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 and contact her at

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  • Anonymous

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m in the “in-between” stage right now and it’s difficult to be here. The difference is that I’ve gone into a job while I transition into a completely different career (from design into nutrition). Enjoying the “in-between” is definitely something I’m striving to do.

  • Sometimes I feel like our entire lives are lived in a state of “in between” because, as humans, we are always striving to reach new goals. If we look at it that way, it’s easier to accept the “in between” — that’s just life!

    Beautiful article and photography. 🙂 

  • Heather

    I have been reading your blog for quite some time I felt compelled to respond to this one… I am a nationally recognized marketing strategist that has been forced to sit in the void as a result of a tramatic brain injury about 6 months ago. since the injury I haven’t been able to work… and I have had the “opportunity” to learn to live in the present moment. just a couple of weeks ago I felt as if I was “all better.” I had all sorts of energy and enthusiasm and my brain felt fully functional!!! so I kept pushing and pushing to do more and more, especially since it was my daughter’s first week at preschool! and her birthday and my birthday… and my first week without a nanny! I made it through the week only to crash on the other side. now I’m feeling the setback that goes along with overdoing it when recovering from a brain injury… and I look to the future with great hope but also uncertainty wondering when I am going to get better… so rather than waiting until I am “all better”, I choose to be happy along the journey! thank you for this reminder today

  • Stacey

    Heather, it’s so inspiring to see that you took that opportunity to have the day by day mindset in the face of your trauma. It’s unfortunate that sometimes it has to come down to something major happening in our lives to change things. I’m sorry you are in a setback now, but if you are able to be patient with yourself and continue the moment-to-moment thinking, you will reap the benefits. Best of luck to you!

  • Great article, Stacey – I really enjoyed this!  The “in-between” is so tough to be in because it feels like you can’t make any plans for the future and everything is so moment-to-moment.  It’s hard to feel settled in such a time of uncertainty.  I have been there many times myself and while it’s difficult to remember to enjoy it, it’s even rougher to try and push it away or pretend it’s not happening.

    In “When Things Fall Apart”, Pema Chodron describes how, during times of change or uncertainty, it feels like we are falling.  It’s scary and uncomfortable to fall, but the more we try to create a solid ground or grasp at things, the more pain and suffering we cause for ourselves.  It’s best to just let go, stop resisting and enjoy the experience.

    Your point, “know that you won’t be here forever” is very true.  The in-between is always temporary, and with the right mindset it can be enjoyed instead of feared.

  • Brenda

    This is the first time I have looked at this website. What a wonderful article to start me off. I am not at that “in-between stage” in my professional life, but in my personal life, and feeling anxious and out of sorts. But, after reading your article, it made me realize that I need to take time and remember to have faith. Thanks for sharing your wonderful words of advice.

  • Kristin

    It’s great to read about how you’re dealing with the “in-between,” Stacey. Thank you for reminding me to enjoy that that time. It’s so easy to get swallowed up by the worry of what’s to come. This article can definitely be applied to personal life as well as professional. I love the uplift that Tiny Buddha’s posts give me!

  • Stacey

    It’s so true that it’s hard to feel settled. But like you said, it’s even rougher to try and ignore it. I think finding the small things to appreciate during the process makes life a little sweeter. I can testify from skydiving, things are much easier and more fun if you just relax and enjoy the fall! 🙂

    Thanks for your comments!

  • Stacey

    Thanks for your comments, Daisy. I’m doing something similar (changing industries) but while using my skill set (at least, hopefully!) It’s sometimes just about relaxing rather than striving. It’s important to have the goal and take the steps, but it’s also important to appreciate where you are. Good luck to you!

  • Dshort2010

    It’s been over the last few weeks I’ve been kind of feeling that myself. I came to realize that my job has run it’s course…It was exactly what I needed in the beginning, but it’s time to move on. Feeling like I’m in between, is just an understatement. I just can’t see getting myelf into anther “job” that does not satisfy my passions…or my needs.

  • Shannon

    Thanks for sharing this. I’m an in betweener too. Welcome to the club:). Best of luck to you. XO

  • Elcie

    after years, I’ve finally found something I really want to do (I sure hope it’s the case). After started working on it for about 3 months, I totally feel like a mice running on a wheel now. Thanks to your blog, I know I’m not alone. Yes, keep the FAITH!

