Career transition v outplacement: what’s in a name?

I’ve been asked that question a lot of times. And the answer is that they are two faces of the same thing: career management.

Outplacement, for me at least, has a very specific trigger: redundancy. Sometimes that will be voluntary but for the majority it is an unexpected, stressful and sudden turn of events. As a result the requirement is often as much about helping people deal with change as it is about the practicalities of finding a new job. In many cases rebuilding an individual’s confidence and self-worth is a critical pre-cursor to a successful job search.

Career transition can have many triggers. For some it might be redundancy but for others it can be a simple recognition that they’ve made the wrong turns in the past and now need to do something different. Career transition can therefore be on-going while an individual is still in role – and may well not end up with them leaving the organisation.

Many organisations currently face the reality that they are flatter than ever before. Spans of control have increased and the number of career steps from entry to CEO will become fewer – while at the same time working lives have become longer. What we will all have to adapt to is a world where promotions, for the majority, will almost certainly be fewer and further apart.

In such a world retaining great talent can be a huge challenge. On one hand you don’t want to lose your brightest and best because they become frustrated at the perceived lack of opportunities. On the other hand you equally don’t want resentful people staying and going through the motions. It is so easy for today’s “A player” to become de-motivated and turn into tomorrow’s “corporate prisoner”.

So what is the way forward? The answer lies in an open and transparent career management process that maximises mobility and development opportunities within the organisation.

There will be occasions when it is right for organisation and individual to go in different directions. Maybe the individual’s needs have changed or their role has grown in new and possibly unexpected ways. Cultures change too and that can make even the most experienced and capable person feel “high and dry” in an environment that no longer fits their personal preferences and values.

On other occasions individuals may be essential to a long term succession plan but the timescale is too long to keep them motivated. They need an intermediate challenge that will both enhance their capability and offer the sense of achievement they crave. Great career management can help unlock the lateral moves that will keep the talent in the business until it is needed.

Transition can go in many directions. For some it can mean a smaller job with less stress and better work-life balance.  We regularly meet people who were drawn to leadership or senior management roles because they felt that was the only way to go. Whereas in fact that might have taken them further from what they really wanted. For example the engineer who discovers that managing people and budgets is nowhere near as rewarding as solving a complex technical challenge.

The thing that connects all these issues together is great career coaching. A great coach can help an individual to navigate the new world of work and see opportunities rather than barriers to transition.

“Career transition is about building a bridge to a new working life”. I like that definition. Why? It is because it also touches on how careers don’t sit in isolation. Transition can be as much about work life balance as promotion and job moves. Being satisfied and energised depend on getting all the slices of life’s pizza in balance.

Ian Gooden
Chief Executive

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