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Early Career Professionals Corner

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Vaneeta Sandhu, PsyD

During graduate school, we keep our eye on the “dream job” prize and often that is what motivates us through all the hoops we jump through. We are frequently exposed to faculty or supervisors who have been in their positions or organizations for several years or decades. However, more often than not, job changes happen – and happen multiple times.

Debating the qualities of a particular job offer might seem like a privilege in these times, when jobs are scarce and professionals are underemployed. At times you have no choice but to accept a less-than-perfect fit for financial or other personal reasons. However, a job is never just a job. This is the career that you have worked very hard for, and thinking of anything except upward mobility or that initial “dream job” seems scary – maybe even absurd.

Upward mobility job changes are the ones we often peg as “ideal” or “the only way.” As more experienced colleagues have reminded me, moving “up” can also be a misstep. When transitioning to a job with different and/or more responsibilities, having a designated mentor or colleague at the new job to support your transition can be essential in learning the ins and outs of the new organization, program, and resources.

Lateral job changes are ones made often because we think it will get us closer to that “dream job.” Perhaps the job carries a title, status, or responsibility that we are seeking. The natural inclination here is to feel disappointment that it is not an upward mobility job change. However, chances are you have conducted the research and made a careful assessment of the risks. The “any experience is good experience” golden rule just may apply here.

Finally, there is the job change that you think would actually be a step back in the ladder you have been climbing. Again, this change may be due to financial or other personal reasons. We are not always aware when a job change might be this “step back”; this transition is often made when that seemingly upward transition ended up being a misstep.

There is inherent risk-taking in any job transition. Explore your strengths, remember your strengths, and own your strengths. It is easy to focus on weaknesses or room for improvement, but when working to your strengths, the transition will feel less chaotic. Find ways to communicate and demonstrate these strengths to those around you.

The catch to some of this is that the definition of the “dream job” changes and can change quickly. The lateral job change you made? The unexpected misstep? Both can alter your definition and you just never know what is around the corner. Regardless of which transitions happens, stay curious and be ready to learn. There is an inevitable learning curve that takes place in the beginning, which can often be the most stressful part. Having support both at your job and outside of your job is integral to your wellness. The chances are that any of us will be changing positions is high. Remember to support a colleague who may be going through it, as you will likely need that support some time in the future.

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