Five career transition mistakes you don’t need to make

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Sleepless nights, financial anxiety, the feeling of self-doubt, loss of identity, feelings of guilt, defeat, and exhaustion are common symptoms we experience during career transitions. Frankly, looking for a new job and changing careers can be very challenging.

On the other hand, looking for a new job in a new country can be a life-altering experience. If you ever struggled to rebuild your career after immigrating to US or if you simply looking for a new job right now, this post is for you.

The post focuses on five major mistakes made during career transition, that you could avoid:

  • Mistake # 1 – Clinging to your past career
  • Mistake #2 – Failing to understand the demands of the local job market
  • Mistake #3 – Lacking job search and “self-selling” skills
  • Mistake #4 – Giving up and settling for any job
  • Mistake #5 – Failing to ask for help

 Mistake #1: Clinging to the past career

One of the most common mistakes is clinging to your past career or a job. You might assume your past work experience will define your next job in the United States.

For example, is you worked in manufacturing or was a teacher, maybe you will assume that it is exactly the type of job you should apply for in the future. The assumption is intuitive and seems straight-forward, but it is misguided.

There are many reasons to why you might not be able to have the same exact job as before, for example, educational requirements, language skills, regulatory and compliance challenges, your state`s economic situation, and unique local job market demands.

Mistake #2 – Failing to understand local job market

The second most common mistake is not taking time to research local market demands. What do I mean by that? I mean, American economy in general and your state`s economy is developing and changing daily. It is imperative to understand the larger landscape and the context before you start looking for a specific job.

Personally, I did not take the time to do this. I did not learn about industries, types of occupations and skills that are in demand now and will be in demand for the next 10-15 years, in my state of residence.

Your time is very valuable, so you want to enter a field, industry or field of study with ample employment opportunities, right? We want to be strategic with out time, effort and resources.

Mistake #3 – Lacking job search and “self-selling” skills

First, I hated selling and promoting myself. Looking for a new job sucked. I did not know what I was doing, and I wrongly assumed employers should call me as soon as I click “apply” on the online job boards. Not understanding how “application process” or United States Human Resources (HR) system works was a major error.

Secondly, I did not realize that there is an entire art of “self-selling”. This was a hard one for me personally. I was raised in a strict family where you had to earn praise by hard work. In our family bragging about your own accomplishments was not looked as a positive trait. That said, hundreds of immigrants struggle with self-marketing aspect of job search in United States.

Mistake #4 – Giving up, and settling for any job

We all were there, after months of trying to find a mid-level professional position we simply give up. We start looking for the easiest job that we could think of, such as retail, food service, facility maintenance and such. We might think, “ Ok, so nobody wants to hire me for a professional position, but I really need a job. I will just get a job. Any job.” This is another common mistake.

If you are highly experienced, educated and qualified candidate you might be surprised to learn that employers are reluctant to hire “overqualified candidates” for entry-level jobs. The reason is they know you will not last long.

Lesson learned, don`t settle just for “any job”. It is acceptable to get a “stepping-stone” job, but you must have a bigger plan, and be strategic how this job will lead to a bigger opportunity. Don`t settle.

Mistake #5 – Failing to ask for help

This mistake was born out of pure pride and the never-ending drive for autonomy. Most of us were raised not to ask for help, since that would expose us as stupid. This mistake almost killed me personally.

When i was looking for jobs, I knew that the way I was searching for opportunities was not effective, but I refused talking to others about my challenges. I felt I was the only one who could not find a good job. Don`t make that mistake. Ask for help. Ask for feedback.


Lastly, lets talk about major consequences of the mistakes above:

  • Changing major in college several times, wasting tuition fees
  • Significantly delayed career growth (longer time in low-level positions)
  • Underemployment
  • Loss of income, financial burden
  • Longer than anticipated job search time (months instead of weeks)
  • Emotional impact: depression, feeling of defeat
  • Inability to self-market and articulate your value proposition

Next, read post “ Five strategies for your career transition success”

My story:

I struggled to find a meaningful job after I relocated to United State, and it took years for me to understand my talents, aspirations, develop skills and education needed to become who I always wanted to become – a change agent, person who can inspire others to take action. Nothing happened overnight. I made every single mistake described in this post, and I learned from each one of them.

  • Mistake # 1 – Clinging to your past career. I refused to believe I could not own my own business right away. It was devastating to start looking for entry level jobs and start from scratch. I stuck to my past as long as I could, since I simply could not imagine doing anything else.
  • Mistake #2 – Failing to understand demands of local job market. I frankly had no idea about macro-economic, regulatory and local business developments that affected my employment opportunities. All I could focus on was the fact that i needed a job and i needed it NOW. My world view was very far from strategic or forward-looking.
  • Mistake #3 – Lacking job search and “self-selling” skills. The skills simply did not exist. I had really hard time talking about myself. Today I know the barrier was cultural and changing mindset would take years to overcome. I also struggled with my self-esteem for many years and could not bring myself to “self-promote”.
  • Mistake #4 – Giving up, and settling for any job. Yes, after months of looking for a job, i landed a retail job, as a Cashier at the local Wal-Mart. Guess what? I was beyond happy. My spouse recalls feeling sorry for me, but I was at the top of the world- I had a real job!!! I did not settle for very long, but I did work in Wal-Mart for almost nine months.
  • Mistake #5 – Failing to ask for help. May I be honest here – I am probably the most hard-headed person you will meet. I don’t do vulnerability and i do not admit my incompetence. Asking for help was a death sentence. I did not do it, for first few years and it really impacted my career transition experience.


Thank you for reading. Please, tell us more about your career transition experience:

  • How was your job search?
  • Do you recall making mistakes?
  • What did you learn from them?


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