How to Survive Feedback from Peers When Transitioning Careers

How to Survive Feedback from Peers When Transitioning Careers

Change is one of the hardest things people will have to deal with during their life time. Some people love it, others hate it, but there’s really no way around it. And one of those big steps that can really alter your path is a career-related change. Most people spend a third of their day at some sort of job. Maybe it’s temporary, maybe it’s a means to an end, or maybe it’s an amazing career with a path for growth that you find favorable. But most of us have to work the majority of our lives to get by.

For creative people, sometimes the path for a successful and enjoyable career can be quite confusing. There are plenty of people who work their day job and then spend their free time focusing on their passion. Others may already work in a creative field but might not feel like they are utilizing their creativity to its fullest potential. Whatever the reason, there may come a point in time where you feel the need to break ties and take a new path. In making this choice, there can be a lot to navigate emotionally and financially after the split. You have a lot of new connections to make. Maybe you are relocating or you are going to be working for yourself. These things are exciting and scary, but that’s what makes it worth pursuing your passion full time.

During the transition, you will be very busy making plans for the next steps, tying up loose ends in your finances, and maintaining balance in your personal life. While you are doing all this, there will be a moment in time at which your peers, coworkers, and family learn of your career change. The people in your life will have something to say, good or bad, about your decision. So here are a few possible responses you could receive and how to handle them.

1. “Congratulations!”

This is a potential response from your best friend, your collaborator, or your mentor. They have traveled with you on some part of your journey so far and they have seen you grow. They have helped you through the tough days when you don’t feel good enough and they were there for the success you’ve had, whether it was on a really great photo shoot or when you won work from a client. They believe in your talents and plan to continue with you on this journey.

In response to this person: “I am so excited!” or, “I can’t wait for what’s next,” and so on and so forth. Celebrate with this person and let the momentum build. You can rely on this person to be your cheerleader again the next time you hit a creative slump.

2. “Good Luck.”

You will enviably get this response; and at first it may sound negative and threatening, as if they are really saying, “Good luck out there, you will need it.” But this person is just a realist. They understand the ups and downs of the creative industry. They have gone through tough times themselves and they really just want the best for you.

In response to this person: “Thank you!” And take the time to learn from this person. Listen to their advice and keep it in your back pocket for a rainy day. We all know those will come, but with some careful planning, hopefully you can make it through.

3. “Why?”

There are some people in your life that may have a harder time grasping your need to create and why you want to do that full time or why you want to work for yourself. They might say things like, “But what about your benefits at your current job, your 401K?” or, “Don’t you like your job?” Maybe this person enjoys the stability of a full-time job and their weekly routine, and that’s perfectly alright. Just don’t let their questioning make you second guess what is right for you at this point in your life.

In response to this person: Explain to them thoroughly the reasons that you are making this career change. I am sure you have thought about these reasons for months leading up to your move. Whether it is a sideways transition or a step up a ladder, make sure they understand that you know what your goals are and have a plan to achieve them. They won’t worry about you as much if you show them the logic and the plan behind the decision.

4. “I’m Mad at You.”

This is the hardest type of response that you will get. This is one of your favorite coworkers or team members who relies on you. Maybe they love your company and can’t imagine spending the day without you. Or maybe they just love the work you do and can’t fathom trying to replace you. Whatever this reason, this person feels betrayed by you in some way. Know that this response is temporary and maybe they are just in denial for the time being.

In response to this person: In a small way this person is putting their needs before yours, but they don’t understand that yet. This person can be swayed into a “congratulations" person if you can convince them of the reasons why this change is exciting and necessary for you. Give them some of your excitement and they may even come to find pleasure in it.

In the End

Ultimately, you will make the steps needed to branch out into this new and exciting career path you have forged for yourself. Be resilient in your decision and be proud of yourself. There is no time like the present to achieve your goals, and the reactions you will face from your peer group are only temporary. Find ways to stay in touch with these peers as you create new work relationships and friendships. Remember the people that helped get you to where you are today, when you are able to be free of that full-time job. You never know when you may need to help them through a career transition of their own.

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