Questions to Ask When Making a Career Transition 

I work with many clients who are moving through a career transition. The desire for a transition comes from different places and for different reasons. Transitions can be made with intention or accelerated through circumstance. Wherever you are, these questions can help you make choices that align with your wants, needs and values.

WHY do you want this transition? Whether you are making this transition by choice or as the result of a layoff, understanding why you want it will help you get started on your path. This involves looking beyond the income to your deeper reason. Your why could include a better fit for your lifestyle, a better fit with your passions and strengths, the opportunity to make a great impact, and much more. A good place to start figuring out your why is to consider your values, what matters most to you in your life right now.

WHAT do you want? Transitions can take many different forms, from changing roles, to changing industries, responsibilities and environments. Understanding what you want means more than just choosing your next job title. It starts with a look back to the experiences and environments that brought out the best in you and helped you grow into who you are today. The next step is to look at what you want for your future including how you want to continue to grow, what types of new experiences you want to have, and how large a role you want your career to play in your overall life. Creating a vision for what you want in the form of a story can be a powerful way to capture all of this information. You want your vision to be clear enough that you can see yourself doing, being or having it, but not so clear that is too finite or tied to one path of achievement.

WHO do you want to work with and/or for? Our careers are much more than our job titles. We can play the same role in several organizations and have very different experiences within each. That is why who your work with and for is so important to consider. Think about the type of organization you want to work for, including what service/product they deliver, how they deliver it, and what matters most to them (their organizational values). Who also includes the clients or customers you will be working with and for, what they care about and why they do business with this organization. Your colleagues and especially your manager/leader play a key role in your satisfaction and success in your career so take time to consider what qualities and traits you are seeking in those connections as well.

WHERE do you want to go – which environments are a best fit for you? Environments include your physical space, expectations and support. Think about your needs – the conditions that help you do and be your best. Do you thrive the most in a structured or unstructured work culture? Do you do your best work when part of a team or as a leader (or both)? What pace of work do you prefer? These questions and more are important to ask yourself to help you choose your next opportunity.

HOW will you need to stretch or shift? All transitions involve some changes to your level of activity, your thoughts, perspective and/or behavior. Your plan may include additional education, skill building, new people to meet, a different lifestyle, a risk or leap. The success of our transition is determined by many factors out of our locus of control. What is within our sphere of influence are the choices we make, who we show up as every day, how we handle the unknown and our thoughts about what is possible to achieve.

Time to Prioritize I have shared many things to consider as you embark on your career transition. Not all of these will matter to you, and some will matter much more than others. Prioritize according to what you believe is right for you and most of all, enjoy the process of your journey while walking toward your goal.

 Stefanie Zizzo is a Career and Life Transition Coach who helps people take their life in a new direction. People who have stretched themselves to the edge of their comfort zone, who are tired of looking out the window, and are ready to step outside and truly experience a life full of possibility. With experience in career counseling and life coaching, she has helped hundreds of people to focus on what they want in their lives and careers, think and grow beyond their current beliefs and fears, and take purposeful action to make things happen. She offers both individual coaching, live workshops and will soon be publishing a Workbook called The Journey From Comfort to Possibility. For more information, visit

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