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Career and life transition

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Get everyone on board

Q. "Self-help books are written for people who are living on an island. What am I supposed to do with my family while I'm writing up these dare-I-dream stories?"

A. Any transition, especially those involving career or relocation, will involve others. As fictional detective Sharon McCone says, a journey doesn't mean much if it's not shared.

Family obligations can be obstacles but social support is an essential component of your freedom inventory. They extend your supply of money, just as a wildnerness supply pack is designed to extend your supply of food with matches, blankets and (in my Alaskan days) a shotgun.

On a career journey, you can stretch your money through social and personal support. Feeling isolated can lead to frustration and, ultimately, lower-quality decisions that cost money and time. The challenge is to not only maintain but also to revitalize your support system as you grow in new directions.

Wanted: A new support system.
Alice enjoyed "doing lunch" with peers and clients on her job. Every Friday, her department met for its own happy hour at the local pub. Drinking was optional but relaxation was taken for granted.

As she planned her midlife career change, Alice realized she would be older than many of her new peers. Her life experience and hard-earned standard of living would set her apart.

Alice identified new sources of professional support, including her college alumni association, professional organizations, a women's support group, art museum boards, and book clubs. She could also take advanced classes at a local university. By creating this network before she started her new career path, Alice would maintain her sense of identity through the transition.

Include the family in your career planning.
When Thomas was offered a position at a prestigious university, he told his wife, "I need to work extra hours for the next few years. I won't be around as much as I would like. But this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I don't want to mess it up."

Today Thomas is a tenured full professor at this university. His family recently accompanied him on a memorable to the French countryside, where he held a visiting position. Now he has ample time to spend with his wife and children and the family has a solid financial base.

Thomas's decision won't work for everyone. What works is getting the family on board before you start the trip.

Some families will be extremely supportive. They are ready to scale down and make sacrifices for a new life. Others point out that leaving a home or a school district will be painful for everyone.

Bottom Line: Career transition is a social process, and your social support must undergo a transition along with your career. Social support helps you maintain perspective, focus and motivation. By incorporating social support into your career transition plan, you can enjoy a happy and productive journey to career freedom.

Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D. is an author, career coach, and speaker. She works with mid-career professionals who want to make a fast move to career freedom. Visit her site or call 505-534-4294.

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Career and life transition