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4 steps to successfully navigate career change

4 min read


As I finished reading a recent article in The Guardian about the changing nature of our careers, I leaned back in my chair and began to reflect on my recent past and path.

I’ve had the unique opportunity to play professional football, work in a church ministry, be a head football coach in a public school system, work in corporate America, and own my own business. Across all those valuable experiences, one thing has been constant — change. Whether it was the pain of the door closing on my dream of playing professional football or the uncertainty of having five managers in three years, the ability to successfully navigate career change is simply non-negotiable for today’s leader.

It’s difficult to acknowledge and admit, but there simply is no job we can do or no role we have forever. Career change will happen. And how well a leader navigates these challenging transitions will go a long way to determining his or her success, and the success of the organization he or she serves.

So what should do when we experience career change?

I’d like to submit four key things we can do to help navigate career changes and life’s difficult transitions.

  1. Grieve the loss

When difficult career transitions come, we need to give ourselves permission to grieve. It’s normal, needed, and even healthy to cry, to share emotion, and to struggle with our change in plans or circumstance. Taking time to mourn the loss and share this sorrow or frustration with a trusted confidant is the first step toward successfully moving forward.

  1. Grade your skills

When difficult transitions come, we often want to escape as fast as possible and get on to the next thing, stuffing our feelings and rushing to be busy again. However, it’s important to reflect and plan, grading ourselves with some key questions:

  • What unique gifts, talents, and skills do I have?
  • What do I love to do?
  • Why am I doing what I’m doing?

Slowing down to reflect, review, plan, and grade our God-given abilities is an often missed step in navigating career transition challenges.

  1. Grow in a new area

When challenging career changes come our way, once we’ve graded our skills and abilities, it’s important to be willing to grow in a new area of interest. We can always improve, always stretch, and always learn something innovative or different. Leaders are learners at the core. As much as anything else, having an open mind to learn will lead us through the transition we are facing.

  1. Go do something new

In difficult career transitions, going on to something new is scary. It’s unfamiliar, it’s different, and it may not be what we originally set out to do. But it might also be better. We just don’t know it yet. Going on to something new becomes much easier if we do the work up front of grieving the loss, grading ourselves through prayer and planning, and being willing to grow in a new area.

Change and challenge are both constant and inevitable. But when they do come, if we will take time to grieve, grade, grow and then go forward, we stand the best chance of leading the best career and life possible.

Tim Hiller is the author of the book “Strive: Life is Short, Pursue What Matters” and a nationally recognized speaker in the areas of leadership development, faith and discovering purpose. A former NFL and collegiate quarterback, Hiller now uses his gifts, talents, and experiences to serve and better others. He directs the personal, professional, and leadership development efforts of the Instruments division of Stryker, a Fortune 500 medical technologies firm based in Michigan. In addition, Tim is the co-founder and owner of Next Level Performance, which builds leadership and character in student-athletes through the platform of athletics. To connect with Tim and learn more about his work, visit or follow him on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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