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Managing Employment Transitions

By Edwin B. Mayes, Assistant Dean of Students, Wittenberg University

Whether you are a graduating student who will soon be starting a new career, or a staff member who is about to transition to a new employment role this summer, you may be managing an employment transition in the near future.

Although these transitions may be difficult, they can be managed in a way to maximize success.

Consider the following as you transition to your next employment situation…

Gather Information

As a new employee or staff member, you must gather large amounts of information in a rather short time, not only by reading materials related to your new position, but also by paying close attention to the employment culture as it relates to your position. Your first six months to a year is a great time to build relationships and ask questions to get clarification so you can better understand working relationships and expectations. Talk with individuals that have been at the organization for some time and listen very carefully to what they have to say. Consider asking your new colleagues to lunch to ask them about what they do and how their position in the organization relates to yours. You will find that most people have pride in what they do and would be happy to tell you about their positions. Other important information is covered in new employee orientation programs, but most of the information that you will need to peacefully co-exist will likely come from your own initiative. Talk with individuals that have been at the organization for some time and listen very carefully to what they have to say. You can also find additional information from organizational charts, employee manuals, and the files that have hopefully been left behind by your predecessor. After studying the organizational chart and talking with key players you will learn who the key people are who can provide you with valuable information about the functioning of the organization. In a new position it is important that you spend the first six months listening as much as you can to learn the organizational politics and expectations in addition to the expectations of your supervisor.

Relationship Building

Building appropriate relationships with others will be key to your success, and your position as a Resident Assistant has clearly prepared you well for this task. In addition to building new relationships, do not forget to rely on your past relationships and support systems, old supervisors and mentors. For your own emotional wellness you must have outlets that provide peace in your life and people who understand your position and what you may be going through. New colleagues can help you navigate through your new position, and past colleagues can be an excellent sounding board for the new experiences you will encounter as you make your employment transition.

Additional Suggestions

As you make your next employment transition, work to understand and incorporate the following ideas into a successful transition plan:

  1. Seek a mentoring relationship(s)
    A positive mentoring relationship has great potential for sharing valuable information and perspective on the job. Remember that having a mentor is not one-sided; you have a lot to offer the mentor as well.

  2. Develop new interests
    Expanding your interests helps to maintain your true priorities and take your mind away from any drama at work.

  3. Take care of you
    We all know about wellness, but sometimes we forget to take care of ourselves when we are spending so much time positively adjusting to a new work situation. Work to find a balance between being a workaholic and putting in the time that is required per the culture of your new employment situation. Keep your support networks close and remember to listen to your body.

  4. Maintain friendships
    Work at keeping your relationships alive even if you have moved away. In changing environments you will certainly need support and this may not occur without cultivating your relationships.

  5. Maintain a sense of humor
    Happier people feel less stress and work more effectively; we all probably know this and try to have fun on our jobs. What has worked for me in stressful situations is to look at my day like it is a movie that I went to see. Some days it’s a tragic comedy, a drama, a soap opera, or a situation comedy. I have my popcorn and my Pepsi, reclined in a comfortable seat watching the whole thing unfold as entertainment. Basically this is another way of saying that you can’t control everything as much as you wish you could.

  6. Be true to yourself
    “Self-worth as a professional and as a person is closely related to the honesty and enthusiasm we manifest in the practice of our profession” (Stamatakos, 1979, p. 330). You have to determine what is best for you and be honest with yourself about the experiences you are getting.

Suggested Reading:

Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change
By: William Bridges

Making the Transition to a Professional Role
NASPA Journal, Vol. 10 February 1990 p.17-29
By: Margaret J. Barr

About the Author

Edwin B. Mayes is the Assistant Dean of Students at Wittenberg University. He is also in his second year of doctoral study in the Executive Higher Education program at Ohio University. Edwin is in his 12th year in Higher Education and has a Bachelor in Business and a Masters of Arts in Higher Education from Wright State University. He is active in GLACUHO and with the Small College Committee for ACUHO-I. Edwin has experience working at Earlham College, University of Colorado-Boulder, Wright State University, and University of Michigan.