How to Stay Sane During A Career Transition: Advice from MovingWorlds Institute Alumni

Alexandra Nemeth

Senior Manager, Content Marketing & Storytelling at MovingWorlds

Anyone who has been through a career transition will tell you: it’s not easy. On a recent webinar, Industry Leader Nate Wong described leaving his secure job in pursuit of something more authentic as “tantamount to cliff-diving into the ocean.”

Transitioning your career for more purpose and impact doesn’t happen overnight. While each of our journeys will be as unique as we are, there are certain things that successful career changers do in common to stay sane and grounded throughout the process. 

We asked 30 Global Fellowship alumni the question, “With all of the uncertainty we’re living through, what advice would you give to people to stay sane through the career transition process?

(Looking for more guidance on how to actually change your career? Here is our 10-step guide.)

Here’s what they shared:

Approach it as many small steps, rather than one big leap

“The best advice I’ve ever received from a mentor is to “do many things at once.” Applying this to my own career transition gave me the confidence to try new things, like volunteering my skills with a local nonprofit, joining a peer support network through the Fellowship, reading social impact books, initiating coffee chats with people I wanted to get to know, and submitting the odd job application once in a while. Coming to this space as a newcomer, this approach helped me build a mental framework for the social impact sector and start to connect the dots between different people and organizations and I was ultimately able to land a new role in 6 months.” – Reuben Gan

Quote from MovingWorlds Institute Alumni Reuben Gan about doing many things at once as part of a career transition.

“My advice would be to find opportunities, resources, and connections to help motivate you through the process. Sometimes making a pivot into a brand new field or career means finding smaller bridges that help aid a larger transition. Skill sets are transferable, and focusing on where your talents can be used in a different way makes change much more tangible.” – Joelle Hughley

“Letting go of the idea of control during this uncertain time can be very freeing. Keep yourself on track and motivated by balancing your to-do list with tasks and rewards, breaks, and social activities, so you’re treating yourself the way you expect your future employer to treat you. You can start with a small habit, such as not checking your email or social media for the first 30 minutes of your day, and build a routine around centering self-reflection and goals. With every achievement, reward yourself so you can bring some joy to your day.” – Ivy Teng Lei

Don’t go it alone

“Career transitions can be extremely daunting and full of uncertainty. For that reason it’s very important that you don’t go through the process in isolation. Be sure to speak to your near and dear ones- family, friends – anyone who knows you well that you can just talk to. Journal your thoughts and don’t make it an isolated process.” – Devika Wadhawan

“Having supportive people in my life has helped me tame my frenzy a few times. Look for a good combination of people who know your work, people who might not understand your profession but know you as a person and what drives you, people who are critical thinkers and ask the right questions, and people who believe in you when you don’t – not out of blind affection, but because they’ve seen you work hard and do what you set your mind to. Support and encouragement come in many forms and all have their role in our progress.” –Katalin Kaplar

“Being in a community of supportive, like-minded individuals (such as the MovingWorlds community) has been such a gift! Being able to check in with accountability buddies (in whatever form that feels right for you) will keep you out of your head, and you’ll mutually uplift one another and keep making progress together.” – Jing Han

“You are not alone. There are so many people navigating career transitions right now. So my advice is to connect with them frequently to share ideas, get introductions, and review resumes and cover letters. The great thing about the MWI community is so many of us are working through this now or have recently transitioned to a new career. Everyone in the community has been willing to connect and offer support or further suggestions.” – Amy Danner

“I think the biggest key to staying sane for me was leaning on and reaching out to my colleagues and friends that were also experiencing similar transitions in their careers at the same time. It’s been 3 years since I completed my Fellowship, and I continue to meet and check in (virtually) with my accountability group when any of us needs or wants advice, guidance, or an understanding ear. We have all made BIG moves in the time since our cohort finished the program, and being able to share joys, successes, frustrations, and fears along the way has made all the difference. When you feel untethered about your career transition, reach out to someone in your orbit to help ground you.” -Natosha Safo

“I would suggest finding some way to develop “generative” and “re-generative” conversations where you feel safe to be authentic. Find a support network where you feel welcome, where you have space to share the challenging emotions and situations you’re facing, things you are excited about, and can support and celebrate each other. Engaging with people that really hear you (and that you feel excited to hear too) makes all the difference.” – Samanta Fonseca

Quote from MovingWorlds Institute Alumni Samanta Fonseca about finding a supportive community to support your career transition.

