Preparing for a Career Transition

September 09, 2018 in Change
by Dr. Irma Campos

If you are transitioning in your career, you are likely energized but also overwhelmed by various factors. There are numerous unknown variables, like the new work environment you will experience. However, there are specific steps you can take to better manage this transition. Based on research and my professional experience, these are a few strategies that tend to help individuals effectively transition.

First, set realistic expectations for your new role and workplace environment. In the initial stages of a career transition, it is common to have high, unrealistic expectations. But in order for you to successfully transition, a research study by Bauer and Erdogan in 2011 supported that having accurate information is critical. This information can be acquired during the job search process, interview, and even as you begin the position. For example, you can ask to speak to someone in a similar position about your role or the organizational culture.

Next, I recommend seeking appropriate training in both an area of strength and growth relevant to your new
position - this suggestion is based on a well-regarded research paper by Saks from 1995. You probably have
transferable skills (or skills that you have developed elsewhere that can be applied in this role). But how they are applied in this role may be different. Identify one skill that you are doing well that will further help in your new position. And identify one skill that you are not doing well and should improve upon. Then, set specific goals for each skill that will help you. In order to be effective, the goals should be challenging yet realistic, which comes from theory and research studies by Lent, Brown, and Hacket from 2002 and beyond.

Additionally, although engagement in your work is generally helpful, it is especially important during a transition. As an example, it is helpful to volunteer for and fully complete additional tasks. It is important to not commit more than what you can deliver, but when possible, try to go beyond your role expectations. This can help you integrate better into the organization and establish a positive relationship with your supervisor. One research study conducted by Allen in 2006 found that this predicts positive outcomes, such as increased job satisfaction.

Lastly, seeking appropriate support can help you navigate this transition. You may seek support from a trusted advisor or former mentor. In addition, if you are still exploring your options or simply want a professional, unbiased perspective, career counseling, career coaching, or executive coaching from a trained professional can help. By effectively navigating a career transition, you can increase your productivity, job satisfaction, and overall life satisfaction.


Allen, D. (2006). Do organizational socialization tactics influence newcomer embeddedness and turnover? Journal of Management, 32, 237-256.

Bauer, T. N., & Erdogan, B. (2011). Organizational socialization: The effective onboarding of new employees. In Zedeck, S (Ed), APA handbook of industrial and organizational psychology, Volume 3. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Lent, R.W., Brown, S.D., & Hackett, G. (2002). Social cognitive career theory (pp. 255-311). In D. Brown, L. Brooks, and Associates, Career choice and development (4th Ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Saks, A. M. (1995). Longitudinal field investigation of the moderating and mediating effects of self-efficacy on the relationship between training and newcomer adjustment. Journal of Applied Psychology, 80, 211-225.

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