The Seven Phases of Refocusing, Repositioning and Renewing Your Career

By Mitch Wienick, President

Have you recently been displaced from your job or are you looking for a career change—the kind that speaks to your talents, skills and passions?  But are you unsure of how to go about this transition?

Career transition coaching often guides you through the key phases of your career transition months faster than it would normally take without such experienced and expert support.

The seven phases of a career transition strategy punctuated by a specific example provides a useful illustration:

Six years ago, Paul—an attorney by training and general counsel of a Philadelphia-based U.S. division of a Danish manufacturer—was forced to take a serious look at his future.  His company announced a consolidation of all U.S. divisions in Chicago.  To keep his job, he had to relocate.  Being 54 at the time, and having worked at the Philadelphia division for more than 20 years with deep roots in the city, he didn’t want to move.

This was the perfect time for Paul to consider a career transition.  As he thought about the options, Paul knew he always had a passion for non-profit work and environmental issues, but was unsure about how to make the career shift.

Through executive career transition coaching Paul went through the ‘seven phases of refocusing, repositioning and renewing his career’ to achieve his career goals:

Phase 1: Refocusing by Inventorying

Before you do anything else with your career transition, it’s important to take an introspective, deep dive into inventorying your skills and abilities, and understanding your passions and interests.

Ask yourself: What do you do with excellence?  What are your core professional strengths?

In our real life example, through career transition coaching, Paul did assessment work and identified his strongest professional assets.  After his career coach reviewed articles, position papers and internal communications Paul had written, it was clear that he was an outstanding writer, significantly better than a typical attorney.  Also, being a member of his division’s leadership team, he was quite strategic in his business interactions.

Phase 2: Refocusing for Finding Direction

As you define your skills, talents and experience, to what do they lend themselves?  It’s in this phase that you begin to narrow how and where your core strengths fit best, pointing you to the directions your career transition might take.

Look at the types of positions that fit best with your skills, passion and experience.  A professional coach who knows you well can be invaluable in helping you work through this.

In Paul’s case he took his talent and skills and combined them with his passion for public policy, which requires a real knack for great written and verbal communication along with strategic thinking.

Phase 3: The Move from Refocusing to Repositioning

Once your career transition direction has been established, it’s time to begin identifying possible resources (networking groups, personal connections, professional associations, industry contacts, consultants, vendors and professional service providers, etc.).  This is when you start talking with people who are knowledgeable about your chosen role within a particular industry.

Find someone who will act as a sounding board to help you better understand the needs of organizations of interest to you and ways to refine your positioning to meet those needs.

Paul began to network with an array of non-profit leaders to get a feel for what type of position for which someone with his background and capabilities would fit.  Through his research, he discovered that a select number of larger organizations had created strategy and/or policy roles.

Phase 4: Pre-Repositioning

After in-depth investigation and time spent researching industries and organizations, it’s important to revisit “Phase 2” and refine your target list and role objective.

This is where you define what you can bring to a company based on your exploration and discovery, polishing your message on what you can contribute to the company or organization you’re pursuing.

Now that Paul had in-depth knowledge of the role he wanted to pursue in public policy and strategy, he began the work of reshaping his resume and fine-tuning his objective to speak directly to the needs of this role.

Phase 5: Repositioning through Targeting

You’ve determined the ins and outs of the position, and you know the sector or industry you plan to target for your job search.  This is where you begin to speak to organizations and the people within (or connected to those within) who are willing to help advance your candidacy.

Two months into Paul’s search, he learned that the United Way in Philadelphia was looking to create and fill a strategic public policy role within their organization.  Paul began networking with the key decision makers conducting the hiring for United Way for that specific role.  As a result of his determined networking, he got an interview.

Phase 6: Repositioning to Ace the Interview

Once you’ve landed that interview (or, more likely, multiple interviews within the organization) you’ve been working towards through all these phases, it’s time to prepare yourself for the interviews (as well as any additional evaluation or testing).

For the interviews, you can never be too prepared:

Refine your value proposition Conduct a mock interview Prepare answers to questions you will likely be asked Prepare incisive and elevating questions (that is, elevating your status in the eyes of the hiring executives and relative to competition) in order to learn about the role, business situation, culture, and organizational personalities.

When you are able to present yourself powerfully and positively, this often get you through to the offer stage.

Paul prepared for the interviews, nailed it, and received an offer for the role.

Phase 7: Renewing

When you cross the threshold to a new career, you are re-energized because something new and different and more suitable to your core strengths is far more fulfilling than being bored and unproductive, and often unhappy, at your previous job.

Renewal also occurs for the company or organization, as you become a key ingredient of revitalization.

For Paul, the process took between 6-7 months.  He was well-positioned for the role when it emerged, well-prepared for the interview process, and became the first person in that role for United Way.  And, of course, he was able to stay in Philadelphia and maintain the important elements of his personal life.

Substantial career transitions, the ones that have a positive life impact, happen when you take advantage of your inherent skills and abilities.  There’s no magic bullet in doing this.  It’s a process of personal discovery and then learning and taking action.  But through this process, you will identify and hone your true passions and skills, marrying them to the needs of the marketplace.  In the end, both you and your new employer will benefit greatly from this strong fit.