Career transitions often have a profound effect on a person’s psychological and social status, relationships within the family, physical health, well-being and lifestyle. Transitions can be positive or negative experiences and can result in a range of stresses, emotions or reactions.

Siobhán O’Neill conducted research into the experience of career transition amongst midlife professionals in the midwest of Ireland and concluded a number of recommendations for career guidance practitioners. As part of this study, Siobhán interviewed professional individuals to gain an in-depth rich account of their experience of career transition.

What emerged in this recent research was some useful pointers that individuals and career practitioners may find useful.


The 4 R’s of Midlife Career Transition

  • Reflection
  • Reframing
  • Re-inventing
  • Re-branding



It can often be a confusing, stressful time and the temptation can be to quickly jump in and find your next role. However, the benefits of taking time to reflect enable the individual to: decide on a life path, understand what has worked well in the past, ascertain where they would ideally like their career to develop and explore all options.

Reflection, including journaling, accessing independent career advice (enabling reflection), can result in deeper insights. Over my 15 years of career coaching, many of my clients say the lightbulb moments of clarity came after career guidance sessions. We should encourage this for our clients.



What most clients want is to be really heard, listened to and understood. The guidance counselling skill of reframing for the client what you are hearing was most useful and valued by the individuals I interviewed.

When in transition individuals may have multiple well-intentioned advisors for example partners, managers, work colleagues, recruiters and friends. To hear one’s own thoughts clearly and succinctly as skilled guidance counsellors can provide clarity and empowerment during times of change.



The next R came as quite the challenge to those I interviewed. Don’t underestimate the process of re-inventing oneself when starting a new role. In their previous role, interviewees stated they were respected amongst their organisations, their skills and abilities were widely known and there was a trusted confidence in them.

Adapting to a new organisation and culture posed challenges of learning a new language, an element of proving oneself and building one’s reputation again which many found daunting. From a policy perspective, it might be useful for practitioners to understand this process so that the corporate world can support their employees during transition.

I am often brought into companies to career coach in situations when the manager is not coping as well as they should post career transition. I encourage ‘first 100’ days coaching and support for the new manager to successfully guide them be the best they can be.



The career for life no longer exists. Many interviewees had recently completed training programmes or further education up to a Master’s level to assist their employability outcomes. A change of direction whether it is due to upskilling to keep up to date or developing new skills to adapt to our dynamic work spaces was evident. Career management skills and lifelong guidance for adults are essential to increase employability, remain competitive and navigate multiple career transitions.

Guidance counselling is critical in steering people towards positive employment options and assisting individuals to manage career transitions successfully. Even though guidance supports are recommended for all citizens, it is evident that employed adults do not have access to such support.

The positive benefits of professional careers support from a personal and professional perceptive were highlighted in this research. However, it appears there is currently a gap in the provision of quality careers support for the midlife professional. It would be wise for the careers guidance profession to acknowledge this cohort when engaging in policy objectives.


Original Article (PDF): National Centre for Guidance in Education


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