Career Turmoil to an Advantage

For most of us, there has never been a period of more uncertainty and uneasiness when it comes to the state of the economy and our careers. Corporate downsizings, restructuring, bankruptcies and closings in recent years have touched every person in some fashion. For many people, this turmoil has included a loss of their job or the looming potential of unemployment, both of which create anxiety, emotional stress and often financial problems.

I have experienced these challenges personally. I can tell you that being a 50-something male seeking new career opportunities, especially in Michigan is a daunting challenge. I have also met with many individuals in my coaching practice who have been downsized out the door and have been/are developing strategies to help them start over.

Here is the good news. Not only is there hope (yes, even in Michigan), but I firmly believe that career turmoil can be the best thing that ever happened to you!


Take a few minutes right now to reflect on your own career. There are, no doubt many times when you have faced career transition decisions. Do I stay in my current job or find employment elsewhere? Do I relocate? How can I take the skills I developed in one sector and convince employers in other fields that what I have to offer will be of benefit to them (the issue of transferable skills is a big one right now)? How can I find a job in this economy?

What has been your response when you have faced these or similar questions? You could choose to do nothing and be miserable. You can also choose to feel sorry for yourself (a friend of mine calls that being a whiney, thumb-sucking crybaby). Certainly, a period mourning is often appropriate and needed in times of career turmoil. However, at some point you probably decided that you should take charge of your life and DO something about your situation.

That is where the fun begins.

The process of evaluating your life and your career is a healthy, rewarding and invigorating experience that can result in positive life-changing experiences. Taking inventory of your skill set, values, needs and goals will give you a fresh perspective that will energize you and possibly motivate you to consider exciting new paths you have never thought of before.

You do not have to wait for a career crisis to strike to do what I am suggesting here. In fact, I encourage you to go through this type of process right now, whatever your career circumstances. I promise you will learn things about yourself that will surprise you.

So, where to start?

Dr, Helen Harkness is a leading expert in career development issues and founder of the Dallas-based Career Design Associates, Inc (

In her book, Capitalizing on Career Chaos (Davies-Black Publishing), Dr. Harkness presents a four-step model for managing and evaluating career decisions.

The Harkness process includes:

  • Looking Inward
  • Looking Outward
  • Looking Forward
  • Taking Action

Next time, I will offer some thoughts from Dr, Harkness and myself on how you can implement this model in your own career evaluation process.