Career Transitions: How to Cope with the In-Between Stage

“If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking.” ~Proverb

If you’re a passionate person with goals for your life, you’ve probably been at the “in between” stage more than a few times. This is the stage when you’ve identified your goals, broken them down, identified steps to reach them, and started on that plan—but you’re not yet seeing the fruits of your labor.

Ambitious and excited at the goal-setting stage, you embarked on this path with a vision in front of you. Now you’re in the throes of it—or maybe waiting on the sidelines for the next step. You are feeling frustrated and stuck, like you’re not making progress fast enough.

What else can you do aside from a. worrying, b. going over your plan again and again, and c. feeling like a mouse on a wheel?

The good news is that if you’re at the waiting stage, you’ve surpassed a major milestone. Often the hardest part of goal-setting is identifying what you want in a clear, specific manner. Visualizing your end goal is a lot of work in itself. But once you’ve done your homework, all that work can feel like a waiting game.

I’m in the “in between” stage in my career right now, and I have been for a few months.

I earned my MBA over a period of three years while working full-time in marketing within the financial services industry. Previously, I worked in entry-level and junior positions. I thought having an advanced degree would make it a lot easier to climb the corporate ladder, starting with a management position.

When I graduated, I felt hopeful about my prospects, but the job search has not been as easy as I thought it would be. I’ve had some phone and in-person interviews, but none for a job I really wanted.

I’ve reworked my resume, sought out career counselors, networked with everyone I know, and I’ve always had the “what do you do” small talk at the tip of my tongue at parties. I’ve listed my strengths, likes and dislikes, favorite companies, and important contacts. I’ve set aside time on my calendar every day for applications, networking, and follow-up efforts.

Recently, I was starting to feel like I was just spinning my wheels. I thought I was doing all I could do, but nothing seemed to be working out, and that was frustrating. Now that I was ready, I wanted something to happen immediately. I took the time and put in the effort—where was it already?! Something should have been happening.  

I talked to a friend about this and she said, “Well, it’s going to happen eventually, right? I mean, who has wanted a new job and not eventually found it.”

It’s true. Studies show that most people don’t stay in the same job forever; moving from company to company is the norm nowadays.  People—especially those trying especially hard to make some traction—eventually move on.

What a scary word: eventually. What does that mean? Sooner rather than later? One month? One year? Longer?

Not knowing the exact timeframe can make you feel like a mouse on a wheel. You may find yourself asking, what now?

I have a novel idea: Enjoy it. Enjoy the uncertainty. Revel in it. Bathe in it. Be happy about it!

You will never be in exactly this same “in between stage” ever again in your life (although, you will be in others, for sure).

I can hear your disbelief at this Zen-like mentality. Enjoy uncertainty? What does this mean?

In one word, it means accepting. Accept the uncertainty, knowing that you’ve done the planning, you’re doing the work, and eventually (that scary word) things will come together for you. (Read also: having faith).

How do you possibly enjoy the “in-between”?

First off, know that it’s the “in-between.” Know that you won’t be here forever. Know that this is a temporary state. Imagine how things will be in your new state, knowing that will come.

Secondly, do things that make you happy during this stage. What makes you happy and appreciate life? What makes you feel nurtured and taken care of? What makes you lose track of time and feel carefree?

Make a list if you have to. Now do those things!  If you love to run, take time out every day or every other day for that. If phoning a long-time friend makes you feel good, do that daily. Like weekly manicures and monthly massages? If you can make that happen, sure…whatever it takes!

While in between careers, I’m using my time to freelance write, something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve taken up new hobbies, such as tennis and golf. I take Fridays off of work while I can, to make it a long weekend. I make lunch dates with my friends to get out of the office. I take an afternoon walk to enjoy the view.

And most importantly, I keep the faith.

At this point, more than ever, you need to believe that you have the power to take yourself to the next step. Know that it’s just a matter of time.

So accept the present uncertainty. Who knows what will come after this?

Oh right, you do: your end goal, the thing you’ve been working toward, with patience throughout the process. If you embrace this “in between” phase, the reward will be even sweeter.

Photo by SashaW

About Stacey Hagen

Stacey Hagen is a coach and consultant who helps entrepreneurial women discover and develop lives and businesses they love. She is an avid traveler, adventurer, and life-long learner whose mission is to inspire and empower other women to live their lives full out. You can visit her at createcoachingconsulting.com and contact her at stacey@createcoachingconsulting.com.

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