“I found it most useful to stay humble and connected with like minded people. Find others who are in a similar journey – this is your support group. Keep connected with mentors and others you look up to. It will make your journey less lonely. -Chandana Sreerambhatla

“My advice again is to talk with people who are going through a similar transition. The job search process / career transition process can be long, frustrating and at times disheartening. Being in regular contact with a few folks who are going through a similar experience can be extremely helpful – you can ask each other for practical advice (e.g., resume reviews, interview prep), and also commiserate and keep each others’ spirits up.” – Jennifer Archila

“Make sure you have supportive people around you to remind you that you’re doing the right thing and that it’s going to take time. Also, make sure you have some things in your life that will afford you opportunities for quick results. Exercise and cooking help me quite a bit. A career transition usually does not happen immediately.” – John Cohn

“Remember that you are not alone. We are all going through this. Talk to people around you who could give you good advice. Reach out to people who have similar interests and have a conversation with them.” –Joelle Atallah

“Have a support group, a community of like-minded people you can rely on to vent, brainstorm and discuss ideas. Keep yourself open to possibilities; focus is great and necessary but taking some detours can be very surprising! Build bridges that will help you connect with people, places and opportunities.” – Fernanda Oliveira

Maintain a routine that includes self-care

“If you decide to take some time off to figure things out (i.e. a sabbatical), make sure you still maintain a routine and continuously read and learn as you move through the process. If you are trying to make a transition while currently working full-time, maintain boundaries between that and your job so you don’t end up burned out. Keep the work needed to transition for the weekends, when you have more dedicated time.” – Devika Wadhawan

“One of the best practices for me has been to establish a consistent morning routine. The way you begin your morning is really important in terms of setting the tone for your day, whether you want it to be focused and productive, relaxing and restorative, or active and fun. A morning routine could include meditation, journaling, physical exercise, time outdoors in nature, eating a healthy breakfast….whatever will put you in a clear and positive mindset for the day ahead.” – Holly Pearson

Quote from MovingWorlds Institute Alumni Holly Pearson about establishing a morning routine to support your career transition.

“Get great sleep. It may sound silly or basic or unrelated, but well-rested you is a completely different person from sleep-deprived you. When you’re well rested, you are going to have a much easier time doing the things that will help you feel sane – getting exercise, being present and energetic while networking, being productive in applying for jobs, etc.” -Justine Jenné

“Have a self-care plan prepared. List the things that you know will make you feel calm and grounded. In times of stress, uncertainty, and (let’s be honest) panic, refer to your list. Talk to friends and family about what you’re going through – having a human support network is so important.” – Clare Healy

“Meditate and stretch. At least 30 minutes of each every day. Seriously. Both will help relieve stress, pressure, anxiety, frustration etc. etc. etc. Importantly, it will help you process all the changes you’re going through. If you don’t have a meditation or stretching practice, invest in a basic class to build a practice that fits your needs. No joke. Best thing I did for myself. Plus, there will be down time so you will need to fill it with something that goes beyond stuff on the internet.” – Lukasz Czerwinski

Be patient and go at your own pace

“Recognize that this may be a slow process and try to remind yourself of the value in that. Engage in a deliberative process so that you resist the temptation to jump at the first opportunity that comes along if it’s not the right fit. It took me a year and a half to settle on my transition from attorney to leadership coach and I learned more about myself and what I wanted out of my professional–and personal–life during that time than I probably had in my 20+ year career as an attorney. The process of the transition can be as valuable as the destination of getting a new job, so try to relax and use the time for self-development and fulfillment.” – Sonya Rudenstine

