Executive Coaching

Career Transition At The Top: An Executive's Guide

Have you hit a bump in your career? Do you want a full change of direction?

When you’ve worked long and hard to climb the career ladder, feelings like this can be confusing and disorientating. Everything should be great, and you should be feeling grateful and accomplished… Right?

Here’s the thing...

Regardless of where you are in your career, feeling down, low, or even like you’re trapped is not OK. These feelings should not be suffered in silence: Instead, why not use them as the basis for successful transition and change.

Because not only is an executive career transition possible - it can lead you to a role that is far more personally fulfilling, where you can leverage your expertise and skillset to make a real impact.

So if you’re feeling stuck or down, here’s how to move to the next level.

What executive career change looks like

The impulse may feel the same, but the process of changing roles higher up the ladder is very different from earlier in your career. There is more exposure, the job search process is more sophisticated, and your personal brand makes a big impact.

Transitioning at the executive level often begins with a reevaluation of your experience, your current position, and how these fit into your wider career goals. Reaching the senior ranks of an organisation doesn’t equate to reaching the end-goal of your development trajectory, and the decision to transition often reflects a desire to move closer to your true calling.

The decision to change often stems from a realisation that you aren’t satisfied. Perhaps your current role isn’t what you expected? Or maybe you’ve just outgrown it - a legitimate position to find yourself in.

When this happens, it can be hard to know where to aim next, both in terms of role and industry. It can be hard to package your skills, traits, and experience in a way that leads to the type of opportunity you’re looking for. It can be hard to even know which opportunities to look for.

And this is where executive career coaching comes in.

Effective coaching is built around you and your individual needs, and when you work with a professional coach, you will tap into cumulative expertise arising from hundreds of successful career changes.

You will be able to understand and articulate the feelings that led you toward change, as well as what a fulfilling and meaningful career would look like. You will be able to define and locate opportunities and roles that align more closely with your goals and skills.

You will be able to maximise the effectiveness of your professional network and your job search by looking in the right places, and by leveraging your existing contacts. At the end of it all, you will have a concise and refined plan designed to help you transition to a role that better fits your vision.

And although executive career coaching is a tried and tested method of success when you feel lost, down, and adrift, the lessons and insights are available to anyone.

The three steps to a successful career transition

Over the years we have built a framework for a successful career transition, which is broken down into three stages. The aim is to build an understanding of your goals, the challenges facing you, and your unique path toward a better future.

The first stage is to clarify your vision and the factors motivating you toward change. The goal is to understand the criteria that would define a stimulating and rewarding career for you and to use these to underpin a personalised formula for success.

The second stage is to qualify the opportunities available to you - opportunities discovered through the lens of your individual career criteria. The goal is to build a list of qualified career directions and potential roles that align better with your values and needs from here onward.

The third and final stage is to implement your plan to achieve your tangible career goals, whatever these look like. Your action plan, strategy, and end-goal will reflect your personal values and vision.

Ten tips to achieve executive career transition success

The tips in this section represent what we’ve learned over many years of career coaching, and through the hundreds of successful executive transitions, we’ve helped clients just like you to achieve.

Though you may be coming into this process feeling confused, dejected, and frustrated, try to bear in mind that those feelings can be harnessed positively and constructively. An objective career expert will help you to articulate what successful change will look like, and how to make it a reality.

Here’s what to do.

Discover, define, and articulate your formula for success

Understanding what you do and - just as importantly - do not want to do next is an important first step in a career transition at any level.

Remember that though you may be feeling confusion and lack of hope, this is a period of significant change and one that you can be in control of. Keep in mind that you do have options: This can be hard to remember when you’re feeling stuck

This step is a case of identifying these feelings and deciding to use them as the basis for change.

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Identify what a fulfilling and meaningful career looks like for you

What are your core values and passions? And how can your career vision be tailored to reflect these?

Many of us end up in careers without reflecting too much on what they will allow us to achieve. It’s not unusual to enter the industry after college or university, climb the ranks, and find yourself in a relatively senior position without ever having spent time analysing how you got there.

Looking at - and potentially changing - how you define success can put you on a more fulfilling career track. Instead of financial remuneration, think about meaning, impact, and purpose. What difference are you making to the world?

Clarify your key career components

What type of value do you want to add? What do you want to achieve?

