This is a season of difficult transitions for many healthcare leaders as the industry adjusts to the challenges of life in the post-COVID landscape. Though the nature and magnitude of those transitions vary, job changes in particular can be painful setbacks, leaving you feeling stuck and anxious about the future.
The following are simple tips gleaned from my experience as a fellow healthcare leader and executive coach, which have proven to help many of our peers navigate change and uncertainty. These tips are written from the perspective of a change in employment, though they also can be applied to other types of job transitions.
Wherever you stand today, the following practices can take you farther than may seem possible right now.
① Take care of yourself as a first priority, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Get enough sleep and exercise, pay attention to nutrition, and visit with people who fill your soul to build capacity for the journey ahead. For once, let your needs come first.
② Keep a schedule and consider your job as building toward your next professional pursuit.
It’s okay to take a bit of time just to heal but avoid getting stuck there for long. Use outplacement resources to help you sort out your next step. You may not think you need it but the market has changed in the last 20 years and you may need to approach things differently. Good outplacement firms also have tools to help you through the process of defining your next best next step. They also understand the emotional toll of what you are going through and can help you adopt a more objective, balanced and forward looking perspective.
③ Stay close to family members and friends who know you best.
They will help you see the situation in a more objective way. You are likely to feel wounded and that can feed self-doubt. You must not succumb to that. You have to restore your sense of self, an awareness of the good things you have done and the value you bring to an organization. Those who know you best and whom you trust can help with that.
④ Grieve in private but in public maintain a proud and positive posture and let the world know that you see this as a wonderful opportunity to explore what’s next.
Take the high road regarding your former employer acknowledging that you and they just saw the path forward differently. Express gratitude for the opportunities you were given in your time there. You will only gain respect by resisting the temptation to vent against the company. It is a positive reflection of your character and professionalism.
⑤ People will surprise you in both directions.
There will be those with whom you did not feel you had any significant ties who will step forward to let you know the impact you had on them and the organization and to offer their support. There will also be those that with whom you thought you were closely aligned who will forget your phone number in a matter of seconds now that you are no longer in a position to be helpful to them. You have to expect both. Appreciate the genuine expressions of concern and write off those who walk away from you as a lesson in their true character.
⑥ Take a victory lap.
There will be folks who want to mark your departure with a celebration or dinner or party of some sort and your tendency will be to avoid that. Don’t. You have every right to be proud of what you have done and to let those who appreciate your contributions and accomplishments celebrate you. You have nothing to be embarrassed about. It will help you get over the wounds and move forward with a restored sense of your gifts and value to the world.
⑦ Don’t be too restrictive in your search for what’s next.
Avoid the tendency to automatically look for another job doing exactly what you have been doing in the past. Avoid placing restrictions on your search, geographically, functionally or otherwise. There are interesting opportunities out there you may miss if you narrow your scope too early. You have been given a gift, the chance (often with severance support) to re-examine what feeds your soul and to explore new adventures. Take advantage of it.
⑧ Understand that people will, necessarily, move on.
Even people who care about you and are close to you have to go on with life at your former employer. Now that you no longer work together you may find that you don’t naturally stay in touch. Don’t assume that is because they don’t care. Make the effort to reach out and stay close to the people who are important to you. But in doing so, avoid the tendency to keep up on what is going on at your former employer. That will only extend your suffering. Focus on your relationship as friends, not former colleagues. That is the treasure worth preserving.
In all, an opportunity mindset will help you make progress, heal, and position yourself for a fruitful next phase in your career.