Career transition 101: but first, mindset

By Allison Lockett

Career transition can mean a lot of things. In my coaching practice, I see a lot of people yearning for change, fully capable of making it happen, but fearful of what it could actually mean for their lives. Before you search for job postings, dust off your resume, or buy a new bag, here’s the process I take clients through to strengthen their mindset and move forward with confidence:

But first… Let’s define career transition 

You’re in career transition if you’re considering a significant change to the “what” and “how” of your work life. Some examples: leaving paid work, re-entering paid work, changing industries, changing paths (example: toward/away from leadership track), or changing the way you work (for example, reducing your schedule, or working mostly from home).

Ask yourself “Why?” 

The first thing you want to do is look in the mirror, hard. Maybe you’ve been thinking about a career transition for a while because things have changed in your life (example: enter, motherhood). But motherhood is not the reason you’re looking to transition your career. Go deeper. What expectations (yours or others) are at play? What are you truly looking to achieve with this transition? What about your current work situation is in-congruent with what you truly want? Write it down, challenge it, explore it.

Play it out

Often we feel the pull toward a career transition when things feel unmanageable (or downright chaotic). Even though the future is unknowable, it can be really helpful to step back and consider what life will look like in one, three, seven years, and beyond. It can be helpful to talk to someone who’s a few years ahead of you to get perspective. Career transitions come with knock-on effects: time, stress, personal development, health, finances, legacy. Imagine your future if you stay the course you’re on, and if you make a change, recognizing that nothing you decide today needs to be permanent.

Do some research 

If you know what you want at this point, you’re a step ahead! Now: does it exist? I’m not saying you can’t make a new thing happen (example: being a partner in a Bay Street law firm who works fifteen hours per week from home, or, being the first person at your company to move to a flexible schedule), but you want to know whether there is precedent (and how much) so you can know what type of mountain you’re taking on. Find out what’s available in terms of the career you want, and if the answer is “nothing yet”, gauge your energy level and desire to blaze that trail.

Get support 

Do you have one or more people in your life who can hold space for you as you explore this potential transition? Who are open to listening, sharing moral support and have guidance and practical advice to share with you? Who will keep you accountable to your goals and remind you why you’re in this? This makes a difference. Now is a good time to mention our next Accountability Group exclusively for tellent members in career transition, which starts in October. Find out more here

Be recklessly optimistic

I can’t write a piece about mindset without sharing the most important truth about mindset: you need a positive one. Full stop. If you are focused on how your plans aren’t going to work, or the judgment you’re going to encounter, or how your employer (and all employers) don’t have your back, you’re in the wrong mindset to make a successful career transition happen. This is simple, but it’s not easy. If you’re not feeling recklessly optimistic about your career transition, come join the accountability group and I will personally help you with that 🙂 We start in October.

Allison Lockett is the founder of Stand On Your Head, a career coaching and advisory practice with a mission to help people find and excel at the work they were made for. Allison leads the tellent community’s coaching programs. Learn more at