Screen Shot 2018-06-08 at 5.01.21 PM.png

creativity column

Navigating the challenges of a career change.


The prospect of a brand new year will begin to loom large in our minds in the coming weeks. That reflective time of year after the holiday festivities are over when many people take an introspective look at the state of their lives. It could be financial, personal or professional. One of the topics that always leaps to the fore, for many people, is their current employment situation. Deciding whether or not you’re ready to try a career pivot and begin the search for a new challenge is often a critical first step.

Even after the decision is made to explore a change, many are reluctant as to how to go about doing it. Barbara Berger, Owner/Founder of Career Wellness Partners, a career coaching and employee career management firm based in Allentown, understands these challenges very well. “Work is an expression of who we are. At best, work is an extension of our genuine selves. At worst, it is a fake costume we put on every day that can become so heavy that the stress ripples out to all areas of our lives,” Berger cautioned.

Berger started Career Wellness Partners because she was always fascinated by people’s career stories and since she worked as a hiring manager who interviewed candidates all day, it fueled her curiosity about how wellness at work affects welfare overall. She understood the hiring side, but she wanted to immerse herself in helping people align themselves with their next career steps.

“I provide the motivation, support, and accountability for taking those crucial next steps. I also evaluate the term “career” and create their definition of career wellness. If “career” to someone means caring for loved ones or volunteer work, and to another, it means being a CEO, or anything in between, I can help them get clear on defining what provides meaningful contribution and value against their scale, accepting that, and moving from there.” Berger added.

The reasons people often switch jobs can be varied, however, most people who voluntarily leave companies don’t necessarily leave because of money. A recent Gallup poll found that 32% leave for career advancement/promotional opportunities. Also, employees with a high confidence level in their company’s senior leadership are five times as likely to remain with their employer compared to employees with no confidence.

To Berger, employee retention not only saves the company time and money, but employees that are engaged are more productive and happier. “When companies are committed to helping employees understand their strengths and motivators and offer opportunities like job shadowing, or project participation outside of the employee’s normal scope, it shows commitment to employee career development, and it has lasting effects,” stressed Berger.

English entrepreneur and Virgin Atlantic CEO, Richard Branson agrees. "Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough, so they won’t want to.” So while every year January seems to struggle out of the gate, things will pick up steam as people come back from holiday time-off and begin their year in earnest. Hiring Managers often look for exact fits for positions which can make it challenging for career changers. The length of a job search could be two weeks or it could be a year or more. There are many factors to consider including how proactive the job seeker is, to how significant the shift, to the level of seniority and more. Berger advises career changers to be realistic about their time-line and financial reserves.

Career transition coaches understand the ebbs and flows of a job search, and they can be vital in helping you narrow your search criteria, keep you positive and focused if things don’t go as planned. With unemployment holding steady at 3.7%, employers are going to have to find more creative ways to stop their best employees from seeking greener pastures. For employers, just throwing money at the problem might not prove to be the best option. Employers need to monitor and analyze their employee retention strategies every quarter to stay competitive with market salaries, benefits, and workplace cultures and office perks.

If you are thinking a career change might be in your future, make sure you create a realistic plan to help you get there, get clear on what you want, assess your interests, values, and skills. Develop and commit to your strategy, and realize that for every 'no' you will hear, just means that you're one step closer to hearing ‘yes'.

William ChildsComment