What follows is a lot of tightly packed information about how to change from one career field to another field or industry. The information consists of

  1. the 5-Phase-Model that will provide orientation for the process of career transformation
  2. the Test-and-Learn approach that I recommend you apply to this entire journey (I actually believe it’s a great approach to all of life)
  3. underlying principles that will make this whole journey a lot more enjoyable than most people experience it.

I have developed, designed and improved this content over the course of six years of working with hundreds of young researchers, mostly at the doctoral and postdoctoral level, in group trainings and individual coachings. I have also used these approaches with coaching clients working in very different public and private sector jobs with varying degrees of formal authority. So, I know that they work – provided that you apply them.

The 5-Phase-Model is a product of my own thinking, reading, teaching, and coaching. Whenever I can trace back a tool or a method that I suggest to its source, I will reference it in the text.


Figuring all this out by yourself can be overwhelming. If you want to know how coaching can support you in making this journey more enjoyable and effective, let’s talk.



You may be unhappy in your current job because you know that your contract ends in three months and that sucks because you actually really love what you do. But if you want to continue this track, you will have to keep applying to new jobs every few years because there aren’t enough long-term positions.

You may be unhappy in your current job because your desires and needs have changed, and your job is no longer compatible with them. You may have started a family and are sick of working overtime and weekends. You may want to have more real-life impact, more responsibility, less responsibility, more collaboration, less bad management decisions, better culture.

You may be unhappy because you can no longer deny the fact that you hate more about your job than you love.

You may simply be unhappy because you have stagnated, feel stuck, and want to get moving.

The problem is that you don’t know how or if it’s worth the effort. Because who knows if there are any jobs out there that would be better than your current situation? It could be like choosing between a rock and a hard place. And even if you do have another job field in mind that you now believe would be more attractive, how do you know if that is true? And if it were true, you may suspect that you don’t have the necessary qualifications and experience for a cross-lateral entry into a completely different field. As if that wasn’t enough, you feel stressed, anxious, or depressed (or everything all at once) about the possibility (or the reality) of being unemployed, losing your visa, or working in a poorly paid job for a horrible boss. This creates a painful sense of urgency that either makes you prone to frantic activism or to paralysis. Or both.

In short: All these obstacles prevent you from thinking and acting with purpose and clarity.



The good news: there is a systematic approach that will get you from A to B, with a strong likelihood of B being better than A. It helps if you apply the method and the principles laid out in part II and III of this series.



The numbering of the phases can be misleading because it does not matter in which phase you begin as long as you BEGIN. Because most humans like order and structure and because this order makes sense for many people, I have nevertheless decided to number the phases.


Purpose: Have some internal anchors and essential points of orientation so that you can subsequently make better decisions about any career-related choices.

Establish your starting point. Here are some concrete action steps that feed into the purpose of this phase:


  • Make a list of all your strengths. (Strengths are patterns of behaving, thinking or feeling that help you solve problems and that feel good when you do them.)
  • Ask at least 5 people who know you well from work and privately, what your strengths are in their eyes.
  • Make a list of your favourite problems. (Problems can be complex, tricky questions; they can also derive from larger topics that you find intriguing.)
  • Write down what needs you want to fulfil with your future job. This is closely related to the question: What goals do you have for your life and what role do you want your job to play in the pursuit of these goals?
  • Create at least three versions of a possible future self that seems appealing, attractive, and wonderful to you. To begin, it’s enough if you start with some key words, such as main activities (I suggest that these are some of your strengths), main interests and favourite problems.

There are many more things you can do in this phase. But I recommend you only do the bare minimum; just enough to give you some ground from which to start. If you already feel anchored enough, because you have a pretty good understanding of your strengths, needs, and interests, then you can happily skip this phase for now.


Purpose: Strengthen your weak ties to increase your chances of discovering and getting offered (OR CREATING!) a job that fits your needs.

