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Creating Successful Leaders

Category Archives: Transitions

Are you one of several million people who has recently left your job? Or, are you thinking about making a career change? Or are you, perhaps, hoping to switch roles or responsibilities in your current workplace? Whatever the case, it’s crucial to start thinking about and preparing for the transition ahead. Smooth transitions are usually not accidental. They take a good deal of reflection, forethought, strategy, and adaptability. Today, I’d like to discuss three keys to a successful transition.

Before we dig in, I need to give credit where credit is due. Dr. Jean Davidson, an experienced coach and consultant, is the originator of the “Three Keys” concept. She founded Davidson Consulting and Coaching in 2004, and has helped many individuals and teams step into the best versions of themselves. Dr. Davidson’s eBook, 3 Keys to Finding Hidden Treasures in a Difficult Transition, discusses transitions from a unique angle, and in this blog post I’m going to paraphrase some of that information. (If you find this information helpful, I highly encourage you to download Dr. Davidson’s complimentary eBook from her website!)

Let’s dig in to the “3 Keys.”

1. Notice where you are in the journey

There is power in observation. It pays to slow down, reflect, and think about where you are in your transition journey. Do you think you’re close to the beginning of your journey? Toward the end? Or somewhere in the middle? What roadblocks are you facing now, and which ones do you anticipate in the future?

This intentional reflecting is important, as it helps us identify our current state, where we’d like to go, and what might be standing in the way of us getting there.

2. Look for treasures and use them

Though you might not realize it in the moment, there are valuable lessons to be learned during a transition. Oftentimes, we’re too busy trying to get through the transition that we don’t absorb the life lessons and wisdom we gain from experiencing it. And this attitude makes sense—transitions can be difficult and uncomfortable. The last thing most of us want to do is dwell on them!

But that’s precisely where you’ll find the lessons, the “treasures,” buried in the folds of uncertainty and stress. What types of lessons?

Perhaps you’ve learned about your personal resiliency. Maybe you’ve shifted to a career that pays less but grants you more time off, thus teaching you how to appreciate personal time. Or maybe your transition has taught you something about your support network—those important family members and friends who have your back (and, conversely, maybe you’ve learned who doesn’t have your back and who you might need to distance yourself from).

All of these lessons are true treasures. We simply have to look for them. (Dr. Davidson goes into more detail on how to do this in her eBook.)

3. Identify what to let go of

As you move forward in your transition journey, you will likely discover that some things no longer serve you. Some of your habits, tendencies, attitudes, or even relationships may no longer fit into this new chapter of your life. Reflect on your new path forward and consider what you need to leave behind. Some of your decisions about what to reject might be relatively easy (ditching your habit of overworking, for instance, or ridding yourself of the tendency to be too much of a people pleaser). But other decisions may be more difficult (Do you let go of that harmful friendship, or do you attempt to repair it? Are you really ready to put an end to certain bad habits?).

I challenge you to be frank and honest with yourself. What do you need, going forward? And what will inhibit your progress or, worse, drag you back to square one? Cut the things from your life that will only weigh you down—the self-expectations, the harmful relationships, the toxic beliefs, the bad habits.

After you determine what to let go of in your life, follow through! Make a plan for how to rid yourself of these things and take action. Communication and honesty will go a long way in this process.

Transitions can be tough, but they can also open new doors and provide an opportunity for you to reinvent or rejuvenate yourself. Take your time, learn from your journey, and let go of anything that is harmful or holding you back. Walk forward on your new path with clarity and confidence.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE. 

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Business woman and building

One of the sad and disappointing effects of the COVID pandemic (aside from the tragic loss of life) is that a disproportionate number of women have had to leave their jobs, either temporarily or permanently. Time Magazine reports, “Between August and September, 865,000 women dropped out of the labor force, according to a National Women’s Law Center analysis of the Bureau of Labor Statistics September jobs report. In the same time period, just 216,000 men exited the workforce.”

Why is this happening?

It could be any number of reasons. For one, industries that are female-dominated (education, service industry jobs, child care, etc.) have been hardest hit by the pandemic. Also, due to at-home schooling and daycare centers shutting their doors, there’s becoming a greater need for parents to stay home with children. And, guess what? The lowest wage earner is inevitably the one who will stay home, which is typically the woman (As of 2020 women make an average of $.81 for every $1.00 a man brings in).

We can’t solve the gender pay gap in one blog post. Nor can we give women all the safety nets they need (affordable childcare, paid maternity leave, etc.). However, we CAN focus on one key question to attempt to turn around this grim situation:

How can women re-enter the workforce once they are able to come back?

I’ll be frank. Once you leave the workforce for an extended period of time, the cards are stacked against you. Resume gaps never look good, and you may fall behind on industry advancements and new skillsets. However, there ARE a few steps you can take to make yourself a more enticing candidate to future employers. Here are four steps you can take:

1. Never Stop Working

This may sound counter-intuitive, but it IS possible to avoid resume gaps by doing very part-time work at home. If you’re a graphic designer, for instance, you might take on the occasional freelance project. If you’re a writer, you could volunteer for your neighborhood newspaper. If you specialize in social media marketing, you could put in some hours volunteering for a friend’s business. If you have a finance background, you could consider becoming a virtual financial assistant (typically a very part-time gig).

