Career transition, whether it is a positive or negative change, can present a series of potential obstacles that must be navigated in order to be successful in your new role. Michael Watkins, co-founder of Genesis Advisers, looks at ways in which you can keep this transition as smooth as possible in his book ‘Your Next Move’, exerts of which he discusses in a video discussion with Harvard Business Review.

Watkins believes a person in career transition must consider what the personal adaptive challenges they are going through are. If we take a promotion, for example, there are a range of changes that you need to consider and make sure you can adapt properly to them. A promotion should be a happy time, but often you will face the issue of having to re-invent yourself – what made you successful in one role is not necessarily going to make you successful in your new role.

Watkins advises considering both what you love to do and are good at doing and need to do less of, and also what you are not so good at and don’t like doing that you need to do more of. By focusing on what you need to let go of and what you need to embrace, it can help you define what the personal adaptive challenges are.

Staying with the challenges faced by promotions, Watkins adds that another common issue is that of leading former peers – many will experience this and it is something that the vast majority will not savor going through again. Relationships held with colleagues with need to change in order to function properly as a boss, and considerations must include how to deal with former peers who do not want to let go of the current relationship, and how to exert authority without being too strict.

Another issue faced by many during a transitional period of their career is that of international moves, and the impact it has on the lives of the individual and their family. It is very difficult to be successful in a new job in an unfamiliar place if your family and loved ones are unhappy, so Watkins believes that getting your family settled should be the first priority following an international move. For the person going into this new job, there are the feelings of excitement and enthusiasm, but it is a whole different experience for the rest of the family. While it is not possible to mitigate all negative impacts the move might have on a family, and there will always be a low point upon moving when the realization of what you are doing hits you, but there are steps which can minimize the stress caused by this.

One such step is ensuring that the move is timed appropriately, so as to minimize unnecessary disruption to things such as schoolwork. Watkins also suggests ‘preserving the familiar’ – in the case of children, setting up their rooms exactly as they were back home can lessen the feelings of sudden change. Connections to both the new and old areas are also important – while it will be of great benefit to have your significant other and your children connect to people in their local area and ingratiate themselves in their new culture, it is also important to keep in touch with old friends back home, by methods such as Skype.

Organizations also have a vested interest in successful transition, as they need people to succeed – Watkins says that companies don’t always realize just how much transition is going on and the impact it is having on the organization. If a company can accelerate transition by giving everyone a common approach, it has a positive impact and gives them a competitive advantage by ensuring smooth transition and minimum disruption.

Companies can also play a role in helping newly hired employees integrate well into their new surroundings. The vast majority will do the same classic orientation methods such as showing new employees around the office and going over their brand values and mission statement, but Watkins believes that many overlook the biggest reason for underperformance or failure by new employees, which is to do with the culture and politics of an organization. If people coming in don’t understand the culture, it can be destructive for themselves and their new employees. Watkins focuses on three issues that must be considered:

1)    How are we going to help the person adapt to this unfamiliar culture?
2)    How are we going to connect them to the right people and help them form the right relationships?
3)    How are we going to align their expectations in every direction so they are set up for success?

This article was written by Chris Storey, Marketing Assistant at the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC).

BlueSteps is the exclusive service of the AESC that puts senior executives on the radar screen of over 8,000 executive search professionals in 74 countries. Be visible, and be considered for up to 75,000 opportunities handled by AESC search firms every year. Find out more at 



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