Five Tips for Managing Tough Transitions and Career Setbacks

Over the past six months, we’ve heard the word “unprecedented” and the phrase “new normal” a thousand times—in major headlines, commercials and conversations at the dinner table. While they now seem overused, they emphasize a big theme of 2020: transition.

Many of these transitions, such as hybrid classes and remote internships, have reshaped the college experience for Gordon students. In response, the Career and Connection Institute (CCI) focused its first virtual and fourth annual Calling and Career Conference on equipping students for these transitional moments.

While this conference is tailored to students, The Bell took some notes and compiled a list of five tips for handling transition that can apply to anyone.

Realize that Rejection Can Ultimately Lead to Better Options

The first tip comes from President D. Michael Lindsay’s upcoming book, Hinge Moments, in which he explores how people handle major life changes. Lindsay’s own hinge moment occurred when he was rejected from his dream school, Oxford University, as a graduate student. Crushed by the unexpected change of plans, Lindsay confided in a trusted professor who then connected Lindsay with renowned theologian Alister McGrath. Even in a moment of great disappointment, something extraordinary happened: McGrath took Lindsay on as his student. “The voice of the Lord is always behind us,” says Lindsay. “We have to listen to how the Lord is guiding us.”

Appreciate the Process and Don’t Fixate on the Outcome

With people constantly asking, “What’s next for you?”, it can be easy to get carried away with ambitions and forget the importance of the present moment. While it’s tempting to fixate on the future and a desirable outcome, there are people and projects that need our attention right now. Many of them will prepare you for what’s next, even if you don’t realize it. “You don’t need to impact the world right away,” says Jeff Haanen, founder and CEO of the Denver Institute for Faith and Work. “You have the ability to listen to God in this time and build those muscles.”

Expect a Nonlinear Path

When Andrew Frey ‘06 graduated and his ambition of becoming a professional vocalist didn’t initially pan out, he worked at Barnes and Nobles for several years. And Haanen didn’t launch his own organization until seven years after his graduation. Looking back on those seven years, he explains, “My calling makes more sense looking backwards than looking forward.” We can’t predict where God is calling us, but we can take a forward step.

Be Sensitive to the Transitions Others Are Making

It’s easy to forget about the struggles other people are going through when we’re overwhelmed with our own. Admissions counselor Amber Jogie ’20 reminds us that everyone in the workforce is in a different season of life, learning at their own pace, with different experiences behind them, so compassion and cultural awareness are vital. “You can’t just walk into a workplace and not realize that people are different,” says Jogie. “Culture isn’t something you leave at the door; it becomes a part of your work.”

Don’t Confuse Calling with Doing

We like to take professional opportunities into our own hands, but Missy Wallace, vice president and executive director of the Global Faith and Work Initiative, encourages us to hold our plans loosely. We forget that a calling isn’t so much “what we do” as it is “whom we serve”. “As long as you seek God’s will, he’ll provide for you,” says Wallace.