Yes, not every job is conducive to part-time, at-home work. If you used to work in healthcare, for instance, you can’t exactly care for patients in your free time at home! Instead, consider volunteering in a relevant area or skip ahead to tip #2:

2. Stay Relevant

When you leave a job, it’s a good idea to keep tabs on your industry and refresh your skills, when you can. Sign up for newsletters, read articles, or listen to podcasts related to your industry.

If you have the time and bandwidth, consider taking an online class or pursuing relevant certification. You might even connect with a local college or university to see if they’re offering any useful classes for people who are not full-time students.

3. Network

Never stop networking. According to Diane Flynn, co-founder and CEO of Reboot Accel, “About 85 percent of women returning to work find jobs through their network.”

Even if you’re temporarily working as a homemaker, you can still continue to keep in touch with your network. Send the occasional email or LinkedIn message to former co-workers, join an online women’s networking group, or check out Toastmasters.

Once you’re ready to start looking for work again, don’t be afraid to make your job hunt public. Post about it on social media, send emails to friends who could possibly assist you, and drop your former co-workers a line. You never know who might say, “Yes! I know of a job opening that would suit you perfectly!”

4. Tap Into Resources

Believe it or not, there’s an entire industry set up to help people re-enter the workplace after a long break. Firms such as iRelaunch or companies offering reentry programs (sometimes called “returnships”) are actively seeking to hire people who have been out of a job for an extended period of time.

You might also contact your alma mater’s career center for guidance or work with a career coach who specializes in worker reentry.

5. Don’t Sell Yourself Short

If you are trying to re-enter the workforce after a significant break, there is absolutely no need to feel shame or embarrassment. Push those feelings aside and concentrate on your enthusiasm and your relevant skills and expertise. Demonstrate that you are ready to hit the ground running and willing to put in the legwork to do the best work possible.

If an interviewer asks about a gap on your resume, don’t shy away from the question. Instead, be honest! Tell them you had to temporarily stay home to care for your school-aged children, but you’re now ready, enthusiastic, and as prepared to work.

Remember: Your volunteering experience, memberships, and online classes/certifications count! If, for example, you sat on the PTA or organized an annual fundraiser for your church, be sure to tout that experience and demonstrate its relevance. For example:

“For three years I spearheaded my church’s annual walk to end hunger fundraiser. As chair of the committee, I was in charge of 30 volunteers, organized all the event logistics, and tracked over $10,000 in donations.”

In sum: Don’t sell yourself or your experience short!

Re-entering the workforce after an extended break is often not an easy task. However, with a little foresight, some planning, and the tenacity to seek resources and lean on your network, you CAN make a successful workplace reentry. The right job is waiting for you; be bold enough to seek it out and seize it!


MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Child fire fighters
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

When you were young, people probably often asked you the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Now that you HAVE grown up, do you know the answer?

It’s okay if you don’t! It’s completely normal (and healthy) to continuously grow and change throughout the years. As our circumstances and outlook change, we might find ourselves yearning to try something new or walk down a different path. We may feel the need to modify our career aspirations, health goals, or personal ambitions.

Writer Kirra Sherman says, “There is a rich and deep aliveness that comes from following your heart, in acting on what you love despite any limitations or fears of the unknown.

If you sense that it’s time to make a change (no matter how big or small!), I encourage you to quietly sit with that thought for a while.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is holding me back?
  • What aspects of my life are no longer working for me?
  • What are my big, pie-in-the-sky goals?
  • When I envision my ideal future, what do I see?
  • When I think about the year ahead, how would I like it to go?

Jot down your thoughts–whatever comes to mind. Though they are by no means THE ultimate guide, these questions can help you pinpoint A) What is causing you dissatisfaction in your life right now and B) How you might course-correct and start working toward a better, brighter future.

Of course, these are not light questions by any means. Additionally, you may have difficulty nailing down exactly what is bothering you with your job/lifestyle/habits. If that’s the case, I urge you to get in touch with a career coach (I usually offer a complimentary 30-minute session, if you’d like to see if we’re a good match) or do a little more independent research to help you clarify your path.

It is possible you’ll discover that you feel quite lost and are floundering on where you want to go and who you want to be. If that’s the case, you may want to check out a science-based personal assessment tool such as StrengthsFinder or Insights Discovery. These tools can give you a starting point to begin the next steps in your life journey. Don’t underestimate the power of a little science-based guidance!

If, however, you have a good idea of where you’d like to go and what you’d like to become, it’s time to sit down and strategize. What steps do you need to take to reach your goals? What changes do you need to make? What sacrifices? Should you work with a coach or an accountability partner to help you get there?

As we tiptoe toward the new year, it’s the perfect time to pause and assess your life’s path. If you’re not satisfied with where you’re heading, it’s probably time to make some changes. Remember, you don’t have to do it alone. Plenty of coaches, therapists, support communities, and even family members are able and willing to help. Dare to take the first steps to carve out a better future!


MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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