The Surprising Job Change Power Tool

 In Career Transition, Transition Writing, Transitions, Weekly Wonder For You

The Surprising Job Transition Power Tool At Your Fingertips

So many of us experience a job change in our lives. In fact, if you were born between 1957 and 1964, chances are you’ve held at least 11 jobs in your lifetime so far. If born later, you’re bound to experience multiple career transitions.

Whatever the reason we decide to change jobs, there is a power tool that can help you better transition into a new job. And that power tool is writing.

One job change story

To illustrate, let me share with the two stories about two different clients. The first client–whom I’ll call Sharon–has had multiple career changes in her life. As we talked, it seemed she always left a position feeling a bit disgruntled, or wounded by her work experiences. She moved into the next job as one became available without much written reflection on what had happened, on what she needed to grieve, or let go, or even celebrate. Now, years later, she still carried a lot of “previous-career-baggage” with her. As we talked, she still seemed angry and hurt over these past job situations.

Second Job Change Story

In contrast, meet another client I’ll call Anne, a woman I met in one of my transition workshops. Anne ‘s career transition involved not only a new position, but she also moved to new state, and she became geographically separated from her life-partner. Unlike Sharon, Anne wrote about her transition experience. She journaled about what was ending, about her disappointment with her previous employer, and about what it felt to be in the in-between phase of not knowing the future.

During our final conversation, I asked Anne to imagine what was the best possible outcome for her in her new position and location.  Anne wrote, and afterwards seemed pleasantly surprised. For the first time, Anne realized she had some control in her future, of where she wanted to be and of the type of work she wanted to be doing. Quite simply, Anne had planted an important seed to manifesting this desired outcome by writing it down.

Journaling does the heavy lifting with a job change.

How do we know this? Particularly during a job transition involving unemployment, studies have shown: Writing helps people find new work.

In their book Opening Up by Writing It Down: How Expressive Writing Improves Health and Eases Emotional Pain, James Pennebaker, PhD and Joshua M. Smyth PhD, describe a study done with laid-off engineers. These engineers were each experiencing a job change that might have generated feelings of insecurity, hostility, resentment. So….

Essentially, half of the participants were asked to write about their deepest thoughts and feelings about getting laid off for 30 minutes a day for five consecutive days. The other half wrote for the same period about how they used their time–a strategy based on ‘time management’….a third of the group of 22 former employees did not write at all and served as another comparison group.

So, imagine. A group of laid-off, I’m assuming male engineers wrote for 30 minutes a day for five days. Not about their strategies, or goals, or revising their resumes. Instead, they were challenged to write about their deepest thoughts and feelings on being laid-off. 

And the result?

The conclusion of the study really shouldn’t surprise us. Yet it still does.

The potency of the study was surprising.Within three months, 27% of the experimental participants landed jobs compared with less than 5% of those in the time management and no-writing comparison groups. By seven months after writing, 53% of those who wrote about their thoughts and feelings had jobs compared with only 18% of the people in the other conditions. Particularly striking about the study was that the participants in all three conditions had all gone on exactly the same number of job interviews. The only difference was that those who had written about feelings were offered jobs.

When people–men and women–are able to honestly write about their thoughts and feelings–the good, bad, and the ugly ones–transformation happens. We’re able to let go of what needs to be let go, and not carry that on into the next interview. We’ve gained some perspective on the lay-off, or the firing, or the downsizing.

Back to Anne and Sharon….

Yes, there comes a time when we need to plan the next chapter, we need to brush up the resume. But there is also a very human need during a job change to delve into one’s emotional state of being. But the majority of the first group demonstrated that a combination of writing through their emotions while still preparing for the next job interview was key. They successfully navigated their job change.

In my opening client examples, Sharon, who carried the “previous-career-baggage”, hadn’t yet written through the pain of her previous career transitions. The good news is, it’s not too late. She still can.

Anne is well on her way to starting a new position in a new state with a new attitude. Plus she has the skills to continue writing her way through this significant life transition as she moves towards her new beginning, whatever that might be. Even if life changes, and another transition ensues, her writing can be her power tool in working through the natural stages of a transition.

The bottom line?

Whether you’re going through a job change now, or have a previous career change still unresolved, lingering in your “career-transition” bag, writing can help you.

When you release the attached transition emotions–the good,the bad, and the ugly–onto the pages of your journal, you release the psychic energy that’s been required to hold onto them.

And the result can bring a better employment future, while improving your present state of well-being.

 How about you? Do you have 30 minutes and 5 days to devote to writing through your career transition? 

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