The Better Way Back to Work

Career transitions in the 21st century aren't just about managing the tactical aspects of the job search, they are also about managing yourself. What follows is a path through unexpected unemployment that addresses both the tactical and the psychological aspects of the journey back to work.

This path relies on acceptance, exploration, and connection to avoid common pitfalls. It's simply "a better way" forward than braving the "deadly seas" of most career transitions. 



Feel, Breathe, Rest

“The emotions that I’ve held at bay beneath the surface come bursting out. It’s everything, all at once—anger, sadness, reluctance, pain, regret, fear—probably best summarized as shock.”

“After dinner I call my good friend or sibling—I’m not even sure how to break the news to them, but it feels good when I finally do.”

“I spend a few days sleeping, going for walks, and starting to daydream about life away from my old job. The wave of emotions occasionally creeps up on me as the days go by—it’s my trigger to go for a walk, talk to someone I’m close to, or write down the mess of thoughts stuck in my head.”


  • Giving yourself the time to grieve, rest, and begin to process
  • Telling loved ones and people that you’re close with what happened

Get Your Sea Legs

“All I want to do is put my head down and plow through this process as fast as possible, but it seems like it might be a better idea to spend a few days figuring out what the hell job searching in the 21st century is all about."

“I still don’t feel great, but getting my finances and resume in order make me feel less anxious.”

"I’ve also sent a few emails to others I know going through this experience –nothing fancy or long. It’s just nice to know I’m not alone and have a few people to bounce ideas off of."


  • Getting oriented to the journey ahead by developing realistic expectations
  • Understanding your finances at a high level
  • Developing a way to communicate your situation
  • Sending some emails off to people in similar situations
  • Taking a quick pass at writing / updating your resume


Prepare the Boat

“I’ve done enough early work with my resume and sending out some short emails that I can spend some time and energy thinking about how I’m going to fill my days”

“There were so many bad habits I had going when I was working at my last job—now seems like a great opportunity to press the reset button. I know that whatever I start doing now will likely stay with me until the day I find a new opportunity.”

"Conventional wisdom says, 'job searching is a full-time job,' but I see that for the myth that it is."


  • Thinking about the right balance of activities in your new routine
  • Taking small steps to put these habits in place
  • Avoiding the myth that the “job search is a full-time job”

Understand the Sailor

“I finally worked up the courage to schedule an appointment with a career coach. At first, it’s a total pain to figure out who is worth talking to and who is a complete waste of time, but I finally settled on someone who has worked with people like me before and clearly knows his stuff.”

“I get closer and closer to defining what it is I actually want and—paradoxically—I start to realize at the same time that the paths open before me are more varied and interesting than I ever imagined.” 


  • Thoughtfully engaging with important questions about who you are and what you want
  • Staying connected with loved ones and close friends


Understand the Seas

“For the first time in a long time, I feel like I know who I am and what I’m looking for. Now, I’m ready to turn outward. I look through some of the most popular online job boards for the types of positions that I’ve been in for decades. I realize that those job descriptions look pretty different from when I started my career.”

“I’m starting to get a level-headed sense of what is realistically available to me and what is closed off, what I can control and what I can’t.”


  • Understanding how larger systemic changes are impacting your chosen field
  • Collecting data from a variety of sources
  • Combing data about both the self and the external environment into a single comprehensive (and clear-eyed) path forward

Sail Away

“After a lot of talking and reflecting, it feels great to finally be making tangible progress job searching in the more ‘traditional’ sense.”

“I explicitly focus on quality—not quantity—of opportunities. I pick a handful that seem both interesting and obtainable and do everything I can to get a foot in the door through a current employee or reference.”

“I know the numbers game isn’t in my favor—the key is changing the odds around for a handful of opportunities.”


  • Focusing on quality of application efforts, as opposed to quantity
  • Prioritizing human-to-human connection over online “pre-interview” work
  • Engaging resources to ensure application materials are error-free and optimized


Stay the Course

“My job search rolls steadily on. I make sure to always have a few irons in the fire without getting too tied to any one thing. Sticking to my routine has helped me maintain a consistent sense of progress.”

“I’m not overly optimistic or pessimistic—I’m somewhere comfortably in between. 'Realistic' is probably the best way to describe it. It could be a few weeks or even months before the light finally breaks through, but that’s okay. I’m ready for the journey ahead.


  • Seeking out new forms of support as you’ve needed it
  • Sticking to your plan

Feeling at sea during your career transition?