Successfully managing transition

Imagine the situation. It’s the first week of your new job and you are excited to be starting work on the next rung of the career ladder. However, the first few calls you get are from people you knew in your previous role who want you to help them with their issues.   It can be tempting to solve their problems, after all you can probably answer the question without even thinking, but it’s important to make it clear that you are no longer doing that job, and therefore they should really find someone else to help them.  So what stops us behaving in this way? Two reasons, one is that our identity can be associated with the previous role and we find it hard to let go. And the other is that many people don’t like saying no, and appearing unhelpful.

Managing endings successfully is a key skill to develop, and one that not everyone is comfortable with. Why? Because endings are part of the transition process, and it is dealing with the emotions surrounding change, that people can find hard to accept, as they don’t want to hurt others.

In Cope with Change at Work, the three stages of transition are described as:

  1. Letting go
  2. Re-orientation
  3. New start

1. Letting go

In order to move forward unencumbered, you need to let go of all of the past i.e. old ways, habits, relationships. Often someone’s identity can be tied up with their job which means that when they retire or take on a new role, they find it really hard to adapt, because they can’t quite identify themselves as a person who is no longer the bank manager, or the Sales Director.   This can happen particularly when the career move is a sideways one, which many people still think is a downward step, rather than thinking of it as an opportunity to broaden their skill-set and understanding of their organisation.

One strategy that can help is to celebrate or mark the ending in some way. It can be as simple as making sure you move to a different desk when you take on a new role, or calling all your contacts from your old job before you leave and explaining that someone else is now going to be the person to contact instead of you. If you don’t free up the mental capacity to be able to move on, your mind gets clogged up with emotions related to your “old identity”.   It takes courage and commitment to be able to “let go” and accept change as an adaption and improvement, even if it has been forced upon you through redundancy or reorganisation.

2. Re-orientation

Often this phase can be confusing, uncertain and uncomfortable because the new role or situation is not yet defined, and new behaviours and habits need to be learned. Use this time to make changes and be creative. You don’t have to behave in the same way in your next role as you did in the old one. By being prepared to try out new behaviours and establishing what impact you would like to make in your next role, you can emerge from the transition in an even better position.

3. New start

Successful navigation to a new start requires you to focus on present and future. Therefore any issues from the past need to be resolved so there is no residual negativity. Then you can focus on the outcome you want from your next role. Make sure that the steps you put in place are measurable, manageable and achievable.  Create a plan for your first day, 30 days and 90 days to make a successful new start and that way the process of transition can be easier, and give a clear focus for the future.


ACTIVITIES 1 day 30 days 90 days
Promote yourself Dress to impress and appear confident Be willing to take on extra assignments or projects Make sure you can succinctly describe what you have achieved at   your 3 month review meeting
Manage others’ expectations Find out what your line manager expects from you Seek clarity on who is dependent on your work Identify the needs of those you have to work with and negotiate if you cant fulfil them
Accelerate learning Take a notebook to record key information. Find out if there is an induction course. Listen and ask questions Attend networking events
Results Focus Ascertain how your boss will measure your success Know your limits and make sure you can and DO deliver the results agreed Focus on your bosses priorities and make sure you deliver
Build Relationships Find something in common with your boss or colleagues to build rapport Have a chance to meet your colleagues socially or have a coffee with them Make sure you know the key people that you need to know – e.g. secretaries, admin staff

Sue Stockdale is a motivational speaker and executive coach working with some of Europe’s top companies, helping them to manage change and deliver improved performance. She is author of Kickstart your Motivation, Secrets of Successful Women Entrepreneurs and co-author of Cope with Change at Work, The Personality Workbook, Motivating People and Risk published by Hodder. 



Recent Posts