“Assess how much change your life can tolerate based on your unique life situation (financial, family health etc). Have this be a factor when planning your next step. Maybe it needs to be a smaller step than what you initially envisioned but it is still a step forward.” -Irit Seligman

“Do not rush – a career transition is often a process of taking 2 steps forward, 1 step back! I’d also suggest being thoughtful in the way you prioritize – when everything is important, nothing is. Finally, breathe: when the world speeds up around you, slow down!” – Anna Derinova-Hartmann

“Slow down, breathe, and stay mindful of the goodness in people.” – Randy Penn

“Don’t rush. Take it one step at a time and try to appreciate the process of it. Pivoting a career does not happen overnight, and the more you are present in the moment the more you can make better decisions for yourself. Also, remember to pause and take care of yourself — go for walks, catch up with an old friend, do something that makes you extra happy whatever that may be.” – Yui Shapard

Quote from MovingWorlds Institute Alumni Yui Shapard about taking your time and staying patient during your career transition.

“Take one day at a time. Make small steps at your own pace towards what you want to achieve. It may come to fruition today, or tomorrow but you just have to keep the faith.” – Katerina Msafari

“While it can take weeks to months to make the transition, try to stay patient and not get discouraged – you will eventually reach your goal. Try not to be too hard on yourself, if you have decided to transition, it will eventually happen!” -Devika Wadhawan

Reflect and trust your gut

“I believe work is a big part of one’s life and life is too short to invest in a wrong career. It takes a lot of reflection, acceptance and courage to switch careers and if you have identified the need for a switch you should celebrate! At whatever stage of transition you are, you are already one step closer to finding the career where you would want to wake up and give your 200% so don’t stop now.” – Vriti Jain

“Reflect upon your journey/plan – why you embarked on it, what you are looking for. Also remember to stay humble: you are going to learn a lot about yourself and depending on the career change, about a new field. For me, moving to climate change was a 180 from where I was before, in finance. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable and honest about where you are, what you need to learn will allow you to free yourself to do this and connect to those who have much to give you in this journey.” -Chandana Sreerambhatla

“A simple yet helpful tool I use both as a coach with my clients and in my own life is an exercise called C.I.A. It involves evaluating what in the situation at hand I can control (C), influence (I) or have to accept & adapt to (A). This sometimes might also reveal what is non-negotiable, and if that falls in the accept & adapt category, then a more radical change might be needed.” – Katalin Kaplar

“Be intentional, thoughtful and a little vulnerable. Use the internet/friends/family/coworkers as a resource but don’t rely on them to determine what you should do. Look inside yourself and determine what you need/want and trust your gut.” – Kelsey Dickerson

“I remember when I left my previous job and started my career transition process that many people said to me: “Are you crazy? We are facing an economic crisis and you are leaving this amazing job?” My point is that there will never be an ideal moment to transition your career, and it will come with risks no matter what. But when you know, you know. If you can, save money in the meantime to live comfortably while you decide exactly what you want and where your purpose lies.” –Thais Bueno Rodrigues

“Stay true to yourself, your beliefs and needs and always check in with yourself to make sure you´re not diverging away from your goal.” – Fernanda Oliveira

Quote from MovingWorlds Institute Alumni Fernanda Oliveira about staying true to yourself during your career transition.

“If you feel confused and lost, then you probably have unclear answers regarding the next steps. Reflect and go over your plan again to find the clarity you need to overcome any doubts you encounter.” –Joelle Atallah

Have a positive thinking and mindset seeking to be useful to others in lifetime, Be a leader that brings in light, clarity, improvement and is at the service of large needy ones. thus searching to become a renowned leader at the service of the globe; a global citizen as a whole who is ready to face competition all through the time and seek to distinguish himself among others. – Serge Claude Eboa Edoube

Know that changing your path is what will create the change you want to see in others. – Amanda Provenzo

Looking for a supportive community to ground your career transition in? Apply to the MovingWorlds Institute Global Fellowship for the confidence, connections, and hands-on experience to launch or grow your social impact career.