Avoid staying stuck in wrong career

“To make a true break with the past we need to see ourselves in a new light…and when it comes to reinventing ourselves the people who know us best are those most likely to hinder rather than help us.”

– Herminia Ibarra


Herminia Ibarra is expert in area of organisational behaviour, who has developed “test and learn model” for those who are looking for career transition.

Most employees who are stuck in wrong career follow traditional model for career transition, but that rarely works, chances are while organisation may change you may still be stuck in same wrong career. Ex. you if thought career in recruitment was wrong choice, then seeking advice from your friends/head hunters and taking offer for same kind of job in another organisation may not make much difference to your career.

Traditional model consist of following 3 steps

  1. Know thyself– A person spends time with career coaches and undergoes psychometric tests to understand “true self”, and once they find their true self, they decide to go for career consistent with true self. Herminia feels that this does not help as in many cases; too much time is spent on understanding self, sometimes even leading to decision paralysis.
  2. Consult trusted advisors– Post self-awareness a person consults his trusted advisors – mentors, ex. bosses, peers, head hunters etc. They have their bias and certain image of you in mind, so their advice probably will be to keep doing what you are already doing. Ex. if you are HR manager, best advice a head hunter can give you is to try similar job in another company.
  3. Think big– Most people do transition in one big step. They leave job to do something entirely new, when that does not work, they again go back to earlier career. Transition takes place in number of small steps, not one big bold move.


Herminia suggest her model as an alternative.

  1. Crafting experiments There is no one true self, there are many possible selves. Through process of trial and error we decide which one to focus on. So try out number of new activities on small scale (gradually focus on ones that appeals you), before making major commitment to different career path.
  2. Shifting connections– Develop contacts with new people; get in touch with your role models and new reference groups. Ideas and inputs from these contacts outside your usual circle will help you in making progress in career transition.
  3. Make sense– Think about triggers or catalysts that provoked desire for change i.e. what led you to think about change in career track ex. boredom, frustration, stagnation etc. Build story around it, i.e. your story of your career transition and tell this story to public. This helps in clarifying our intensions, sticking to new path and seek support from outside world.



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