Figure Out What's Next

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

career advancement career change cheryl lynch simpson coaching interview linkedin motivationfinder networking purposeful living self-assessment Sep 24, 2019
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by Cheryl Lynch Simpson

photo by rawpixel
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

Managing your career proactively requires you to have a big picture perspective of where you are in your work life, where you have been, and where you would like to go next. The Cycle of Career Change first expressed by Frederic Hudson in his best-selling book, The Adult Years this four-phase cycle can give you a picture of your career journey that can help you to plan your next life chapter more effectively.

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 outlined the remaining phases of change and a key decision point that most of us come to sooner or later in our work lives. In this last installment, I will suggest helpful tips for whichever season of change you are currently experiencing.

Graphic by Cheryl Lynch Simpson

If You Are Currently in Achieving

  • Maximize Your Performance: In the Achieving quadrant, it’s helpful to pay attention to any skill or activity that can help you to accomplish more. That may mean trying a new planner, taking a time management class, or finally building out a few Trello boards for yourself. Whatever apps, processes, or systems you put in place, make sure they help you to achieve in the ways that are most meaningful to you.
  • Craft a Personal or Professional Development Plan: As you are identifying your strengths and weaknesses and areas for improvement, it makes sense to build out a plan to help you develop yourself over time. This can be as simple as jotting down a few new skills you would like to learn, future certifications or education you would like to complete, or work-related experience you would like to acquire as you mature.
  • Develop a Long-Term Career Plan: While a personal or professional development plan may be focused on the short-term period of the next year or two, it’s also helpful to sketch out your plans for the next five, ten, or even 20 years. Keep in mind that the Cycle predicts that you won’t necessarily be able to execute your plan in its original form, so you will need to have fallback plans in mind if your career moves in an unexpected direction. But having preliminary ideas about your long-term goals will help you to accomplish them and keep them in mind when life throws you a curveball or two.

If You Are Currently at the Plateau

  • Take Stock of Your Circumstances: When the unexpected happens, it’s important to pause and think about what you need to take care of immediately. If you have just lost your job, for example, you may need to get email and phone numbers from colleagues you want to stay in touch with or take copies of your performance evaluations with you when you leave. If you have just received a scary diagnosis, you may need to speak with HR, your insurance company, and your financial planner.
  • Call a Time-Out: Once you get through the immediate aftermath of a career plateau, you may find that you are not ready to do any other planning or make any key decisions for a bit. This is perfectly normal. Giving yourself the gift of time to unwind, de-stress, and acclimate to your new reality is a healthy response to the chaos life sometimes serves up.
  • Put Supports in Place: Moving through a career plateau means you are headed into the Doldrums and a variety of unexpected experiences. When you are amid that much change, having a solid support structure can help. Who is on your “A-Team?” Who will have your back? What type of help will you need in the days and weeks ahead? How can you set yourself up to access that help when you need it most?

If You Are Currently in The Doldrums

  • To help you own your recent experiences, try taking inventory of the skills, credentials, and accomplishments you have realized during the time you spent in Achieving. Whether that period was a few months or decades, you have collected an enormous number of successes that are worthy of recognition and may help you to find the silver lining in your present circumstances.
  • One of the hallmarks of the Doldrums phase of change is the presence of intense emotions. No matter what you are feeling in this season of change, it’s vital to name it, own it, and find ways to express or address it safely. Journaling, counseling, and talking to wise friends can be helpful; each of these options deserves your consideration.
  • A fundamental life truth to learn is that we don’t have to like something to accept it. And you don’t have to like your new career circumstances to accept them. Acceptance doesn’t mean acquiescence, however. Instead, it means finding ways to make peace with your old workplace and the people you knew there. It may also mean reminding yourself of your inherent worth as a person and a professional and finding ways to reconnect with what matters most to you in life.

If You Are Currently at the Decision Point

  • A good old-fashioned pro and con list can be a helpful tool to employ when you find yourself trying to decide whether to keep heading in the same career direction or embark on a new path. Such a list can help you to catalog the challenges, benefits, and opportunities that may await you.
  • If you find yourself struggling to make your stay-the-course versus try-something-new decision, try consulting a Career Coach. She or he can help you to assess your interests, skills, and career options systematically. A Coach can also help you to gain awareness of career possibilities you didn’t know existed.
  • Regardless of which decision you make, you will need support as you navigate forward, so it makes sense to review the people and supports you have or need to help you embark on this next chapter in your work life. Do you need expert help with your career communications tools? Career, job search, or LinkedIn coaching? Interview practice? Networking tips?

If You Are Currently in Cocooning

  • Self-awareness is a crucial task in this phase of change, so try your hand at a self-assessment or two. Personality assessments, interest inventories, or a tool such as can be invaluable supports in helping you to reflect on your strengths and assets.
  • If you made a personal/professional development or career plan earlier in your work life, now is the time to revisit it and potentially revise it. Reflection is a critical skillset to practice in Cocooning, as is capturing your thoughts in a concrete plan or strategy.
  • Journaling can also be a powerful tool during a Cocooning season. Try writing about your career and life dreams, your fears, and your values. Clarifying your thoughts and feelings will help you to interrupt circular thinking and rumination.

If You Are Currently in Getting Ready

  • If your budget permits, Getting Ready is a great time to invest in learning new skills or earning new credentials. Whether you pursue self-guided study or formal education, adding onto your skills will undoubtedly pay off long-term.
  • If a job search is in your future, take some time to update your resume and LinkedIn profile with any recent changes in your career path, education, and volunteer work. Remember to complete all relevant sections of your LinkedIn profile since doing so will make yours 40% more likely to show up in candidate searches by recruiters and hiring managers.
  • As you look forward to transitioning back to Achievement, why not jot down a plan to help you prepare for that next phase of your work life. Do you already have access to all the resources you will need to begin your next chapter? If not, what do you need to get that chapter started on the right foot? Plan to succeed now or risk failing later.
  • Every phase of change in the Cycle has its own demands and opportunities. Embracing each phase from a proactive stance helps you to make the most of each chapter of your work life while also establishing a firm foundation on which to build whatever comes next for you.

Questions: So, what is next for you? Which season of change lies ahead for you, and what gifts might that season bring you?


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, visit her website.


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