Figure Out What's Next

Where in the World is Waldo (Your Career)? Part 1 of 3

back to work career advancement career change cheryl lynch simpson purposeful living unemployment Sep 11, 2019

by Cheryl Lynch Simpson

photo by Yifei Chen 

Have you ever had your best-laid career plans derailed? Or wondered why you are fantasizing about a career change? Or found yourself dealing with the consequences of the poor judgment of your employer? If so, you glimpsed a portion of The Cycle of Career Change.

The Cycle of Career Change

The Cycle is a version of the change process first expressed by Frederic Hudson in his best-selling book, The Adult Years. It details the spiral journey you take through life as you move into and through different phases of change that sometimes seem to have a mind of their own.

The Cycle of Career Change offers a valuable big-picture perspective of where you have been, where you are, and what direction you are heading. It enables you to rise above the circumstances of your life now and then and navigate forward more proactively.

In part 2 of this post, you will get a peek into the remaining phases of change.

And in part 3 I will suggest homework you might want to consider once you identify which season of change you are currently experiencing.

First, take a gander at the Cycle of Career Change and its primary components. I will explain the top half of the Cycle below.

Graphic by Cheryl Lynch Simpson 

If You Are in Achieving

If your career is in the Achieving phase of change, you will probably feel at home. This is a relatively easy place to be because it feels natural. This high-energy phase is full of possibilities and gives you ample growth and opportunities to learn and accomplish new things. This phase is often so busy that you can pass decades immersed in the business of achievement without noticing the years going by ever more quickly.

Like summer, Achieving is a quadrant of action and activity. You make plans and execute them, you strive toward goals, and you climb toward a pinnacle of success. Whether you earn promotions or are recruited to new roles, you find yourself enjoying this phase of your career immensely. After all, this is what you worked and hoped for, and now it lays within your grasp. You might spend a decade or more in Achieving, but sooner or later, something unexpected will happen, which will throw a monkey wrench into your plans. Welcome to the Plateau.

If You Are at the Plateau

Like the real-life version, a career plateau is a high point beyond which your career does not develop (for the time being). A plateau often looks like an external shock or unexpected event (the 2008 global economic meltdown; a layoff; a reorganization), an internal surprise (a loss of interest in your work; a negative medical diagnosis for you or someone you care about), or a life transition (marriage/divorce; a job search; a promotion). While many plateaus are negative, some are positive, but they always inject an element of chaos to your work life, which creates unintended consequences.

You don’t tend to remain on the plateau long, but quickly find yourself immersed in the next season, The Doldrums. At first, this new career season may appear inviting like autumn, but after a while you discover that the plateau’s consequences are causing you some figurative and literal grief.

If You Are in The Doldrums

Whether your employer is reorganizing or you just got laid off, whether you lost out on a promotion or are feeling burnt out, or whether you no longer want to work in your current role or for your current company, The Doldrums is a tough place to be. As with the five stages of loss made famous by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, you will likely find yourself feeling denial, anger, bargaining, depression, or acceptance as you move through this career phase, though not necessarily in that order or in equal measure.

After the early excitement of autumn dies down, you may find yourself mired in negative changes you may not like. For example, you may have to say goodbye to colleagues you care about and have worked with for many years. Or, you may discover that the promotion you just landed isn’t what you thought it would be. You may find it challenging to be pushed back into the labor market or demoted on your job due to corporate downsizing. But whether you are aware of it or not, the purpose of The Doldrums is to work through the stages of loss and learn to accept this new career reality that you might not have chosen for yourself.

That acceptance signals your readiness to make a critical decision. We will dive into the rest of these change phases in part 2 of this post series.

Question: Which phase of the Cycle do you suspect you are in? What’s that like for you so far?


About Cheryl Lynch Simpson

Cheryl writes and speaks about: Career Management, Job Search, LinkedIn, Resume Writing, Personal Branding, Interviewing, Salary Negotiations

Cheryl is a Career, Job Search, Interview & LinkedIn Coach and Master Resume Writer who has helped thousands of professionals representing more than 35 industries and spanning 6 continents. She has earned 24 global resume writing nominations and awards.

Recognized as a career management expert in,, Money Magazine, and, her work has been published in 5 resume books. Cheryl is also a Transition Coach with RiseSmart, an award-winning outplacement firm.

To find out more about Cheryl Lynch Simpson or to read her BrandYou Blog, go to her website.


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