Career transition challenges: how to navigate the process

Australians face multiple career transitions

Australians may face multiple career transitions throughout their lives, presenting unexpected challenges. Transitioning from education to work, and facing job changes, organisational and industry changes, and retirement, to name only a few, these are all processes that demand specific skills. These are referred to as career management skills. Gaining career management skills is a long-lasting investment, providing a valuable asset when confronting transitions.

Career transitions are challenging

People facing career transitions encounter many challenges, such as:

  • low confidence
  • lack of motivation
  • having outdated or ageing skills
  • holding unhelpful beliefs
  • not knowing what information is needed, where to find it or how to use it
  • barriers due to diversity and life circumstances.

To navigate these challenges you need to:

  • know where to find current and credible information
  • who to talk to
  • how to identify skills and explain how skills and experience transfer to new contexts, industries and jobs (i.e. transferable skills).
Career management skills are essential

The ability to see and explain skills gained in one context and their application to another context is one of the most valuable career management skills you can build. Some people may need help with learning this skill, and the best people to do this are qualified Career Development Practitioners. Their help can be invaluable to effectively navigating career transitions.

Tapping the knowledge and skills of Career Development Practitioners is not a ‘soft’ option. At its heart is the idea of an active, engaged person who is guided to determine their own direction and choices. The person-centred focus of this work taps highly sophisticated social skills, informed knowledge, and evidence-based resources.

Industry changes and business closures trigger career transitions

Moving to a carbon-neutral economy is a profound social challenge and means many workers may face significant transitions that affect them, their families, and their communities. Investing in essential career transition support and services will help Australians meet these workforce challenges.

Every person, no matter what their age or background is, and no matter where they are from, should be able to build a rewarding career. When communities are faced with major industry changes they need to be supported with quality, long-term transition processes.

Career practitioners need to be involved from the outset in designing transition programs, as well as in delivering services, monitoring progress and evaluating outcomes. Factors critical for effective career services are:

  • an holistic, tailored, personalised, flexible approach
  • collaboration amongst service providers
  • services planned and evaluated.

A ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach doesn’t work.

Career practitioners support people to make smooth and purposeful transitions, thereby  increasing labour market participation, decreasing unemployment, and enhancing people’s skills and knowledge base.

CDAA’s report: Navigating Life’s Career Transitions: Essential Support and Services

The Career Development Association Australia (CDAA) has produced a report making the case for working closely with career development professionals during career transitions.

CDAA is Australia’s national, multi-sectoral professional association, with more than 1300 members across Australia working in all sectors of the profession.

CDAA’s report, Navigating Life’s Career Transitions: Essential Support and Services, aims to increase understanding of key aspects of career transitions:

  • The nature and complexities of career transitions.
  • The difficulties people face during career transitions and what help they need.
  • What Career Development Practitioners offer that is essential to successful career transitions.
  • The effectiveness of Career Development Practitioners’ work.
  • What factors increase successful industry transition processes.
  • How to further strengthen career transition support and services.

The analysis in this report is based on a combination of desk research, a survey of CDAA members, and case studies drawn from CDAA award winners, whose work has been recognised for its excellence.

CDAA recommends seven actions to support Australians facing the challenges of career transitions:

  • Update and further implement the Australian government’s National Career Development Strategy.
  • Increase awareness of career support and services by the National Careers Institute.
  • Establish a sound foundation in career management skills by all governments.
  • Evaluate all government career services.
  • Further adjust employers’ recruiting and retention practices.
  • Ensure regions affected by major transitions are supported with quality, long-term transition processes.
  • Ensure career services are provided by qualified Career Development Practitioners.
Report Briefs aid understanding of career transitions

To support this report, several briefs give summaries that are tailored to the needs of specific groups:

Parents and carers: This brief helps parents and carers to  understand that: children face several transition points across their education and will experience multiple career transitions across their lifespan; and young people’s career aspirations are formed early, by age 7 and often follow traditional gender stereotypes. This means that building a sound foundation in career management skills is vital, as is knowing what career services are available for children, and how to judge their quality.

Adults facing career transitions: This brief helps adults, whether they be employees, contractors or casuals, to understand the nature of career transitions and the career management help that is available. Many people either don’t know how to manage their career or feel they don’t need to, so without professional help to explain, guide, navigate, and encourage, adults may be disadvantaged in the labour market.

Communities facing industry transitions: This brief encourages communities to increase their understanding of the challenges people face during career transitions and the value of working together to provide quality, long-term transition processes that include career support. This means providing all workers with skilled pathways into alternative, quality employment, that provides certainty, security and stability.

Business owners and employers: This brief helps business owners and employers of different sizes and across different sectors and industries who are facing multiple workforce and structural issues, to understand the value and relevance of career practitioners’ work. It also helps build a better understanding of the challenges people face during career transitions and the human, social and economic value of providing quality career support.

Policy makers: This brief recognises that government policy makers are facing multiple complex challenges that need widespread collaboration, coordination, multidisciplinary input, and wise insight. It encourages policy makers to include career services in their work by considering the various CDAA recommendations that will support Australians during career transitions.

This report provides practical help with navigating the challenges of career transitions by:

  • describing 16 types of career transitions.
  • identifying 12 lessons from these transitions.
  • describing 8 categories of challenges people face during career transitions.
  • providing material for use by recruiters, employers, and contractors when seeking to employ or contract professional Career Development Practitioners.
  • identifying the specific benefits gained from quality professional career support, including finding satisfying work, building hope and resilience, and understanding risk-taking.
  • explaining Australian and international research evidence that shows that quality career services deliver individual, social, and economic outcomes.
  • listing sixteen success factors that show how to design just, effective, and well managed industry transition processes.
  • offering seven recommendations to further invest in essential career transition support and services for all Australians.

Also see the article: Understanding transferable skills: what are they?

Dr Ann Villiers, career coach, writer and author, is Australia’s only Mental Nutritionist specialising in mind and language practices that help people build flexible thinking, confident speaking and quality connections with people.