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There is one thing in our lives that remains constant . . . change! Some changes are good and some bring sadness. Sometimes we are filled with excitement, sometimes dread. No matter what the change, there is a process we go through to successfully handle change.

Change is situational: the new boss, the new relationship, the new house, the new job. In his book, Managing Transitions - Making the Most of Change, William Bridges, Ph.D., defines transition as "the process people go through coming to terms with the new situation." He explains that "change is external, transition is internal. Transition starts with an ending. Even when good things change, transition begins with having to let go of something. There are endings. There are losses."

Where are you right now in your career? Unemployed? Underemployed? Employed but looking for a new job? Entering the workforce for the first time or after a long absence? Whatever your situation, you may be in a state of change. Change causes transition, and transition starts with an ending. For example, a relationship ends, a job ends, or you move from the neighborhood where you have lived for years.

Finding yourself in a change situation with your career/job, you may be experiencing transition in several different areas. The processes described in this chapter will be helpful to anyone dealing with change.

Loss of Structure

Perhaps one of the most important things lost when unemployed is structure.

Last night Larry called his friend and co-worker, Linda, to talk about the class they are teaching next week at work. They also chatted about the weather, what they were cooking for dinner, and traded funny stories about pets. Later, while watching television, Larry began drifting into sleep when he remembered he needed to get to work early in the morning to catch up on some paper work. So he made his lunch, showered, set his alarm for an hour earlier than normal, and climbed into bed.

When the alarm went off this morning, he reluctantly crawled out of bed. Standing in front of the open closet, he tried to decide what he should wear. " Let's see, what do I need to do today? Am I seeing customers? Am I teaching class? Do I have meetings to attend?" After choosing, he dressed and headed for work.

At noon, he ate lunch with Linda and talked about next week's class. When quitting time rolled around, he went to the grocery store, hating to be there at this time of day but having no choice. Then it was home to let the dog out, fix dinner, do the wash, iron a shirt for tomorrow, and finally to bed.

Just think of all the things done or said in this scenario that are structured by Larry's job. His job responsibilities dictate when he gets up and what clothes he wears. The job may rule where, when and with whom he eats lunch. It also sets the time when he runs errands, does laundry, eats supper, and goes to bed! When the job situation changes, the structure changes and is even lost.

Social Life

Your job situation may affect your social life. Co-workers often become friends. If you have worked at a particular place for a long time, you may have been through many stressful, difficult situations with these friends. Fellow employees are often close friends. After a job loss, that daily contact may be broken. And if they are still working, they may be feeling "guilty" about being employed while you struggle to find a new job. It is not a comfortable situation for anyone. So if you do contact them by phone or meet with them for lunch, you may sense some tension or a feeling that the relationship has changed; the reality is, it has.


A job change may affect your ability to sustain a living. Your income determines your ability to pay bills, buy groceries, and pursue your hobbies or leisure time. Not having enough money to pay bills adds stress. If you don't deal with this stress, the pressure builds and builds until something just has to give!


What we do for a living often defines who we are. When meeting a person for the first time, the question usually asked is, "What do you do?" It is as if by knowing what job a person has, we then know who the person is! What a conversation stopper when you answer, "I'm between jobs right now" or "I'm unemployed!"

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This page was last updated on April 17, 1997
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