Making Sense of Change – Career Coach MJV
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Making Sense of Change

Sneaker shoes and arrows pointing in different directions on asphalt ground, choice concept

Clients seek me out because they want something to change: their job prospects, their career, their salary, their life. Yet, even when we seek out change, the process is rarely smooth.

We think that change starts with a beginning but according to William Bridges, author of “Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes,” change starts with an ending. We make a decision that shifts our world, or something happens and life as we know it ends. (Think COVID-19). Ready or not we are abruptly booted out of complacency into a period of transition when time seems to both stand still and be a swirling mess of chaos.

While many of my clients are thrilled to see the end in their rearview mirror, others for whom change has been thrust upon them mourn what is no longer. Their company is leaving town, their job has become redundant, their skills are no longer required.  Never mind that the handwriting on the wall is 10 feet tall, they can’t quite wrap their brains around what has happened.

According to Bridges, regardless of how we get there, change requires going through an unsettling period of transition; a place where no one wants to spend any time. Those who consciously made the decision to pursue a new path are frustrated at being stuck here and question why everything is taking so long. On the other hand, those individuals who have been dragged into change are caught up in mourning the past. They want to roll back time and cling to the false hope that this awful mistake will be rectified, and that things will go back to the way there were.

As chaotic and unsettling as this fallow time is, it can be a period of creativity. While it may feel like nothing is happening, we are in fact internalizing important insights that help us move forward.

If you are in the midst of transition, take heart. Appreciate the fallow time for what it is, a time to regroup, catch your breath and prepare for a new beginning.

Unlike the ending, which is specific and the period of transition, which stretches out uncomfortably with no end in sight, the third phase is neither timebound nor the distinct event we expect.  We think, “Oh, I got the new job. This is the new beginning I was waiting for.” In fact, landing the new job is not the new beginning. Too much is still uncertain. Even in all our excitement and relief about the new job, we are still working out the details. “How will I fit in here? Is this the right place for me? Can I successfully navigate the politics of this new company?”

According to Bridges, the new beginning is subtle. It sneaks up on us and generally arrives with little fanfare. It may be something as simple as being six months into the job, navigating a tricky situation and realizing that we passed some kind of unwritten test. We experience an ah-ha moment and know that we once again are where we belong.

Mary Jeanne Vincent, career expert and strategist, has a private coaching practice and guides clients nationally. She may be reached at 831-657-9151,, or

© 2020 Mary Jeanne Vincent.  All rights reserved.