The Seven Deadly Seas of Career Transitions

The journey through unexpected unemployment and back to work can be daunting. Career transitions in the 21st century can leave individuals feeling at sea - lost, unprepared, and overwhelmed. What follows are seven "deadly seas" - or phases - that individuals often experience while unemployed. 

Each journey through unexpected unemployment is unique. You may experience all of these phases or just a few of them. They may come in different orders or be repeated. While the path through these phases is always different, the pitfalls and challenges associated with each phase are consistent. Can you see yourself in these deadly seas?



The Separation Shock

“I walk into the noon meeting knowing something is amiss and my worst fears are confirmed when next to my boss I see the new woman from HR. Yes, this is it. My stomach turns.”

“The dread creeps in as I realize I’ll have to start that terrible cycle all over again: selling myself, the inevitable rejection, the eventual acceptance of the less-than-ideal next gig.”

“It all happened so fast. Yesterday I was working – a productive member of society – and now? Now, I’m unemployed.”


  • Not taking time to grieve and process
  • Avoiding telling loved ones and friends
  • Jumping too quickly into the tactical aspects of the job search

The False Honeymoon

“I’m starting to realize all the things I didn’t like about my last job. How many times did I tell myself that I needed to just get up and walk out of that place?”

"It’s only up from here—after all, how hard can it really be to find a new job? The guy on TV was saying the other day that the unemployment figures are low...that has to be a good sign, right?"

“I send off some emails to old colleagues and to a few good friends. Now, I just sit back and wait for the opportunities to flow in!”


  • Setting unrealistic expectations about the ease and brevity of the journey ahead
  • Blindly pursuing a job similar to your last one
  • Sinking time and energy on tactical steps before grappling with higher-order career questions


The Hard Reality

“Why haven’t the applications I submitted online even been acknowledged? I sent off my resume and cover letters to five positions that were absolutely perfect for me —surely, I should have heard back by now.”

“Is it possible I didn’t update my resume and LinkedIn profile correctly? This whole process seems so different from the last time I looked for a job.”

“There’s a point nearly every day when I start to think about all of the money we’re spending and all of the money I’m not making... I have a little bit of breathing room on that front now, but that breathing room is disappearing fast.”


  • Avoiding difficult realities of your circumstances
  • Sinking into unhealthy daily habits
  • Withdrawing from loved ones and friends

The Breaking Point

“If one more person asks me how the job search is going or what I’ve done today, I’m going to snap.”

“My eyes are completely open at this point to all the biases that companies unapologetically use against me (It’s my age! My race! My gender! My paygrade!). How dare my previous employer treat me the way they did!”

“Most of my job search at this point is sitting at the computer, spending hours on end looking at job boards and going down internet rabbit roles—half-reading articles and message boards with posts from other frustrated and lost souls.”


  • Not seeking emotional support
  • Not embracing a realistic view of your own role in this situation
  • Using unhealthy habits to temporarily ease the pain


The Reluctant Recognition

“Every one of the 50+ applications I’ve sent out seems to get sucked into some black hole. I have written and re-written over a dozen versions of my resume.”

“I’ve started to search for help online, but I’m just not sure what’s legit—so much of the advice out there seems unfounded or conflicting.”

“It feels like I’ve failed somehow. Maybe it really is all my fault? Maybe there’s something wrong with me?”


  • Believing that there is a silver bullet solution
  • Paying for unnecessary services, classes, and/or degrees
  • Over-emphasizing the same tactical tasks without searching for a new strategy

The Rock Bottom

“No one warned me about how draining this all would be. I thought for sure the hardest part was going to be the initial break from work—I couldn’t have been more wrong. The stress of waiting for the opportunity that’s going to pull me out of this has been relentless.”

“Every day, I wake up and I do the same thing I’ve been doing for months, unsure of how to break the cycle. I occasionally go the library or a coffee shop because by now it’s clear that if I don’t get out of the house I’ll go crazy. But no matter where I go or what I do, I feel trapped.”


  • Withdrawing into yourself
  • Not seeking help from professionals


The Jaded New-Normal

“I’ve arrived at a new normal of sorts—a new steady state. I know what’s ahead each day, and while I may not feel great, my emotions no longer catch me by surprise.”

“I find myself occasionally giving support and advice to some of the newcomers. It’s mostly telling them what dead-ends to avoid (online job boards!) and trying my best to warn them about what they are in for.”

“I have a well-worn skepticism about anything ultimately coming through, but hopefully it’ll happen. I can’t be out of work forever. Can I?"


  • Stopping the active search for a new job
  • Failing to embody the enthusiasm and excitement that potential employers value
  • Assuming you know everything

Wondering if there's a better way forward?