Approaches to Career Transition

December 11, 2010

Career Transition Strategies

Bruce HazenCareer Transition: “Plan and Implement” vs “Test and Learn”

Working on your career strategy with a career coach can unfold in a couple of interesting ways. Mainly:
1) The “Plan and Implement” approach, which starts with analysis, followed by action, creating a linear path towards a clear goal.
2) The “Test and Learn” approach, which starts with action, followed by analysis, leading to other actions; creating a cycle of testing and learning (Working Identity,. 2004).

Each approach is based on different underlying assumptions about human personality. The “Plan and Implement” philosophy builds on the notion that each of us has a core “true” self and that personality is pretty consistent. Using this approach, career planning builds on introspection and assessment in order to uncover an appropriate career fit for each individual.

In contrast, the “Test and Learn” method embodies that the human personality as a collection of “possible” selves. Within this philosophy, career transition is seen as a process of “crafting experiments:” trying out new actions, professional relationships, and revising stories-about-self. These experiments offer bite-sized, low-risk, opportunities to explore “potential selves.” Your reflections on these experiences, and the lessons you learn, will lead you to craft the next round of experiments to test new aspects of your emerging career self.

Both of these approaches are useful guiding frameworks for you and/or your career coach. Each is particularly useful at different stages of career transition. For example, “Plan and Implement” may be particularly useful for job search after layoff, when the goal is immediate reemployment in a similar role. “Test and Learn” may be especially appropriate for you if you are considering a significant mid-life change in profession.

If you are looking for a career coach, you may want to ask him/her their preferred approach. You may prefer a more mechanistic, linear, structured “engineering” approach, or perhaps a more organic, exploratory “experimental” process. When selecting a career coach, assess your current career goals and your style of preference. Then explore how well the coaches’ strengths and preferences match your own.

The greater the breadth of skills and range of approaches offered by the coach, the greater the coach’s flexibility and ability to meet your changing needs. Ideally, he or she can match your immediate needs as well as adapt to new challenges that you meet during your transition. Your coach is there to sharpen the focus on what’s working and what’s not. He or she can give you honest feedback about how to improve your approach to finding work that fits.


3 Comments on “Approaches to Career Transition”

  1. Anne Bryant Says:

    I love how you break this down – the underlying assumptions and when how each approach works, depending on the clients’ current circumstances and needs. Well done!


  2. Tim Says:

    This makes all kinds of sense. I’m intrigued to know more about how tools used to help clients would differ between the respective paths (especially “test and learn”).


    • Bruce Says:

      I use the Stong Interest Inventory to stimulate possible futures with the “test and learn” method. The Strong offers some real clues as to what occupations may be future “customers, colleagues or clients.” It’s a stumulus to get people creating alternative futures. If they can’t or won’t, we get to discuss “intentions and motivation” regarding change.


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