Amelia’s career transition journey

One year ago, Amelia left her high paying, high profile career as a Vice President and Business Division Head at a global pharmaceutical firm. The Senior Vice President whom she directly reported for the past 5 years retired, and an organizational reshuffle quickly followed. She founded it difficult working with the new senior management team, mostly hired externally. She was also increasingly seeking clarity on the purpose and meaning in her work and life. Besides, it felt like she needed a change in mid-life at age 45, after working continuously for 20 years in the pharmaceutical industry.

In the following months, Amelia started to make a list of options for her next career move, from concrete tangible ideas to general interests. In essence, she embarked on exploring a whole range of possible selves and sometimes “dreaded selves”.

During the career transition, Amelia’s experience of possible selves was varied in number and range, which is quite common. There were 2 conservative, traditional, respectable “Pharmaceutical Self” and “Biomedical General Manager Self” where she looked back to applying her 20-years of rich experience and skills as a senior executive in the global pharmaceutical industry “old self”. These were seemingly safer options, but she did feel rather bored and unmotivated to plunge into the same industry so soon again, working with the same people, same processes without much learning opportunities. She had an urge to try something else. There was a “Management Consulting Self” which persuaded her to apply for top-tier firms such as McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group and get involved with large scale pharmaceutical industry consulting projects. However, upon closer examination, she was anxious with the long work hours, frequent business travel requirement, and the pressurized demand from global clients. There was a respectable “Academia Self” of studying for a Master’s or PhD degree in hope of becoming a lecturer or scientific researcher at a top university. However, she was unsure of the competition, faculty politics, administrative and research stress that might surface with a tenure-track environment. Lastly, there was an entrepreneurial “Portfolio Career Self” trying to combine her interest in Life Coaching, with Consulting and Community/Charity work, whilst balancing with more flexibility and time spent with her young children and family.

During the career transition journey, Amelia felt rather confused and struggled with the competing multiple possible selves. Some were seemingly safer, more traditional options, whilst others were lacking in detail and being more uncertain. Some were options imposed on her by social pressures from family, friends, and ex-colleagues on what she ought to be. Some were self-imposed on herself on what she thought she ought to be. Some excited her more than others. Whilst some looked more feasible, when others allowed more flexibility providing better work-life balance, bringing up a young family.

For now, after 12-months, it seems that Amelia’s focus is firmly on learning and testing more about the entrepreneurial “Portfolio Career Self”. Trying out more experiments to give form and order to this possible self in order to make it more tangible. This includes: pursuing a coaching certificate and starting up her own Life Coaching practice, starting up a small pharmaceutical business consulting practice, trying out academia work as an adjunct lecturer in business administration at a local university, putting herself forward for several non-profit community/charity projects. She is still unsure whether the new business and career path will be a success, but the most important thing is she remains curious, and can see herself pursuing this in the medium to long term. Most importantly, it “feels right” to Amelia embarking on this current career track.

*All personal identification details have been altered to maintain confidentiality.

Joe’s career transition story

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” – Alan Watts

For the first time in 20 years, Joe is officially unemployed, having ample free time to reflect and ponder on the next move in his career and life. Joe had always been in the corporate world, working for several financial services companies in London and Asia. He was working long hours, and never quite happy with his job, but the money income was good. Due to a corporate re-organization, his job role in Singapore was moved to London unexpectedly and he found himself out of a job for the first time in his entire career journey.

A Reinventing Process (Ibarra, 2004) unfolded before him. He looked at alternative career paths leading to different possibilities in industries outside of his comfort zone and explored “Whom he might Become?”. Joe conducted small experiments with different companies, speaking with insiders from different industries, attending career discussions and interviews, and tried on different identities during the process. Eventually, he used the time to set up his own business entity in Singapore specializing in Career Transitions Coaching. This in itself is a small experiment to test the market in Singapore and the Southeast Asia region to see if his observations, hypotheses on client targets and demand is accurate or requiring further refinement. Joe also linked up with several liked minded friends who would be interested to partner with him on his new business adventure.

Joe feels revitalized, rejuvenated, healthier and happier. He is ready to embark on his new life journey.

*All personal identification details have been altered to maintain confidentiality.