Don’t Look Now, But You’re Already ‘In Transition’

Don’t Look Now, But You’re Already ‘In Transition’
Photo by Peter Cade/Getty Images

Did (or does) your mom send you newspaper clippings in the mail? Mine still does! The most recent was career transition-related article from The Wall Street Journal, You’re Already Moving Toward Your Next Career.


Here are a few takeaways from the piece, written by former USA Today Editor-in-Chief Joanne Lipman and sharing insights from her new book, Next! The Power of Reinvention in Life and Work. Lipman’s work debunks the notion of watershed transition moments and offers a more realistic and hopeful approach to a career pivot – whether you are looking for one or not.


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Already in Motion

Most career transitions tend to be the culmination of several small steps. Rather than a transactional event that takes place in the flick of a switch, most transitions are processes or journeys. This is good news because it suggests we are all perhaps closer to what’s next than we may realize.


When it comes to a career move, it might be a side hustle or hobby that evolves into your full-time job – even if you had not intended that when you started! The experiences in our lives – whether paid, volunteer, just-for-fun, or serendipitous – lead us to what is next.


Be open to the unexpected and pay attention to your hobbies, interests, and desires – they might just lead you to your “what’s next.”


[RELATED: You Got the Job! Now What?]


Some Pivots Aren’t Planned

Lipman highlights Will Brown, a 71-year-old cattle farmer and former 30-year Wall Street executive, who shares how he and his wife bought an affordable farmhouse away from New York City with no intention of raising livestock … and a promise to his wife that they would never own animals.


Brown eventually leased his land to a cattle farmer, and after 20 years of weekends helping, observing, and learning about cattle, he ended up buying the cows upon the farmer’s death. Now he is on his second career and up to his knees in cow dung!


While there were significant life changes along the way, Brown noted they’d happened in stages rather than a dramatic “I am leaving Wall Street to become a cattle farmer” moment. He is successful in the cattle business now because of his 20 years in unwitting “training” coupled with his business acumen from Wall Street.


Nonlinear Careers are the New Norm

The days of staying at one company for 30-plus years and leaving with a golden parachute or watch are long gone. It is much more common for people to have several jobs across various industries and no longer taboo to move around.


[RELATED: Ready for a Mentor? Check Out These Resources From MOAA]


Resist the urge to think you are wasting time or spinning your wheels because of your current job or career path to date. Rather, harness your experiences to reach your professional goals. Your past does not have to define your future when it comes to what’s next, but it can fuel it.


So, Relax: You Are Not Stuck

For those who might feel despair at work, I invite you to take hope in this perspective on career shifts. Instead of continuing to justify why you are where you are, and not where you want to be, shift your attention to the next small step – however insignificant it may seem.


But don’t be a bystander: Pick up the phone, send an email, make a new connection (or rekindle an old one), set up a meeting. Understand what is in your sphere of influence and control and do that one thing today, and then another tomorrow, etc. ... In time, you will progress toward your career goal.


For more on discerning your purpose and seeking a career transition, check out the upcoming Dare to Dream Workshop, a one-hour virtual gathering every Tuesday in June beginning at noon Eastern.


MOAA also offers a suite of transition services and resources, including webinars, workshops, LinkedIn profile reviews, résumé critiques, and career counseling/coaching. Check out the MOAA Events page to enroll in 2023 offerings.


Download Marketing Yourself for a Second Career


Newly updated! Learn what you can do to prepare yourself for a successful transition from military career to civilian career. This handbook shows you how to create an attention-getting resume, cover letter, and more. Get tips on self-marketing, job search, interviews, and interviewing. (Available to Premium and Life members)

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About the Author

Cmdr. Erin Cardinal, USN (Ret), ACC, CPC
Cmdr. Erin Cardinal, USN (Ret), ACC, CPC

Cardinal is MOAA's Program Director, Transition Services & Family Programs. She is a Certified Professional Coach (CPC) and has extensive experience in coaching servicemembers through their transition from active duty to the civilian sector.