How to breathe through tough professional transitions

There’s just no getting around it: Transitions are hard.

Career transitions are lonely.

I remember this from my own days of job hunting after a layoff, trying to navigate the weird world of having no meetings to attend, no clients to please, no office to get to and from.

The camaraderie among teammates is gone, and often, the relationships you thought would last beyond the job evaporate.

I’ve had lots of conversations lately about the isolation and resignation that breed in times of professional change. Friends and clients have either left lucrative and promising careers due to burnout, or that decision has been made for them. Either way, they’re feeling a loss of connection and meaning—something they didn’t foresee, especially if they made the decision to leave themselves.

My advice? Breathe through it.

There’s just no getting around it: Transitions are hard. I’ve written about it many times before, and I talk about it on a near daily basis with those around me. Breathing through the discomfort by being mindful with your time and energy is the only way to make it just a bit more bearable. Resisting or ignoring the unease just means it’ll be waiting for you down the road. (Trust me on that one.)

Here are some ways to make it through.

Take one small step each day. This is likely the most important piece of advice I can offer if you’re going through a career change. Research a company you’d like to pursue, or pick a podcast about personal growth and dive in. I often ask clients to think about all of those things they used to lament not having time for when they were working: I wish I could ­­____, but I’m too busy. Be realistic, too—a job search is not a 9-to-5 process, and you’re setting yourself up for failure if you think it is. Dedicate a few hours each day to it, and you’ll make progress. Promise.

Reevaluate your board of directors. I wrote about establishing a personal board, or a team of people with specific roles to support your dreams and challenges, a few months back. I heard from many of you that it resonated. If you don’t have one yet and you’re navigating a professional transition, now’s a great time to start asking for encouragement and guidance. Have a board already? Take stock of who’s on it. Do you need to add someone new to help you find your next? Set up a coffee date, or even just a 15-minute call.

Redefine daily and weekly success. Many of the women I’ve talked to lately are struggling because they’re so used to winning at work. Without those clear goals and benchmarks, they feel lost. But one of the best parts of a transitional period is being able to decide on your own what success looks like. Take it slow in the beginning. Perhaps success means going for a morning run three times this week or updating your resume by Friday.

If you’re experiencing the loneliness of a career transition, know that while you may feel alone, you are not. Many of us have been there before, many others will be there eventually, and a whole bunch of you are there now. Just breathe. The only way out is through—and there may be an even better next on the other side.

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