Concrete action steps you can do that would nurture the purpose of this phase include:


  • Look at your first drafts or key words for your possible future selves. Find people who already do aspects of what you might want to do in the future. Talk to them. Ask them questions. I find LinkedIn helpful for that.
  • Invent playful experiments that can help you get through (or even enjoy) and learn from networking activities: (1) Challenge yourself to introduce yourself to at least 3 new people; (2) Ask a question during a podium discussion; (3) Look out for people who make you feel good and focus on asking them questions to find out what it might be that makes you feel good.
  • Contact one new person at least once a week. Choose people you find interesting and intriguing.
  • Write down questions you want to ask them.



Purpose: Learn the rules of whichever game (job field) you have chosen so that you become a skilled enough player.

Concrete points of action that nurture the purpose of this phase:

  • Write down all the questions you have at this point. Identify the underlying assumptions or beliefs. This is what you will want to test with any of the actions you now take.
  • Do a Target Job Deconstruction. One of the things it can do for you is gain more clarity about the requirements of certain job fields, what these requirements actually mean, and how big the gap between your current self and your future self really is.
  • Meet and talk to as many people as you can who represent this job field or organisation.
  • Create low-stake simulations for your future job: (1) volunteering that consists of tasks or activities that can easily be translated into the language of your future employer or customers (see 1: Target Job Deconstruction); (2) ask for a tour through the office building; (3) offer your services freelance for a trial period.
  • Research and read.



(Alternatively, if you are an entrepreneur, create an interesting value proposition.)

Purpose: Get a job offer (for entrepreneurs: win clients or investors)

For the purpose of clarity, I focus here on the goal to get a job offer. Some of it can be translated to actions that will help entrepreneurs, too.

Concrete points of action that nurture the purpose of this phase:


  • Create a CV that emphasises your achievements rather than a list of your work experience. The most easily spotted skills on your CV should match the top requirements of the job.
  • Do a Target Job Deconstruction. Another thing that the TJD can do for you is to teach you the language of your future job field so that you can already use it in your CV and cover letter.
  • Arrange coffee chats or virtual or phone calls with people from recruiting or, even better, people who work in this company and whom you already know by now because you have consistently been building your bridged. Ask them how the recruiting process works. How are the applications screened? Does the organisation use an Applicant Tracking System? How many rounds of interviews can you expect? Who will be present in these interviews? What will be typical questions or tasks during interviews?
  • Create possible interview questions based on the job description you have. To do this, concentrate on the skills and the kinds of problems you will have to solve in this position. Write down answers based on the same pattern as the success stories (see phase 1). Another, similar pattern, would be the STAR approach.

S = Situation. Describe the situation you were in as succinctly as possible: When was it? Where? With whom?

T = Tasks. What was your goal? What did you want to achieve? Why was it important or relevant? What made it challenging?

A = Actions. What exactly did you do to solve this problem or to reach this goal? If it was a team effort, describe what your contribution was. Speak from the first person singular and use verbs. Tell a (very short, 1-3 sentences) story.

R = Results. What did you in fact achieve? If you did not achieve your goal what did you learn from this experience? Stories of so-called failure can be a great way to demonstrate a whole bunch of very relevant skills.

  • Practice your answers.


Purpose: This is the ultimate hypothesis-checking. During the onboarding phase and the first few months of your new job, both you and your employer are still testing if it’s a good fit. Of course, both parties hope so. In this phase, you can make sure that you do your part to find an honest answer.

Concrete steps of action:

  • Get to know your “internal customers”. These are the people within your organisation whom you serve by contributing your knowledge and skills. What do they expect from you? How can you make their life easier by working on your tasks? Ask them questions over lunch or coffee.
  • Ask for feedback early on. Keep requesting it also when there is no formally arranged time to do so. Not only will this help you learn faster, your colleagues and your boss(es) will also appreciate your drive to develop and grow.
  • Set regular appointments with yourself when you reflect on your experience in this new job. Does it help you meet your needs as you defined them at the beginning of your transformation journey? If not what haven’t you tried yet to change it?

Want to know HOW to implement these steps of action? Read about the Test-and-Learn method in Part II of this series


about the principles my most successful clients use in Part III of this series.

Figuring all this out by yourself can be overwhelming. If you want to know how coaching can support you in making this journey more enjoyable and effective, let’s talk.

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