Navigating the Turbulent Waters of Career Transitions: What Every Leader and Manager Should Know

Navigating the Turbulent Waters of Career Transitions: What Every Leader and Manager Should Know

Lynn M. Joseph (DeVry University, USA), Nancy Kymn Harvin Rutigliano (State University of New York Empire State College, USA) and Amy Frost (Getting Back to Work, USA)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1049-9.ch071
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Leaders, managers, professionals, and employees throughout organizations worldwide often face a large number of job transitions, many unexpected, in their careers. Job loss is widely recognized as one of life's more traumatic experiences. It is a stressful, life-changing event—one that can lead to negative mental and physical health consequences and jeopardize financial security and relationships. In addition, mid- and late-career job seekers face unique job-search issues and challenges. Career transition, however, can also be a positive event and growth opportunity, especially when one has prepared in advance for the possible personal impact of widespread organizational restructuring and downsizing. Advance preparation supports career and emotional resilience. This chapter presents challenges surrounding job loss, discusses proven strategies and processes for those in transition, and offers the research-based tool of guided imagery as a means to increase resilience, perceptions of personal control, and job search self-efficacy along with speed of reemployment.
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Many authors have written about the changes in the modern workplace resulting from globalization and expanding technologies (Aggarwal, 2011; Diamandis & Kotler, 2012; Rifkin, 2011). Today, job transitions are especially challenging. Employees at every level, including senior leaders and managers, must develop new skills and competencies (Rojewski & Hill, 2014). According to Savickas et al. (2009), work-related demands increasingly require everyone to be “lifelong learners who can use sophisticated technologies, embrace flexibility rather than stability, maintain employability, and create their own opportunities” (p. 239). Rojewski and Hill (2014) painted the technological advances as a ‘revolution’ in this way:

The amazing technologies and products predicted for the near future are, quite simply, spectacular, representing a revolution in how we think about work, family, and society. Nanotechnology, 3-D printing, intelligent machines, robotics, medical engineering, and renewable energy sources are all poised to make exponential leaps in complexity and applications in the next several decades. (p. 142)

Such advances, among other factors which will be considered, are expected to increase job changes. Results from a U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (2015) longitudinal survey of 9,964 men and women spanning more than three decades found that the average person held 11.7 jobs from age 18 to age 48 and nearly half of these jobs were held from ages 18 to 24. Further, “Although job duration tended to be longer the older a worker was when starting the job, these baby boomers continued to have large numbers of short-duration jobs. Among jobs started by 40 to 48 year olds, 32 percent ended in less than a year, and 69 percent ended in fewer than 5 years” (p. 1). With regard to the more educated, on average, men with a bachelor’s degree born in the latter years of the baby boom (1957-1964), held 11.2 jobs from ages 18 to 48 and women with a bachelor’s degree held 12.5 jobs between these ages (p. 1).

In addition, today’s workforces are multi-generational, and many employees are not retiring at traditional ages but are staying in the workforce longer and competing for jobs. Given the rapidly changing labor market, where more skills are automated or outsourced, and with the common practice of restructuring and downsizing, leaders and managers often find themselves in the turbulent waters of career transition, unemployed, and facing challenges and obstacles for which they are unprepared.

According to the widely used Holmes-Rahe Social Adjustment Scale, losing one’s job ranks among the top 10 of 43 stressful life events (Holmes & Rahe, 1967). Displaced job seekers face a number of issues, often including chronic stress, loss of control, job-loss grief (anger, fear, anxiety, depression), self-limiting beliefs, and resulting lowered resilience—the ability to bounce back after rejection—which is a vital element of successful job searches (Papa & Maitoza, 2013).

Moreover, Andreeva, Magnusson Hanson, Westerlund, Theorell, and Brenner (2015) found in the Swedish Longitudinal Occupational Survey of Health that “job loss consistently predicted subsequent major depression among men and women” (p. 1). Other researchers emphasize the loss of control and learned helplessness that unemployment can evoke (especially when the job loss was not the employee’s choice), leading to motivational and performance deficits (Goldsmith & Darity, 1992; Waters, 2007). If not addressed, these issues can extend one’s job search and resulting “landing time”—the time it takes to obtain a new position.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Future Self (Possible Self): An imagined positive, competent image of one’s self at a selected time in the future.

Stress: A psychological and physiological reaction to a real or perceived threat. When sustained and chronic, it often results in significant negative health effects.

Inner Mentor: Variously referred to by Eastern and Western traditions as the subconscious, inner wisdom, guardian angel, and inner guide.

Guided Imagery: A process that directs and focuses the imagination to create an “inner experience” designed to achieve a desired goal.

Job-Loss Grief Symptoms: Symptoms expressed in job-loss groups include chronic anxiety, fear, anger, sadness, depression, guilt, forgetfulness, and difficulty concentrating.

Visualization: A creative imagination technique involving focusing on positive mental images in order to achieve a particular goal.

Self-Limiting Beliefs: Beliefs, at times unconsciously held, that restrict one’s ability to achieve desired goals.

Unemployment Trauma: A trauma that induces reactions similar to the loss of a loved one or to facing a terminal illness.

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