What is career transition really all about?

Organisational Change
Paul Slezak

The other day I received a text message from a friend of mine who is the CEO of a mid-size company. He wanted to let me know that he’d just made a few positions redundant and had given my email address and mobile number to the three impacted employees because he’s always considered me to be an expert career coach.

When I read the text, I felt like replying that he really should have asked me to be there with him when he delivered the news as I could have met with them immediately. But it was too late so I simply I thanked him and told him I would do whatever I could to help his people.

That night I received another text, this time from Kristen, one of the team members who had been laid off, telling me that she’d got my number from Eric who had told her she should meet with me and that I would definitely be able to get her a new job.

Woah … talk about slightly misaligned expectations! I chose not to get into semantics over text but set up a time for us to connect over Zoom the following afternoon.

The next morning Kristen emailed me a copy of her CV telling me that she was really looking forward to meeting me, but if I had any clients looking for someone with her background and skillset, that I shouldn’t hesitate to share her details in the meantime.

Kristen clearly thought I was a recruiter.

Now, whilst I was in the recruitment game for over 25 years, I’m certainly not a recruiter anymore. And more importantly, there is a big difference between a recruiter and a career coach – particularly when helping someone move on following a redundancy.

For someone who had just been laid off after just shy of two years in a pretty intense role, Kristen appeared very bubbly on the Zoom screen.

“Do you think any of your clients might be able to meet me this week?”, she asked, before I’d even had a chance to introduce myself properly.

It was now or never.

I ripped the band aid off and explained that she wasn’t talking to a recruiter; that this wasn’t an interview; but the first session in a three-part career transition program that Eric had arranged given my background.

Her bubbly demeanour quickly turned into shock. I couldn’t tell if she was angry, terrified, or upset, but she was clearly lost for words.

“So, what’s this all about then?”, she asked. “Eric said you’d been a recruiter for 30 years or something, and that you’d be able to get me a new job really quickly”.

I explained what this first meeting was all about, and what is actually involved in a career transition program, and by the end of our first session, she was very appreciative for the guidance I provided, even though there was no mention at all of interviews or job prospects.

Kristen is certainly not the first person to take part in an outplacement or career transition program to have absolutely no idea what is involved.  

It’s essential for anyone whose role is made redundant and who is offered the opportunity to meet with a career coach to be well briefed and given the context for exactly what to expect.

This means that not only should the impacted employees understand the process; more importantly the HR representatives, line managers, CEOs (as in Eric’s case), and anyone else involved in the organisational restructure should be able to clearly articulate exactly what outplacement is all about and what to anticipate when meeting with an experienced career coach.

Unless you’ve personally been impacted by an organisational restructure, had your position

made redundant or been retrenched (however you might choose to frame your narrative

around being let go), it’s impossible to truly appreciate the emotional roller coaster that

takes place.  After all, for the person doing the ‘letting go’, once the conversation is had, as clinical as it may sound, life goes on. Whilst it can be an extremely challenging discussion, once it’s over, for most people it’s pretty much business as usual.  

However, for the person being let go, it’s a completely different story. The next morning, while all their colleagues are waking up and getting on with just another normal day, suddenly they find themselves “in a parallel universe”, “in some weird twilight zone”, or “trapped in a kind of limbo vortex”. These are all phrases that participants have used when first sitting down with me as they’ve embarked on their journey following a redundancy.

So, what exactly is involved in career transition? And what should someone expect from an outplacement or career transition program?

The primary focus for any experienced career coach is to provide individualised support tailored to the impacted employee’s unique skills, goals, and aspirations. From many years’ personal experience in this space, we work together to help candidates navigate what can often be a psychologically difficult transition, identifying opportunities for growth, and helping them develop a personalised plan for their career journey.  

This is a chance for self-discovery and empowerment. We delve into the candidate’s strengths, interests, and values, uncovering the path that aligns with their professional goals. We explore and enhance the candidate’s skill set. Whether it’s updating technical skills or honing soft skills, we help the candidate become more marketable in today’s competitive job landscape.  

Kristen had never crafted an elevator pitch. Nor had she ever been asked to articulate her own USP (unique selling proposition). As we worked through these together, I could sense that she appreciated the value I was bringing despite still no mention of potential interviews.

The career transition specialist has one objective: to empower the impacted employee to take charge of their career destiny.

Needless to say, career transition isn’t just about the practical aspects; it’s also about emotional resilience. We provide the tools and support to help impacted employees manage the emotional challenges that come with change, ensuring they are well-equipped for the journey ahead.

For example (and not that this was the case with Kristen), but often the role of the career coach is to ensure that any remorse, defensiveness, bitterness, or discontentment does not manifest during an interview with a recruiter or a potential new employer. Our role is to also prevent self-sabotage or other career limiting thoughts. Whilst it might be hard to negotiate from a position of weakness, we help those who have been laid off refocus and shift their mindset.

Networking is a key strategic tool when it comes to any job search. Of course, we will guide candidates on building meaningful connections, leveraging their network, and making a lasting impression in the professional community to open doors to new opportunities. Kristen was very pleased to hear this, even if we’d realistically only get to it in our third coaching session together.

It's important to note that the specific services offered can vary among different outplacement providers or specific career coaches.  

Individual experiences will also vary, and the effectiveness of the support will depend on the impacted employee’s engagement and commitment to the process.

While a career transition coach focuses on the individual’s empowerment, personal growth, and tailored support, the HR, line manager’s, or CEO’s perspective will more likely emphasise the organisational context, practical assistance, and the structured process in place to facilitate a smooth transition for impacted employees (while at the same time ensuring the employer brand remains intact). Both perspectives aim to convey a sense of support and assistance during the challenging period of career transition.

Remember, at JobAccelerator we help outplaced employees land their next role faster with our on-demand job search portal that serves personalised, high quality and curated content, coupled with guidance from expert career coaches.