Career Transitions Part 4: “I’m There”: Managing expectations and keeping it fresh

The fourth point of the cycle of transitions is getting “there”.  If you have tested out a number of possibilities and hit upon the thing that works, it is now time to do it.  Eureka! You are there! How exciting to hit upon a career path that aligns with who you are at your best! .  You may want this phase to last forever.  And perhaps you think that it will.

So what happens when you say “I’m there”?  Are you done?

Not so fast.

The main charge of this phase of your transition is to remember that it too is part of the cycle of change.  If you are lucky and your choice fits you to a tee, you will want to keep growing.  If, however, the new situation does not match the expectations, there can be a huge sense of deflation.  The trick is to manage expectations and to keep checking in with yourself to see how you can make this work.

First, the positive side.

My friends Michael Shinn and Jessica Chow, who created their pianoSonoma festival this summer, could not be more pleased with the results.  They are already planning next season and are building on the success of this summer to make it even better.

Similarly, my pianist friend Kimball Gallagher, who started off wanting to perform in home concerts, created a company called Piano Key. He then expanded the concept to include an 88-concert tour.  This year, he expanded even further by adding international concerts under the umbrella of piano key.

And what about those who arrive “there”, only to find that it is not all that it is cracked up to be? 

Some freelance musicians, initially excited that they are performing their craft, are then disillusioned by the sense that they are doing the same kinds of work since they feel a lack of personal growth (a top value for many musicians).  For others, the freelance lifestyle, with its lack of predictability and job security and a steady pay check is frustrating for those who value security. 

Similarly, some graduate students, who have made it their goal to get into a top school experience a huge sense of deflation when they realize that school, as wonderful as it can be, is not an endpoint.  Some feel lost without another goal to achieve.  Others find that without a clear career vision, graduate school can be frustrating since they have trouble seeing how best to make use of the many resources.  The same is true for those who may have applied to graduate school because they did not know what else to do.

And how about the career transitioners who arrive at their “perfect” new job, only to discover that the job is not what they thought it would be?  I have numbers of friends and clients who have experienced this sense of disappointment, either because the realities of the new job were not the same as they were represented to be or because they left their old jobs, eager to do anything else, without perhaps investigating carefully enough what the new job entailed. 

What can you do if you find yourself “there” and feel frustrated that the reality is not as compelling as you had hoped?

First, give it some time.  Any new situation takes time to adjust to new people and new challenges. 
Second,  take stock of how the new job aligns with your values and uses your strengths.  In your zeal to make the transition, perhaps there were things that you overlooked.  See what you can do to change them.
Third, if the new situation is not a good match, be honest with yourself.  Maybe it’s time to do some good reflecting and exploring within that new structure. 

And if it does not work for you, have the courage to say “I”m done”.  You can have the satisfaction of knowing that this is part of a cycle, and this time, you are equipped to handle the challenges of the transitions.

© Astrid Baumgardner 2011