Linkedin Twitter Facebook YouTube Mail

Lessons learned for a successful career transition

Can you reinvent yourself?

With 20 years of practical experience, I find myself in a privileged position to have witnessed hundreds of career transitions. People regularly ask me the following question: “Which particular transitions were different throughout the years?” Below, I will mention some transitions that stay in my memory. The persons concerned will remain anonymous, of course.

  • A manager of a refinery in Rotterdam becomes Ranger at the National Kruger Park in South-Africa.
  • A man with an important management position leaves the rainy Netherlands for the French countryside and becomes the owner of a camping in the Provence.
  • A Human Resources director becomes the general manager of a company quoted on the stock exchange.
  • The transition from marketing director in business life to a successful international entrepreneur.
  • The transition from the manager of one of the largest commercial IT companies in the world to the director of a not-for-profit organization in the Sheltered Employment sector. People often talk about the transition from corporate life to the public sector but, eventually, only a few of them take this step.
  • An operational manager in the food industry becomes a.... Clini Clown
Are we responsible for this? No. The persons doing the work are. However, we can show them the way and help them maximizing their chances of success during the process.

Which were the similarities between the most transforming career transitions?
  1. The people’s creativity allowing them to give up the existing frameworks. The first reaction I often hear during a transition is the following: “I want something totally different”. In practice, people almost always give up their first plan as soon as the obstacles become more obvious.
  2. The real acknowledgment that the best career step usually requires a financial sacrifice in the first place. Often, you first need to take a step back in order to take two steps forward, subsequently.
  3. In order to achieve a successful transition, people must dare to make a choice between several scenarios. People focusing on one direction, were always the most effective ones.
  4. The active and disciplined expansion of their professional network. Almost all the people I have been working with throughout the years, now enjoy a bigger professional network in which they give and take. This is the best insurance one can have.
  5. Patience. Often (not always), the first offer isn’t the best. Usually, it concerns an offer for something someone has already done before, but in another context. The best next steps I have seen, were those taken by people daring to turn down several offers during the process, but being confident that the most adequate offer still had to come.
  6. Hard work. A successful transition is also a ‘numbers game’. Think big on your way to success: have plenty of conversations with lots of people, get referenced and execute your strategy in a disciplined way.
  7. Insight into the power of inertia. The most effective coachees I have been working with, were aware of how compelling daily routine is. Most probably, tomorrow, people will do the same as what they are doing today. However, you are the only person who can decide to do things differently as from tomorrow! Eventually, you need to break out of inertia by yourself!
So, can you reinvent yourself? The answer is simple: “Yes, you can!” However, it appears from the hundreds of transitions I have been involved in during the past two decades, that many people encountered difficulties to travel the same path and to successfully execute their new strategy. But almost all the people who have been working on it in a disciplined way, have achieved a precious career transition, almost always leading to personal growth. It has been proven.


By Paul Donkers

"my purpose is to help improve strategy execution, to create high performing teams and coach for effective business leaders"

Share this column:
Stay inspired and receive your new column every two weeks

We want to give the people in our network a little bit of inspiration on a regular basis. We will never send you any spam.

Prefered language

Notice: Undefined index: in /var/www/web14/htdocs/application/modules/site/controllers/StarController.php on line 435

Notice: Undefined index: in /var/www/web14/htdocs/application/modules/site/controllers/StarController.php on line 437