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Guest blog – Executive in transition: The first weeks

We are delighted to be hosting a series of blogs from Heidi Wheatley, an experienced marketing executive who finds herself in transition.  You can find her first blog – “Seeing the opportunity in transition” here.  Her follow up blog on the first days of transition may be found here.

It Only Takes One – The First Weeks of Transition

Einstein famously said “Nothing happens until something moves.” Well, you have moved – either as a direct result of a decision you made or one that a company made for you – so why isn’t anything happening yet? Transition could certainly be made more enjoyable and relaxing with a crystal ball. Unfortunately, there is no way to know when the right opportunity will come along. So how do we handle the days, weeks and months of transition and stay sane?

Resist the Urge to Make Yourself Smaller

As experienced executives, we bring with us a wealth of expertise that our future employer will benefit from greatly. We also command higher salaries and have fewer opportunities for which we are a match — and that means our transitions may be lengthy. You will hear the terms “overqualified” and “outside of our salary range” and offer polite thank yous for your time. I will not sugarcoat it, the search for a new opportunity is very frustrating. It may be tempting, and understandably so, to remove experience from your resume in hopes of securing an interview and impressing the hiring manager into offering you a lower-level job — but I encourage you not to make yourself smaller or less than you are. Let’s say you are offered, and accept, a lower-level position – what happens then? How long until you are bored or leave for a more appropriate role? Don’t allow fear to make you settle for less than you deserve. The only way to find the best fit is to be authentically you – because you are amazing. I offer a disclaimer here – if you are financially unable to hold out for the perfect position, take the lower salaried position as an interim step and keep looking for a position that matches your experience level and compensates you for the value you bring. 

Fend Off Anxiety

As the days and weeks drag on, anxiety and self-doubt will creep into your consciousness more frequently. Whether the negative thoughts are caused by concern over your financial situation, frustration with your career search or from utter boredom, it gets more difficult to shut out those thoughts as time goes on. I find I can experience extreme highs and lows in the same day – sometimes within the same hour depending on the calls and emails I receive. Regularly having to pick yourself up and dust yourself off is exhausting. While I have not found a magic spell to make negative thoughts disappear, I have found that giving myself the freedom to indulge them for a specific amount of time (for me it’s 10 minutes) and think through every conceivable “worst case scenario,” followed by every conceivable “best case scenario” helps me find the “likely scenario” and momentarily puts my mind at ease.

Be Present 

As executives, our careers are demanding and often cut into our personal and family time. Think through your career for a moment. How many family dinners have you stepped away from to take a business call? How many vacations have your worked through? How often do you miss, or arrive late for, your child’s school or sporting events due to business trips or meetings? We are expected to be available 24/7 and often are preoccupied with work even when we are with family and friends — that is the trade-off for our success. I find myself distracted by my career even during transition. Recently, I drove to the mountains to hike with my dogs. It was a beautiful Fall day but, instead of being present and taking in the beauty, literally all around me, I was preoccupied by my frustration with my transition. What a waste of a day! On the drive home, I decided I truly have to make more of an effort to be present – focus on the immediate – and worry less about the things I can’t control. So much easier said than done, I know. Now, when I find my mind drifting, I allow myself to go through my “worst, best, most-likely” scenario exercise so I can push the negative thoughts back and focus on the present.

It Only Takes One

In the first days and weeks of my transition, I was a flurry of activity – contacting recruiters, applying for positions, developing a business plan – the more I did, the more in control of my future I felt. What an illusion. My transition isn’t a project I’m managing with a known deadline. Applying for positions that I’m not a fit for just do be doing something isn’t going to get me to the finish line any faster. So, I changed my strategy – forced myself to think through the qualities I’m looking for in a future employer and position so I can be more strategic with recruiters. I fully read position descriptions before applying for them and find there are times that I pass on an opportunity because it does not fit the criteria I’ve outlined. Believe it or not, passing on a potential opportunity is empowering and makes me feel like I’m moving closer to finding the best opportunity for me. My mantra has become “it only takes one.” One position. One recruiter. One connection. I don’t need dozens – just one.

As the weeks of transition turn into months, do not lose hope. Find ways to fend off anxiety and be present  in your life. Transition offers a unique opportunity to focus on ourselves and, while it may be uncomfortable, our future path can be made infinitely better if we take advantage of the gift of time we have been given. Remember that it only takes one opportunity to change our lives and put us back in the action we long for.  I trust that I will find that one opportunity – and that you will too.

Thanks again, to Heidi for sharing her experience.  You can find Heidi on Linkedin or in GatedTalent.  This is her third blog for us – you can read her first blog – “Seeing the opportunity in transition” here.  Her follow up blog on the first days of transition may be found here.

My transition isn’t a project I’m managing with a known deadline

Recruiting Brief