Understanding what you want your career to look like is a vital part of establishing which new role to aim for. Think about the type of work you want to do. The type of value you want to add to your company and the wider industry. Your desired lifestyle balance.

A successful transition is built on an honest and thorough examination of what you want from your career. While many people drift along in roles that have been defined for them, feeling unsatisfied and wondering what might have been, executive career coaching will put you into a position you can thrive in.

These questions can also help you to ensure your new role is not so far from where you are now as to be unrealistic.

Brainstorm, research, and target key directions

However, you answer the questions about what you want to do and bring to the world, forming a clear vision is vital. Because from a position of clarity, it’s much easier to know which direction to move in.

While “I want a promotion” is vague and ambiguous, “I want to transition into a role where my contribution makes a tangible impact to the business, and I am a key player in shaping the future of what we’re delivering” is much more definitive.

With a direction defined, we can help you to isolate and explore different avenues for opportunities. We will brainstorm industries, organisations, and even roles that meet your established criteria. From this position, the job-hunting process becomes energising and invigorating rather than a stressful burden.

Upgrade your job search strategy

Generic job search methods become less relevant at senior and executive levels. Gone are the days where you drop your CV into Monster and see what comes along: Now you need to take a much more active involvement in the process.

This is empowering. With a clearly defined vision and a key direction, you can focus your job search on the most relevant areas. With the right tools and techniques, you can gain access to the right people and the right areas of the hidden job market.

Strategically maximise and develop your network

Evaluating conversations and connections in line with your goals and vision maximises their productivity. Networking events no longer need to be successions of lacklustre chats; now you can seek out key contacts and approach them with purpose.

Exploring realities of newly identified directions becomes a possibility, too. Instead of drifting around and looking for random opportunities, you seek out and collect the information required to evaluate each of the potential directions you have outlined.

Build a tailored plan to achieve your outcomes

Creating an action plan is a whole lot easier once you’ve done the steps to this point. You are equipped with the knowledge to create strategies that will lead you on the journey toward your next role.

Skill and knowledge gaps will be highlighted, which can inform the steps required to get you to the next level. You will have an understanding of relevant approach strategies, meaning that your efforts will be more targeted and fruitful.

Create your career story to show what you can do

A career narrative is about showing what you can do, not just what you have done. At this level, communicating your value moves beyond the confines of a traditional CV.

We will help you to craft a career story into which your achievements, goals, and vision fit. It is a lens through which you can evaluate new opportunities, and spending time refining this narrative will stand you in better stead when planning your future.

We will do this by focusing on your natural strengths, your transferable skills, your passions, and who you are as a person. Your narrative will be tailored to ensure maximum relevance to the role you are considering: everything from using the right language to emphasising the right achievements.

The narrative looks to the future, as well as encompassing the past. Not only should your next role fit into it, but roles and opportunities beyond it should as well.

With a coherent narrative, potential distant opportunities should feel just as exciting as the one you are moving toward in your immediate future.

Let your skills and presence shine through a refined personal brand

As you gather understanding and information, begin to implement your strategic roadmap to your next role, and begin to articulate your career narrative, you move into the position of being able to properly cultivate your professional brand and persona.

Your online and offline presence can be updated and refined in line with the opportunities you are pursuing. Your CV and online portfolios are no longer generic catch-alls designed to appeal to a wide range of miscellaneous possibilities: Now they can showcase and spotlight the most relevant and pertinent aspects of your experience, your skillset, and your achievements.

Nurture a success mindset

Baked throughout all of these steps is an energy and enthusiasm that you may not be feeling at the start of the process. As we’ve mentioned, many people start thinking about a career transition from a position of feeling low and stuck.

However, this is an exciting part of your professional journey that you are in control of. Removing limiting beliefs, building confidence, visualising success: All of these things can strengthen your journey toward a career transition.

Great Careers Start Here

To recap, a successful career transition is built around ten steps, framed by three stages. These techniques are tried and tested and have worked for hundreds of our clients.

Executive career coaching can help you to clarify your goals and vision, qualify the opportunities available to you through this lens, and implement a bespoke strategy to move you into your next role. If you like the sound of this, our career coaching services can help you set out on your journey. We’ve helped hundreds of executive clients just like you, and we can help you too.