Figure Out What's Next

Where in the World is Waldo (Your Career)? Part 2 of 3

back to school career change cheryl lynch simpson linkedin purposeful living resume Sep 23, 2019
cocoons and butterflys

by Cheryl Lynch Simpson

photo by GLady 

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 4 Phases of Career Change and How to Navigate Them

We all know that change is inevitable. What we don’t always know is where we are in the process of change or what to do about it. The Cycle of Career Change first expressed by Frederic Hudson in his best-selling book, The Adult Years can give you a picture of where you are in your work life, where you’ve been, and where you’d like to go next.

The Cycle of Career Change

In the first part of this three-part blog post series, I described two critical phases of change, along with two important milestones to recognize. In part 2 of this post, I will give you a peek into the remaining phases of change, and in the last installment, I will suggest helpful tips for whichever season of change you are currently experiencing.

As a reminder, here is the Cycle of Career Change and its primary components. Last time I talked about the top half of the Cycle; this time I’d like to focus on the bottom half.

Graphic by Cheryl Lynch Simpson 

If You Are at the Decision Point

Once you move through The Doldrums (which I described in my last post), you will find yourself facing a choice: Should you stay on the path you have been on career-wise or move in a different direction?

If you elect to stay the course, you will choose a series of actions that will probably attempt to return you to Achieving as quickly as possible. If you got laid off, you may decide to look for another job like the one you just had. If you lost out on a promotion, you may decide that it’s time to leave the company. If you are going through a divorce, you may discover that you need to move or seek out a different role with your same firm. These achievement-driven career decisions represent a shortcut through The Cycle of Career Change that keeps your work life moving in roughly the same direction it was before you reached the plateau.

Sometimes, though, you find that you just can’t bring yourself to stay on the same path. You may crave a change that moves your work life in a new direction, whether that’s a pivot into another industry or a more significant career shift that requires deeper thought and thorough planning. If you elect to move in a new direction, you will head straight into Cocooning so you can incubate the next chapter of your work life.

If You Are in Cocooning

Once life propels you into this phase of change, you will find yourself downshifting. Your energy level may decline, and you may lose interest in familiar people, places, and things. You may withdraw from organizations and activities or stop doing hobbies that used to engage you. You may need to sleep more, or you may feel compelled to spring clean, reorganize, and reflect. You may let go of a lot of things or choose to spend more time by yourself. You may even opt out of work for a while or find yourself dealing with a challenging illness or injury that keeps you on the sidelines for a bit. Or, perhaps you plan a sabbatical and use that time to redirect your course.

Like winter, cocooning offers you the gift of hibernation. It gives you time, space, and energy to reinvent your career and your identity. Cocooning enables you to transform who you are and how you engage with the world, but it doesn’t usually give you clear-cut clarity about your new career direction until just before you emerge or after you embark on the next chapter: Getting Ready.

If You Are in Getting Ready

Once you have given yourself permission to remake your work life, you will move into a phase of spring-like change that resembles the planting season. You will sow lots of seeds, explore lots of possibilities, and invest time and energy in activities and actions designed to prepare you to achieve once again. Getting Ready is often about going back to school, finishing that degree, earning a new credential, or revamping your resume and LinkedIn profile so you can embark on a job hunt for the next chapter of your career.

While Getting Ready is an active phase of change, it tends to be less driven than Achieving. It is exploratory by nature, and, as such, may have an unfinished quality about it. Early on in this phase of change, you may not even know what you are preparing for – you just know that something is coming your way that is different. As you move through Getting Ready, though, you will become more and more clear about what’s next for you and soon enough will find yourself leaping back into Achieving, at which point the Cycle starts all over again.

Where Are You Now?

Take some time to review the Cycle diagram and, if needed, reread the descriptions of all four phases. Which phase of the Cycle are you in now?

Determining this is sometimes straightforward, if, say, you are in the Doldrums after a layoff. At other times, though, it can be challenging to identify where you are, especially if you are in the Doldrums or Cocooning. The early part of the latter phase looks and feels a lot like the former. And if you are preparing to leave Cocooning and head into Getting Ready, you may also find yourself confused. Folks in this part of the Cycle often remark that one day they feel a need to withdraw from the world and the next they feel compelled to make plans and move on.

Whether you think about what your work life is like right this moment or reflect on what your career journey has been like in the last few months or years, you will probably be able to clarify which phase seems to match your current circumstances.

Questions: Which season of change best captures where you are? Which season describes where you have been in recent months or years? And which season best personifies what you believe you are headed toward next?


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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