Career Coaching: What’s Beneath the Change?

Clients come to us with a variety of career goals—a promotional opportunity to win, a major career change to navigate, and so on.

Underneath any of those goals is a common theme:


Some transitions are welcome; others arrive uninvited.

Some are obvious:

  • Graduation from college and time for a first “real” job,
  • A divorce that requires returning to the job market,
  • The need to get away from “the boss from hell”

Others are more subtle:

  • Boredom, fatigue, or an increasing restlessness at work
  • You are becoming less and less “heard” at work
  • The growing realization that the 90-minute commute is taking a greater toll than realized

Most clients are aware that their transition will require tools, such as an updated resume or LinkedIn profile, or a new set of technical skills or certification, or a shift in their brand messaging. We refer to these as the “Mechanics” of the transition.

Often overlooked, however, is the “Mindset” needed to navigate what transitions expert William Bridges refers to as “the Neutral Zone.” Mindset requires a shift in the ways of thinking, reasoning, and meaning-making. We are not robots, preprogrammed to take on a new initiative without questioning “why”! Our inquiring minds want to know!

Coaching Key

As coaches, if we do not help clients work through this new meaning-making process, we will have done them a disservice. We will have helped them pack their car for the new journey, but not shown them how to fill the car with gas to get there.

When navigating a transition, our brains are busy at work, parsing out why the old way isn’t working well for us any more and building new neural networks that convince is why we should invest the time, effort, resources, courage, and vulnerability to go for something new.

Coaching Tip

Here are a few simple yet powerful questions that can support your coaching conversations around transition:

  • What do you want?
  • What will that bring you?
  • How is that meaningful now, at this new juncture of your life?

Try it yourself! If you’re navigating a transition, list five reasons why what you want makes sense! What’s on your list?!

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