Don’t Free-fall Your Transition

When we consider career transition, generally we think about the forward thrust propelling us closer to our chosen trajectory.

Many of the people I have the privilege of coaching through my executive coaching practice are on this forward trajectory. My role is to facilitate the process that guides them through transitions to achieve their goals.

Deceleration VS Free-fall

Career transitions, however, can also be a carefully planned, and executed deceleration.

For those of us who are still in the grips of driving ambition, or for those who have not yet found what we are seeking, this can be a challenging concept.

What would drive a decision to decelerate our career?

There are as many reasons, as there are individuals. Some of the common drivers include:

  1. A conscious choice to pursue work/life balance
  2. A realignment of personal philosophy
  3. An “AHA” moment
  4. A “burnout” moment
  5. An organisation restructure
  6. A key milestone moment – empty nest – lottery win – poor health

When we consider a deceleration, we enter a risky period, particularly if we are unclear about our reasons for the transition.

It’s Enticing

We are at risk of going into free-fall.

Don’t get me wrong; I can see how the concept of going into free-fall can be very enticing.

Kobi Yamada’s words capture this sense of freedom in letting go:

“Sometimes you just have to take the leap and build your wings on the way down.”

The difference between allowing ourselves to free-fall, and taking control of our transition can be life changing.

The application of the same frameworks we use for planning our forward transitions, will serve us well when we are considering a deceleration.

Transitions, whether they are up, down or sideways, are best navigated with a good map.

This is particularly true when we are considering a significant shift away from a long-term career trajectory.

It is wise to delay any decision, and make time to catch up with our coach or a mentor. A trusted sounding board is invaluable when we are on the verge of making a career changing decision.

Here’s a sample of questions we would be encouraged to explore.


What is driving this transition?

  • Can we articulate our driver?
  • Is it physical? Emotional? Psychological?
  • How sure are about the decision?

What are the logistics?

  • What are the financial and logistical ramifications?
  • What is the impact on the immediate family?
  • Is there a “back door?” What is the path back to this trajectory if we change our mind, or circumstances change?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how committed are we to this transition?

What is our new vision for our future?

  • ‘How does it align with our values?
  • How is it different to where we are currently?
  • What do we need to do in the short, medium and long-term to realise this transition?
  • What goals can we set to guide us to the desired outcome?
Map the Path

Once we have determined that we are going ahead with our transition – let’s not free-fall.

Let’s hold our current course while we plan our transition. We will, in part, be guided by the answers to some of the questions above.

A well-planned transition takes time. We need to be clear about our new vision and our goals. We know where we are, and where we want to be. Now we plot our path along a timeline that will be the map we follow to achieve the transition we desire.

Free-fall may feel good initially, but if we haven’t built our wings on the way down, it won’t be the landing we had envisaged.

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