Career Advice: When Your Career Gets Interrupted

By Cathy Goodwin

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You’re watching a baseball game on television. Bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, score is tied … and then a voice comes on.

“We interrupt this program …” 

The same thing can happen when you’re feeling really  comfortable about your career. Out of nowhere, you get an interruption. For instance:

  • Your performance review was less than stellar for the first time since you’ve been with the company
  • A recruiter called and you realized you were extremely marketable
  • You get two offers at the same time and now you have to choose

You probably heard that the Chinese word for “crisis” is a combination of danger and opportunity. And that’s exactly how you feel now. Here are some tips to increase the odds for opportunity and lower the odds on danger.

--  Avoid discussing your decision with anyone connected with your current job or business.  Most likely they won’t understand. They won’t have your perspective. Even if they’re honorable people who want to keep everything confidential, it’s all too easy to let something slip at the wrong time. 

-- Recognize that you need to take action quickly. Offers tend to come with deadlines. A sudden change in performance reviews – positive or negative – needs to be explored immediately. Those nagging feelings of ,”I’m in the wrong place,”  usually grow over time.

-- Identify possible outcomes from whatever action you take and decide how you will manage those outcomes. Accepting an offer might mean moving. Ignoring a performance review can mean you ignore some genuine opportunities.

Coaches and consultants often get hired to give professionals and executives a space to talk freely and confidentially.

For instance, “Mark” was devastated by his performance review. His first reaction was, "I want to respond and set the record straight."

After he met with a consultant, he realized that he was actually in a position of strength within his company. He was able to move to another department, which will make him even more marketable. He clicked with his new boss, who was  thrilled to poach him from his original department.

“Alice” was having trouble getting past the interview stage of her job search. She had a compelling resume and a strong network. However, she was not prepared for certain types of questions about her skill levels and experience.  Alice needed to create a narrative that was accurate while putting a "spin" on her career trajectory, so her journey made sense to the interviewer.

Ultimately, a career interruption can be far more frustrating than a program interruption. However, unlike an annoying announcement, a career interruption signals a need to make changes - and you're in charge. When you recognize the interruption and manage the changes calmly, you often emerge with a stronger, more satisfying outcome than you would have experienced otherwise.

Image credit: Flickr, dcJohn


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