might be the most important one:

“Act your way into a new way of thinking and being. You cannot discover yourself by introspection. Start by changing what you do. Try different paths. Take action, and then use the feedback from your actions to figure out what you think, feel, and want. Don’t try to analyse or plan your way into a new career.

Judean Desert © Leon Mauldin

Conventional strategies advocated by self-assessment manuals and traditional career counsellors would have you start by looking inside. Start instead by stepping out. Be attentive to what each step teaches you, and make sure that each step helps you take the next.”

Obviously, that doesn’t mean to drop everything and start something completely new right away. When it was clear that I wanted to be professionally more involved with research (which I anyway had done in several ways during my different jobs), I approached one of my former professors about a research project on professional career tracks – linked with my interest and current profession (HR) but at the same time teaching me a lot for the bigger leap that was to follow.

And even this one was temporary, as my new advisor insisted on a four-month try-out project before approaching the PhD research.

In social science there is a research approach called “Participatory Action Research” – and while I definitely don’t want to label our current lifestyle in such an ambitious way, let’s at least hope that the challenges as well as the excitement that we experience will eventually serve a higher purpose – for my own “good” career as well as people around me. To some extent, I’m a weird outsider in our Research Group, much older and with a rather unusual background – but all this enables me to do projects in a way that nobody else here could do.

Taking the Next Step

This is just one example of a “good” career transition (that is still ongoing). There is another stirring somewhere inside of you. It is up to you to live it. I hope you will.