While the career transition process can be a time of great growth and opportunity, there’s no doubt that it also can be accompanied by a healthy amount of frustration, anxiety, and confusion as well — particularly for those who haven’t faced the need to look for a new role in quite a few years and may not quite know what to expect out there.

In light of this, I recently asked a successful client to share some of his thoughts, looking back, at what he learned during the process of looking for a new assignment.  While he’s been comfortably employed for over a year now, it took him a considerable amount of time to find his new position — with lots of ups and downs along the way — so granted, while his experiences may not align perfectly with those of everybody else, I thought they were fairly representative of the process and well worth sharing.

Here’s what he had to say:

  • When going through the transition process, find and cherish at least one – preferably more than one – person in your life you can trust, who will have your back, and will convey faith in you and your ability to do great work.  At some point, you’ll feel you’ve taken on the world, and you want someone who’s ready to stand with you.
  • Being out of work will challenge your own perception of your self-worth.  Face it, then kick it to the curb.  You’re not defined by your job or employment status.  Society has that one all wrong.
  • When you land your next job, it may be one that falls short of your best expectations.  You may feel you’re overqualified and/or underpaid.  Chances are you’re right.  Your objective must be to bring something to the party that the employer or hiring manager didn’t expect, hasn’t seen, or can’t do themselves.  Figure out what that is and own it like a boss. It’s critical to be known for something, even if it’s no guarantee of long-term success with that employer.  It’s part of building your own brand with your coworkers and employer – your new target consumer.
  • Don’t be surprised if the FT position you apply for becomes a contract role while you’re interviewing. If employers think they can demand to see “proof of concept” before filling a role, they won’t hesitate.  Even if it means missing out on the very best qualified candidates.
  • The hiring process for many jobs takes entirely too long.  Bad news: You may not make the first cut even after a long wait.  Good news: Competition for top candidates – hopefully you’re one – is more fierce than it has been in a while. So if you haven’t heard anything in a while, check back.  There’s a chance the employer missed out on their first choice(s) due to the decision-making pace. Never hearing “no” means there’s still potential for success.
  • Understand the old-school mentality that a series of positions of fewer than 3-4 years on your resume signifies something wrong with a candidate.  That’s unfortunate and monumentally frustrating.  And there’s no foolproof counterargument.  But showing how you’ve followed a game plan – even if it’s a bit unconventional – will sway naysayers on occasion.  Have your story, keep it concise, be proud of your choices, and suggest how it enriches your capacity to bring success to your next, longer chapter of work.
  • Interviewers aren’t trained to interview in most cases, so you need to prepare great answers in response to some really awful interview questions.  If it feels like you’re doing the work for them, you’re right.  You can’t afford not to.
  • You must show fit and the ability to fit in.  It’s part of the focus on culture.  My company’s senior strategist says, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”  Will it last?  Who knows?  But be prepared to meet the fit issue now and for the next few years.  Talk to someone inside the company who can offer insights into the company’s personality.
  • Don’t be surprised if after a long period of unemployment or underemployment, finally landing doesn’t offer a sense of relief.  While having to job hunt doesn’t define you, the frustrations, the near misses, the perceived slights (i.e. wrong age, too smart, too much experience, and 100 other things) of a lengthy process may change you.  If people around you lose their job in your company, you may feel yourself waiting for the next shoe to drop. You might feel yourself looking over your shoulder for the co-worker who’s now threatened by you and your capabilities.  Maybe you work later than others to more firmly establish your value to the company.  There may be a lingering sense of anxiety that you can’t shake or identify.  That may be your new normal.  But…
  • You do, however, have some advantages. First, you know that stability can be fleeting and complacency can kill you.  You might therefore see things coming, internally, before the folks with longer tenures do.  Secondly, you’re going to find compassion for others who’ve experienced similar job-finding challenges.  You’ll know that great people like you are waiting to prove themselves in a new role.  You’ll give them the attention that others may not have so readily given you. Your efforts in self-reflection will give you the upper hand in conveying authenticity¾and that’s what people you work with are counting on and it’s nothing anyone can fake.
  • Lastly, never stop following your passions and loves outside the office or workplace.  You need the rejuvenation.  You deserve it. Don’t let yourself be defined completely by your career or your job title!