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Career Transitions: Excitement & Exhilaration!

A few years ago my career as a professor was fully on track and I felt like I was killing it!  I had mastered key skills and requirements for my current position and I was on track for the next promotion.  And then, well, then things changed and I realized it was time for me to leave higher education. 

Leaving higher education was terrifying. I had always imagined myself in the education field. I loved the energy that came from teaching and working with students and I couldn’t imagine life without students.  My brain and my life revolved around the ebb and flow of an academic calendar.  I was also terrified to give up tenure and the sense of stability and security it provided. And, the thought of translating my knowledge and skills into a completely different field and industry was daunting to say the least.

Yet, leaving higher education was exhilarating. I was now free to imagine possibilities in new fields.  My thinking and my options expanded as I discovered energy for new projects, clients and work. I was no longer bound to the academic calendar – I could take an entire week of vacation with my family in October!  I could be more responsive and move more quickly as I responded to the needs of my employer, clients and customers.  I also found that translating my knowledge and skills to a completely different field and industry was incredibly rewarding – not to mention fun as I unleashed my curiosity to learn something new.  It was still terrifying some days, but it was also incredibly rewarding.

Don’t be fooled though – my career transition was by no means smooth! There were bumps in the road and plenty of twists and turns.  There were several people and some great “tools” I used to help me navigate this road. One tool that was incredibly helpful was a values activity I had been using for years with students in my career development class.  I continue to use it myself and reflect on it when I have big decisions to make – I have included it below.

If you are thinking about making a career transition and you’d like some guidance along the way, reach out and let’s talk about what you need and what support would be helpful for you!

Values Reflection


1.       Begin with three slow “3×4 breaths.”  Breathe in through your nose slowly for a count of 3. Hold your breath in for a count of 3. Breathe out through your mouth for a count of 3.  Hold your breath out for a count of 3.  Repeat two more times. This slow breathing should help you to feel a sense of calm.

2.       Think about a time when you felt you were on top of the world, when you felt like you were truly winning or succeeding at something. What felt “right” to you about that moment?

3.       Now, think about a time when you felt frustrated, when you felt like you were really struggling and you weren’t sure if you wanted to continue with the path you were on. What felt difficult or frustrating to you about that moment?

4.       When we are feeling great about ourselves and our accomplishments, we are most likely feeling like we are aligned with our values. When we are feeling frustrated we may be misaligned with our values. What we are doing may be frustrating because it doesn’t ring true to who we are and what we want for our lives. 

5.   Consider the values below and circle the values that ring true to you. When you are on top of the world, which values are you living?  When you are frustrated, which values are you not living?  This is is by no means exhaustive – do a search for “values” online and you will get more comprehensive lists!

























6.    Then, go through the values you circled, and narrow your values down to just 5.

7.    Once you have 5 values, write 2-3 sentences about what each value means to you and why it is important to you.

8.    Keep these values in a place where you can continue to reflect upon them.  You might want to write them on a card or put them in your journal or planner.  When you have decisions to make, or when you feel frustrated, return to these values and ask yourself how you can make a decision that will move you into greater alignment with your values.  What option can you select that will help you live your values just a little bit more?  Or, what choices do you have that help you get closer to living your values?