Career Transitions and Feelings of Loss
“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” --Anatole France
People come from different places when beginning a career transition. Some are adjusting to an imposed change, like a layoff or the closing of an office. Others proactively seek change because their current situation is unsatisfying, they’ve tried making adjustments, and things just haven't improved. We readily empathize with someone in the former situation, knowing they will have a loss to grieve and a lot of processing to do. But many don’t realize that people who transition by choice experience a similar sense of loss.
The process of getting unstuck, leaving an unfulfilling situation, and taking steps toward a more satisfying future can be energizing. It can feel like a great relief after months or even years in an unhappy situation, to see light at the end of the tunnel. But even when the ultimate change will be positive, you are leaving a chapter behind. Despite the factors that motivated you to leave, in almost any situation you’ve stayed in for a long time, there will have been at least a few positives. And you will lose those things.
Loss and grief occur in many contexts, sometimes even in connection with joyful events. For example, a son or daughter’s wedding can bring feelings of loss, in addition to joy, because the relationship will transition. So if you begin to feel a sense of loss when making a career transition, know that it’s natural. It doesn’t mean you made the wrong choice – it’s inevitable. The feelings of loss should be acknowledged, reflected upon, and grieved at whatever level is needed. It’s an essential step to preparing for the next chapter.
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