Career, Career Development, Job Search, Real Talk

The Emotional Side of Career Transitions

Last week, I became a statistic. I can now proudly say I’m a participant of The Great Resignation, and I couldn’t be more excited! I had been thinking about leaving my job for a while, but my comfort zone kept whispering sweet nothings in my ear, so I stayed put. (That pesky comfort zone can wreak havoc on your career goals if you let it!)

After quarantine, I decided that it was time to move on after nine years in the corporate world. So naturally, I did what all the career gurus said to do: I spruced up my resume, connected with my network, and went on a quest for my next opportunity.

I was ecstatic when the offer letter came in. My new role is in an entirely new industry where I get to combine my experience in healthcare, management, and human services. Of course, I was beyond excited!

What caught me by surprise was the multitude of emotions that came flooding in once reality set in that I was leaving my job. Wasn’t I supposed to be happy? How can such a positive event be so stressful? Instead, feelings of self-doubt, uncertainty, and grief eclipsed all the good ones.

Grief? This one stumped me because I didn’t know exactly why I was grieving. Of course, I would miss my colleagues and friends, but why was I grieving for a job that no longer served me?

I’m no stranger to career transitions. In fact, I experienced a pretty big one in 2014 when I relocated from my home state of Nebraska to Los Angeles, leaving my family, friends, and comfort zone behind. Since I’m not moving this time, I wasn’t expecting this transition to be this hard.

I wanted to know why I was having these conflicting feelings, so I did what any curious person would do when they want to know the meaning of life: I googled it.

As I came to find out, these emotions are completely natural. Thanks a lot, biology! According to the Holmes Rahe Stress Scale, changing careers is one of the top 20 most stressful things you can experience in your life. My feelings of grief and uncertainty were now starting to make more sense.

For many individuals (myself included), a career transition can be a life-altering event. Afterall, you are taking a big risk by stepping out of your comfort zone, possibly leaving loved ones behind, and disrupting your way of life—all of which can be challenging and anxiety-inducing.

We’ve all heard the phrase “Your career is not your identity” but let’s face it, careers are a huge part of our lives. Most of us will experience a range of emotions throughout our journeys—and they are all equally valid. What’s important is to express those feelings in a healthy manner and know that they are normal.

This is where a supportive network comes into play. Whether you lean on your significant other, work colleagues, or your mejor amiga, it’s important to have someone you trust during this uncertain (and exciting!) time.

My last day at my job was last Thursday, and I’m just now beginning to process that my life is about to change in a significant way. So I’m leaning into the uncertainty and allowing myself to ride the wave of emotions, shame-free. Because it’s my career, and I’ll cry (and grieve) if I want to.