9 Reasons to Ask for Help from Your Friends During a Career Transition
Updated: Sep 25
When I ask career counseling clients who are seriously considering career change to tell me, “What do you talk about that your friends and loved ones tire of hearing you talk about?” the most common answer is, “My job.” The question is meant to elicit ideas about what a client might be expert or passionate about enough to talk at length on the subject, but I have heard the “My friends/family/partner are/is sick of hearing me talk about my *#(*@# job!” enough times to notice a pattern.
When working up our nerve to make a career change, one of our biggest fears is that we’re boring the snot out of everyone around us talking about our professional quandary. Maybe they offer us a sympathetic ear and the best advice they can muster, but at a certain point, it is ultimately us to take the courageous steps towards a meaningful pivot. That said, it is also worthwhile to build a solid pit crew of people to support us as we navigate a tricky job transition. They can cheer us from the sidelines and offer us perspective, counsel and hope. Below are just a few reasons to keep opening up to our closest friends and family about our career musings.
1. People can keep you accountable during your career transition. Create a mastermind group or just see if one person will meet with you regularly and serve as an accountability partner. Either way, you can commit to certain tactics each week and keep others accountable, too. The progress you make will feel like you are moving forward, and you will have someone else with whom to share both your setbacks and your achievements.
2. People can offer other kinds of expertise they are happy to share. Just as you offer friends and family advice on your areas of deep knowledge, you can also tap into this reservoir of experience among your trusted circle of confidants. Need help making a budget? Call that thrifty, finance-conversant sister-in-law. Curious about careers in law? Text that college friend who is a lawyer. Treat them to coffee or lunch, do as much of your own homework as possible, prepare some questions in advance, and send them a thank-you card later. As you get closer to actually making a career move, reach out to them to strategically network – more about that below.
3. People can remind you of your goals and offer inspiration by asking how you’re progressing. As you emerge from the COVID pandemic, start to spread your wings and socialize again in the coming months (fingers crossed), the people you see regularly who know about your plans may ask, “How is your career change going?” This little question sounds so innocent but can be powerful in keeping us on our toes towards making a meaningful transition. It can serve as a reminder that others are rooting for us and maybe even drawing inspiration from our particular struggle. (Don’t be surprised if they ask you for advice once you successfully make a seemingly seamless career switch.) In the meantime, you will tick off your progress with regular reports to them and feel gradually closer to the ideal career situation you are imagining for yourself.
4. People can offer themselves up as sounding boards. You can use them to brainstorm ideas or continue to develop your deeper thoughts into action items and cohesive plans. They will also likely offer tips and resources previously unknown to us. Like counseling itself, a person to discuss our
5. People can connect you with other people who know things you don’t and work at organizations you are not currently be associated with. In her animated video Networking for the networking averse, Lisa Green Chau brilliantly demonstrates how reaching out to others for specific kinds of knowledge and relationships can unlock opportunities we wouldn’t otherwise be able to access. She points out that our weaker ties may have access to better opportunities She also tells a story about Kathryn Minshew, who “went from not knowing anyone at Yahoo to three warm introductions to executives in three days.” Chau shares Minshew’s three tips to networking – say yes to every invitation to network; when you want something broadcast it to everyone you meet; and show up and often.
6. People can help spread the message about your career change. Once you have your resume polished (or are ready to start the boutique pet store you’ve long envisioned), your friends and family can help you broadcast the word far and wide. As Kathryn Minshew suggested, you will get farther in your transition plans if you can polish your elevator pitch and be prepared to share it with people strategically and effectively. You never know – that person you’re chatting with randomly at your neighbor’s barbecue may just know someone who works at that think tank downtown that you have been salivating over for months. If discretion is the name of the game since you’re wanting your current employer to stay in the dark about your plans to leave, it may not quite be time to make the change. Take a cue from Goethe – he famously said:
“What you can do, or dream you can, begin it Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it”
I’m not suggesting that you quit before you’re ready or sing your intentions from the rooftop. Just determine what you need to put in place so you will feel free enough to express yourself in a free and relaxed manner (in the appropriate settings) without fear of retribution from your boss. There is always a chance she may find out that you’re planning to leave, but that isn’t a reason to let her paralyze your ability to move forward. That’s a lot of power to give someone. You have great things on the horizon, and your fear of what people might think isn’t worth your time or energy.
7. People can help you get unstuck. By offering support and encouragement, people will help you get through insecure days and moments of self-doubt. They will help you defeat your imposter syndrome by reminding you of your superpowers and why a change is necessary. Let them get you out of your ruts – take you on walks in unfamiliar (but safe) parts of town, invite you to restaurants that serve foods you’ve never tried, sing karaoke in a dive bar on a Tuesday night – these are all things that can wake up and open up our thinking about our possibilities and our potential.
8. Some people never fail to surprise you – keep you on your toes and spark new ideas. I like to call them “sparklers” – those people like my friend Elizabeth who always make us feel more imaginative and hopeful and somehow the ideas just start bursting forth like fireworks. You know who I’m talking about. Make a point to spend some time with them and let the creative sparks fly.
9. People can help you feel connected to the world again (after a global pandemic, for instance). This might be the best reason to reach out since there has never been a better time. Make a list of people you have dearly missed since March 2020 and start reaching out to them and making coffee dates. They will be ecstatic to hear from you, and you are likely to be able offer them a much needed source of support, too. And if they’re a “sparkler” in your life, make a point to tell them so.
Kristin Schuchman, MSW is a career counselor and author based in Portland, Oregon who works with creative and mission-driven professionals. She writes resumes and coaches individuals seeking support for career indecision, next steps, work re-entry, advancement, and work-life-balance. She offers a free 30-minute Zoom or phone session and presently works with clients remotely. You can find her books The DIY Website Workbook and Jump Start: How to redirect a career that has stalled, lost direction or reached a crossroads on Amazon.