Transitioning: Real Talk
Job transitions are hard. Everyone we interviewed talked about it. There’s not a way around that reality, but according to GOLDs, there is a solution. When searching for a job, Pamela Horn ’13 described feeling disheartened and trapped at a Center City law firm.
“I had been applying to an endless number of companies and either not hearing back or getting interviews and job offers for positions that wouldn’t pay me enough to be able to afford my rent, utilities and other bills,” Horn said.
Horn ended up landing a new job at the Community College of Philadelphia. She attributed her success to tenacity, adaptability and supportive friends.
“It can feel like another full time job to get the job you want. You might send your resume to 40 places and only hear back from five of them,” she told us. “Don’t get discouraged! Take another look at your resume and try to see it through the eyes of potential employers. Make any changes and then send your resume to 40 more places.”
When discouragement inevitably strikes, Horn recommended talking to a support network such as trusted friends. “They let me cry and vent and reminded me that I was a lot more than my one-page resume and cover letters were communicating, and I shouldn’t lose track of that.”
Mark Hickey ’14, a graduate student and teaching assistant at Oklahoma State University, also said that his difficult transition experiences were remedied by speaking to trusted members of his network.
“It is important to learn how to find the right audience to hold these conversations with,” he told us. “Talk to friends, trusted coworkers, mentors or your family if you are thinking about transitioning to a new job. They can be beneficial sounding boards for you to help process your thoughts and form a plan, if necessary.”
Hickey pointed out that planning ahead and managing clear transition goals is key.
“Make a plan as early as possible, visualize what it will look like and break your plan down into small, achievable goals,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help and express gratitude to those you work with and those who help you in your transition. Sometimes you can’t plan for a transition, so start saving money now for an emergency fund that can help fund unexpected challenges that arise in a planned/unplanned transition.”
Facilitating Your Own Upward Movement
Aside from external job transitions, many GOLDs are working on their upward movement from within their current companies. Jovanni Waters ’14, who was recently promoted from senior analyst to middle office supervisor at SEI Investments, described keeping a keen eye out for job openings in your company and being prepared for opportunities before they even present themselves.
“I had taken every opportunity to work with as many of our clients as possible to gain a wide base of knowledge on the different types of activity I would see as an analyst,” Waters said. “I volunteered to work on different side projects when possible showing initiative on my part as well as allowing myself to build more knowledge in other aspects of the job.”
Similarly, Mirela Hajric ’14, who was recently promoted from procurement analyst to assistant procurement manager at Unilever, talked about the proactive and strategic conversations she facilitated with her boss without necessarily having a specific next role in mind or a job opening available.
“During our conversations I would highlight aspects of my projects that I really enjoyed and would slip in phrases like, ‘this is something I would like to focus on more’ or ‘it would be great if I could develop this skill further,’” Hajric said. “At my six month review, I advised my manager that if something came up where my ‘skills wish list’ would be even partially fulfilled, I would be interested in applying for that role. We agreed on a timeline and checked in regularly with each other.”
Learning A New Role
A new job means new responsibilities. Abby Kalkstein ’14, who recently became the assistant director of admissions at the School of Social Policy and Practice at the University of Pennsylvania, emphasized the importance of not shying away from job descriptions that include items that you have little experience with.
“There were some parts of the job description that scared me, specifically data analytics and computer tech skills. I have always been a writer, not a tech person, so this scared me, and I almost did not apply because of it,” Kalkstein said. “I was really quick to talk myself out of this role because of these two factors, rather than talking myself into the role and looking at all of the things I could do well and already did in my job. I didn’t give myself nearly enough credit, and almost didn’t apply. ”
Once she was in her new role, she maintained a positive attitude, utilized her network to learn the aspects of the job she was unfamiliar with and, in time, was handling them with ease.
“I almost didn’t even try to apply because of these things and now I am an expert at them!” Kalkstein said. “People in other admission offices now ask me for help.”
New responsibilities look different for everyone. A common function of roles taken on in the decade after graduation is becoming a supervisor. Jovanni Waters ’14 talked to us about his experience making that transition.
“I wish I knew how awkward it could be at times becoming the supervisor of analysts you once worked alongside of,” Waters said. “It isn’t always easy having someone report to you who has worked there the same amount of time as you and sometimes even longer. Especially if they applied for the same role as you and did not get it.”
Several other GOLDs also reported that becoming a supervisor for the first time is a challenging task. Harjic told us that it required a complete overhaul of her workplace mindset and priorities.
“In my previous role I was much more focused on my day-to-day tasks and my execution, while, in my new role I’m more focused on developing my leadership skills and being a source of motivation and encouragement,” she said.
Harjic noted that like many of her other skills in her professional life, her management skills are a work in progress.
“I have not fully overcome this hurdle! I am still learning the ins and outs of being a strong manager,” she said.
Waters ’14 emphasized that GOLDs should know that they are never going to feel fully prepared to take on a higher-level position.
“There is nothing you can do prior to ensure you will know everything at the next level before getting there. There won’t always be a “right” time to make a move,” Waters said. “Making an upward move is all about having the confidence in yourself and your abilities, and knowing that you will be able to take on and learn anything necessary that will result in success at your new position.”
Transition Resources Available to Alumni
In their careers, GOLDs are demonstrating their resilience, preparedness and capacity for exponential growth. While it’s not easy, it’s absolutely achievable and GOLDs are working at it every day. Alumni have a multitude of career transition resources available to them, including the vast community that is the Ursinus network and the college’s Career and Post-Graduate Development Office webpage here.
By: Heidi Jensen ’14