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Hilal Her

Career Transitions: Navigating Change and Reinventing Yourself

April 2024

From an acorn that burgeons into an oak to a caterpillar that metamorphoses into a butterfly, change presents itself as, perhaps, an only constant. This principle of change is deeply ingrained in human nature as well. It is in our very nature to evolve and seek out new horizons, redefining the boundaries of our potential in the process.

Nowadays, it is becoming increasingly common for individuals to shift their career trajectory in order to discover their true potential. Career transitions, often viewed through a lens of scepticism, may be mistaken for a lack of focus or a flighty disposition. Unfortunately, this stirs a fear of limiting opportunities for oneself, often causing people to abstain from scripting their own narratives of change. In Pakistan, where a woman’s societal obligations are mostly limited to being a daughter, wife, sister or mother, deviating from these expectations can be particularly challenging. Yet, women in Pakistan are increasingly becoming a part of this evolutionary journey. 
A growing number of influential women are actively pursuing career transitions, thereby empowering themselves and serving as inspiration for others. Dr Sania Nishtar’s journey from the corridors of hospitals to the realm of politics is one of the many examples of a successful career transition. A cardiologist by training, she made her mark in global health leadership and showed by example a profound commitment to humanitarian service. It was this unwavering dedication that propelled her transition into the political arena, where she orchestrated national strategies for poverty alleviation and social protection. Her journey is emblematic of the transformative power of career transitions. It is an example for those who find it impossible to redefine their professional identities. All that such a transition requires is a vision for change, and the courage to pursue it against all odds, reinventing oneself for the greater good. 
To navigate change effectively, one must first embrace the philosophy of a growth mindset — the belief that abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. One doesn’t need to be born with a talent to pursue it; it is a journey fraught with challenges that require resilience in the face of setbacks and a willingness to adapt to the new environments. In Pakistan, it is a common adage that everything has its own time. As adults, women are often expected to focus solely on raising children and dedicating themselves to domestic life. Support for women seeking new paths is scarce; very often the message is that there is no room for new learning or change but also limits their opportunities. Moreover, there is a significant lack of educational spaces for adults and professionals aspiring to learn new skills from the ground up.
Supportive Network
To follow philosophy of growth mindset, one pivotal step is finding a supportive network of friends, family and colleagues who instil within you a desire to find success. Our lives are full of naysayers, but it is the positive voices that you need to look for and make a part of your journey towards success. This is not to say that there will be no criticism on the way. There will be plenty, and it may propel you into dark moments, but to start the journey with the mental preparedness to fight criticism is necessary. 
Self-discovery is crucial for career transitions. It is both the process and the outcome. Embarking on a career transition is not merely about seeking new opportunities, it is a profound exercise in self-assessment. This introspective journey demands an evaluation of one’s strengths and weaknesses. Recognizing one’s strengths allows for a strategic approach to career planning, leveraging these assets to excel in new roles. Conversely, acknowledging weaknesses is equally important. It helps in identifying areas for improvement and skill development. Self-awareness ensures that career moves are not just changes, but strategic advancements that align with one’s capabilities and goals. Through such an introspection, not only does one find strengths and weaknesses, but also connects with their inner self, leading to one’s reinvention. 
Seeking mentorship is another important phase in navigating career change. It is like having a guide when you are lost; someone who knows the way and can help you find your path. They have been where you are and know what it takes to get to the other side. Seeking mentorship involves researching and connecting with individuals who have successfully transitioned, understanding the strategies they employed, and the obstacles they overcame. This research is not a mere academic exercise; it is a quest for practical wisdom. It is about finding those who resonate with your aspirations and are willing to invest in your growth. Mentors can offer advice, share their experiences, and help you avoid common pitfalls. The mentor mentee relationship is a symbiotic one, where both parties benefit. The mentor experiences the satisfaction of shaping the future, while the mentee gains a compass to navigate the complex terrain of career change.
Setting Realistic Career Goals
Career transition is not just moving from one phase of life into another. It is a reinvention of the self which results from introspection. In this process of reinventing oneself, you are not just embracing a new image, but setting new aims for life. To do that, one needs to start by setting realistic goals that serve as stepping stones towards a larger vision. It begins with identifying what you truly want to achieve, whether it is a career change, learning a new skill, or improving personal wellbeing. These goals must be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). For instance, instead of vaguely aiming to ‘create a client’s network’, set a goal to ‘contact ten clients for the business by the end of week’.
Making an Action Plan
After determining goals, the next step is to put the plan into action. This means creating a detailed plan and breaking down the goal into smaller, manageable tasks. It could involve scheduling regular training sessions, enrolling in a course for a career change, or setting aside time each day for personal development. There may be a dearth of career counselling workshops in Pakistan, but this should not be an excuse to lay back. There are a number of relevant online programs that can literally be counted on the tips of our fingers. Just a few taps here and there, and we land with anything we need. The key is consistency and commitment to the plan.
Transitioning into a new career is not borne out of lack of commitment. Although this may be a general stereotype that women in Pakistan face, they need to assure themselves that it is not true. Reasons behind such changes are varied and complex, and navigating a career transition effectively lies in knowing from the onset that the decision is not deep-seated in indecision. One may need to transition career to pursue a long-held dream that was deferred by life’s demands or familial responsibilities. Sometimes, a career may be chosen at the crossroads of opportunity and necessity. In such cases, stability is chosen over passion, but to choose a field under any kind of pressure is to walk in shoes that never quite fit. It is only so far that you can walk in a biting shoe. Sometimes, it is about seizing an opportunity that arises, even if it means stepping into an unfamiliar field. Sometimes, and most importantly, it is a step to find happiness, which may or may not be a part of the current job.

A career transition necessitates a combination of self-awareness, strategic thinking, networking, and resilience. Make a personal investment, leverage your network, and approach the journey with determination and lucidity. Whatever the reason, change is an arduous climb, and it brings with itself fears of failure. All you need to know is that if change is calling, it is never too late to heed its call and empower oneself. 

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