  • Vishnu

    Enjoy the time off during this stage Stacey – writing, golf, tennis – i could get used to that pretty quick:) I created a in-between stage for myself a couple years back by starting a business. It was stressful but I enjoyed the freedom and independence for the time I did it. I’m back to work now. Two suggestions that worked for me – one was maintaining some kind of faith practice/meditation during this time helped me be more focused. (it helped me deal with the uncertainty and faith) you write about) And 2) starting a blog on the topics of the job that I wanted worked wonders when I forwarded that to employers. Keep the faith:)

  • Mcrose1186

    So glad for this post. Having the timing to graduate college in a down economy has meant rejection from nine separate job interviews in nine months. Some days, it’s easier to remain optimistic than others. But when I read this and saw all the comments it reminded me that it isn’t just about me, a lot of people are struggling with this phase. It is soothing to be reminded of how much we really are all in this together.

  • KCA

    Great article…the in between is so tough sometimes, but this is a great reminder to just accept it and that eventually things will come.  I think this gets clouded by always wanting to “live in the now,” but I’m learning that it isn’t always possible and sometimes you have to keep your eye on the prize while finding ways to enjoy “now.” Thanks for the post and good luck, you will find what you are looking for!

  • Karen Beth Martin

    Wow… I once knew a Stacey Hagen in San Francisco and I have a strange feeling that you might be her!  Great article.  I hope we can be in touch again soon!

    Karen Beth 🙂

  • Wonderful article! I love the reminder to nurture yourself and do things you enjoy during the “in between” time. So often we deny ourselves pleasure and happiness, thinking we have to wait until everything is perfect before we can sit back and enjoy the ride

  • i completely agree, especially the bit where you said that in the interim we need to do something we enjoy, for we can make the mistake of focusing on the wait and then we frustrate ourselves even more!

  • Hey Stacey, I could definitely relate to your story- I have a marketing degree, quit my corporate job after a year then had a hard time finding a new one. I eventually started my MBA which I’m finishing in less than 3 months.

    My biggest insight from my year doing my MBA in Australia is that the best way to reduce uncertainty and reclaim the control in our life is to start a business. It’s easier now than ever before, and it really allows us create something that is meaningful to us in all regards, without having to wait for someone to “give us a chance”.

    We’re in control of the experience, and learn so much as a result.

    Good luck 🙂

  • This is a wonderful article, Stacey.  There is much wisdom here about the in-between.  When we can accept and be with uncertainty, we’re able to move forward with more ease.  During the in-between times, I’ve found that when I’ve done all I can and let the outcome be what it’s supposed to be without trying to control tings, everything has always worked out well.  

  • Hello Stacey, I simply recognized myself in your lines and feel good to know that others lived and felt the same. I am totally in this in-between, in a foreign place and to avoid the worry and to soothe my impatience, I practice yoga everyday, meditate and recently started writing in a blog.
    Sometimes though, I feel how hard it is and while I don’t want to get discouraged and stay connected to my inner light, I wonder if I am aiming for the right thing.I have worked always during and since I graduated from MBA, about ten years ago, running and seizing opportunities, working in over 23 countries with people from all functions and backgrounds. About a year ago, I thought I needed some time to reflect about life, goals, purpose. I am a very passionate person, always in for new adventures and somehow my body was saying: enough, can you please chose?This reflexion time came to me as my fiance (now my husband) proposed that we change city as he had a good opportunity.Here came my chance to review my life and set new goals. I left my company, quit my job, took the time to settle in my new town, learned German (we live in Zurich Switzerland and I am French) and build my life and career plans.
    Now that I am ready to take a job again, knowing what I want in life and happy: doors don’t open that quickly anymore! I am 33, woman and what immediately comes to people’s mind is that “she will be pregnant soon”. Others think that because I have quit my employer once and followed my husband, I will do it again. 
    I am facing a lot of judgments and prejudices and I now realize how hard it is for women to thrive in this business world. Stereotypes, prejudices. I had never realized before my “in-between”.
    It takes a lot of my energy to show people that every individual has his own story worth knowing. That women have their word to say in the business world and that what sticks as traditions in people’s mind is not reality.So thank you to remind me that despite all this, I can still take a deep breath and smile.

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