Being intentional in your career transition is, in my mind, the most overlooked “step” in successfully going from A to B. If you Google “intentional career transition,” what are the results? (Because face it, everything these days starts with a Google search, right?) I found a few websites for services to help with career transitions; however, the number of references were fewer than I expected. When I Googled “steps for a career transition,” I hit the jackpot. On the first page alone there were sites or articles that listed as few as five steps or up to 10. Most of the steps are very tactical: “Put together a resume” or “Update your LinkedIn profile.” All good advice, but I am going to talk about a more strategic step.
I believe the first step is to be intentional. Being intentional when you decide to venture into something new is along the same lines as putting together a solid project plan when you are about to implement new software or develop a new marketing campaign. The project plan documents your intentions. Documenting your intentions in your career is not really all that different.
When documenting your intentions, or your plan, you need to specify the five w’s – why, what, when, where, and who.
Why am I seeking a career transition?
You need to articulate why this change is occurring. Being very clear with why helps to make sure your plan is focused and leading to your desired end state. Without a clear understanding for why, then you may easily veer off into something interesting but not necessarily relevant. Ask yourself: Why now? Why something different?
What am I looking for in this career transition?
This is the big Kahuna of intentionality. This is where you get down to brass tacks on what exactly the plan is going to achieve. What is it that you are looking for in your next career or job? Can you define the characteristics, objectives, outcomes?
When will this transition take place?
Depending on when you are looking for a change, the actions you take to get there may be different. Timing is also partially dependent on what it is you are looking for in the future. If you are thinking the change should happen in six months there may be one set of actions to get there. If it is a longer-term plan (say 3 years) there is a totally different set of actions.
Where are you looking to go?
We are taking simple geography here. If you need to – or want to – only look in a particular part of the world then you need to be clear on that. Don’t waste your time looking in say, Australia, if that is simply not realistic. While the job down under sounds fun and exciting, if it really isn’t in the cards don’t put it in the plan. Being distracted during your intentional search will derail your progress.
Who will help you in this career transition?
This is where your network comes into play. You have a network, right? If not, you need one. (I feel another blog topic coming on!) Being intentional with who you want to connect with about your new career/job search will allow those connections to be meaningful and sincere. Again, it is about intentionality, the foundation for focus. Additionally, you don’t want to abuse your connections, and if you simply randomly tap into your network you could wind up alienating them and doing more harm than good.
Being intentional is hard. I know–I have been there myself. Determining the 5 W’s for my own career transitions laid the foundation for all the changes I made. Some of my transitions were made in six months, some in three years. Whatever my time frame was, I approached it intentionally. I can help you do the same.
This post originally appeared on LMHAdvisors. In addition to LMHAdvisors, Lisa Hebert serves as a Career Advisor specializing in supply chain, consulting, and Olin’s veteran student population.