Career Transition: A Checklist for Re-entry Success

By Laura Demarse

The news everyday imparts information into our lives about unemployment, lay offs, downsizing, and corporate restructuring. Take for example a company that seemed impervious to recession, Starbucks, which will close 600 locations across the country. An economic downturn is not unique to our culture alone, however how we process and support our displaced workers is. Going through the process of losing one's job can be a demoralizing experience, with many of our clients left feeling depressed and questioning their self-worth and value in our society.

The American experience places such a large value on our employability and job success.  We are a culture of worker bees, and rugged individualists, yet millions of people assume everyone experiences constant or continual employment throughout their lives. This uniquely American archetype is antiquated and we are in need of a new model that is representative of the current culture of work; where we are in and out of many jobs and careers across the lifespan. People are working longer and the concept of retirement is changing altogether as well.

The new model is non-linear. Non-linear refers to a career path which progresses in a more unconventional and less structured way. Instead of taking promotions and moving up, non-linear refers to taking lateral jobs, or switching careers and fields.

Suffering a job loss or career transition can often be a demoralizing experience with many of our clients feeling depressed and questioning their self-worth and value in our society.  Looking at a career transition through this lens, I've created a checklist to help address concerns and realities while taking a holistic view of this experience. This checklist is a tool to be used by the practitioner over the course of multiple sessions with the client, and not meant to be used in any order. It is my hope that this checklist is helpful in providing a process that integrates newer ideas that will supplement the re-entry experience.

  1. Stay connected: reach out to family members and friends. People that know you well often make the best professional resources. Ask for introductions to people that are employed in areas that are of interest to you. Meet for coffee and keep your inner circle informed about what you are doing or even consider starting a blog.  Recent studies have shown that most displaced workers experience a lack of contact with the communities where they live out of fear that they have nothing to offer. 
  2. Re-assess your skill-set with feedback from people that know you well.  What do they think you do well? You may not be aware of talents that are apparent to others. Additionally, what did you dislike doing in your last job, and conversely, what did you enjoy?  Journal about what you learned from this exercise. 
  3. Connect with the community where you live. Volunteering can be an excellent vehicle to stay connected, (job searching can be very isolating and solitary at times) make a contribution and meet new people. Just a few hours a week can make a big difference in your life and the lives of others.
  4. Participate in joyful and pleasurable activities in your leisure time. This is about treating the whole person and not just the symptom. Acknowledge and work with the other facets of your personality in order to facilitate a successful job search and career transition.
  5. Regularly spend time in nature. Take a long walk and commune with nature often.  It is important to connect with something that is larger then oneself, larger then your current employment transition. For instance, look at the giant sequoia trees that have been on earth for hundreds of years, and consider everything those trees have experienced.  They are still standing. Nature provides a needed connection and reassurance that things will improve, and that you will get through a trying time.
  6. Journal for at least 10 minutes every day on such topics like what makes your heart sing, and what excites you.  This can translate to finding a career you are passionate about. 
  7.  Consider taking an in-between job on a part-time or full-time basis to help cover expenses while you explore options. Working retail may give you health benefits while you take the time you need to get additional training or further explore what you want to do next.
  8. Develop hobbies and spend time every week enjoying them. For instance, knitting, wood carving or bird-watching are inexpensive and wonderful past times.
  9. Enjoy a weekend or weekday trip visiting a friend or relative. A change of scenery for a few days can be therapeutic and helpful for staying connected and may also spark new ideas.
  10. Don't give up; sometimes it comes down to dogged perseverance!  Understand that many people in the workplace have had a tough career transition along a non-linear career path to new ways of working.  It's really okay. 


As career counselors, we can provide the support and encouragement by using this checklist as a way to integrate new perspectives into the reentry process.

Laura Demarse, M.Ed., is a Career Services Coordinator with the College of Charleston's School of Business and Economics in Charleston, South Carolina.

Laura previously published "Framing Career Expectations in Graduating Seniors" in Career Convergence, May, 2007. Laura has her Masters in Counseling Psychology from Fordham University and is a 2008-2009 NCDA Leadership Academy inductee.

Please feel free to contact her at demarsel@cofc.edu or 843-953-4966

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