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Reinventing your career

Reinventing your career

Reinventing your career

Use this framework if you want a career change

Herminia Ibarra, a prominent organizational behaviour scholar, has proposed the concept of "Identity Transition Framework." This framework focuses on understanding how individuals navigate significant career transitions, particularly when they are considering a new role or identity in their professional life.


One of the biggest problems faced when someone wants to reinvent their career is the fear of the unknown or fear of failure. Transitioning to a new career path involves stepping out of one's comfort zone, taking risks, and facing uncertainties about the future.


This fear can manifest in various ways. There is the very obvious uncertainty about which direction to take when making the pivot. There are so many options and it may not be clear which path will lead to fulfilment and success.  Understandably there will be nervousness; “Is this new direction within my capabilities?”.


There will also be financial concerns. A career reinvention may involve financial considerations, such as changes in income, additional education or training costs, or the need to support oneself and possibly a family during the transition period. Fear of financial instability can be a significant barrier to pursuing a new career path.


And then there are social pressures. Family members, friends, and colleagues may have something to say about what you should do and they may be motivated by an expectation that the safest route is to follow a traditional career path or maintain a certain level of stability and status.


Human beings are creatures of habit, and change can be inherently uncomfortable and challenging. Individuals may resist stepping out of their comfort zones and embracing the uncertainty and challenges associated with career reinvention.


Addressing these challenges requires a combination of self-awareness, courage, resilience, and practical strategies for managing risk and uncertainty. Seeking support from mentors, career coaches, or support groups, conducting thorough research and planning, and gradually building skills and experience in the desired field can help individuals overcome these obstacles and successfully reinvent their careers.


In Herminia Ibarra's concept of "Working Identity," she describes three key processes that individuals go through when transitioning between identities: identity in transition, lingering between identities, and grounding a deep change. These processes provide insight into how individuals navigate and make sense of significant career transitions.

Identity in Transition: This process involves actively exploring and experimenting with new roles, behaviours, and ways of thinking to transition into a new professional identity. Individuals engage in activities such as networking, skill development, and seeking out new opportunities to broaden their understanding of potential identities and possibilities. Individuals may embark on new career paths or pursue different professional roles that align more closely with their evolving interests, values, and aspirations. They may take on new projects, seek out mentors or advisors, and immerse themselves in new environments to gain exposure and insights into potential identities.


Lingering Between Identities: During this process, individuals experience a period of ambiguity and uncertainty as they navigate the space between their old and new identities. They may feel torn between their past identity and the emerging identity they are striving to adopt, leading to feelings of dissonance and discomfort. Individuals may struggle with letting go of aspects of their previous professional identity that no longer serve them or align with their new career direction. They may grapple with questions of authenticity and struggle to reconcile conflicting expectations and demands from their old and new roles.


Grounding a Deep Change: This process involves integrating new experiences, insights, and learnings into one's identity to create a sense of coherence and authenticity. Individuals commit to a new identity that reflects their evolving sense of self and aligns with their goals and aspirations. Individuals undergo a process of self-reflection and introspection to make sense of their career transition and internalize the changes they have experienced. They may draw upon their past experiences, strengths, and values to ground their new identity and establish a sense of continuity and purpose in their professional lives.


These three processes provide a framework for understanding how individuals navigate the complexities of identity transition in the context of career change. By recognising and embracing these processes, individuals can better manage the challenges and uncertainties associated with reinventing their working identities and ultimately find greater fulfilment and success in their professional lives.


By understanding and applying the principles of the Identity Transition Framework, individuals can navigate career transitions more effectively, adapt to new roles, and ultimately achieve success in their professional lives.


Transitioning using Herminia Ibarra's Identity Transition Framework involves several key steps. Here's a breakdown of recommended steps for navigating a career transition:


Step 1 Self-Reflection: Begin by reflecting on your current identity, skills, strengths, and areas for development.

Step 2 Exploration: Actively seek out new experiences, roles, and opportunities related to your desired career path.

Step 3 Experimentation: Start experimenting with new behaviours, roles, and ways of interacting that are aligned with your desired career path.

Step 4 Integration: Reflect on the insights gained from your experimentation and integrate them into your evolving identity.

Step 5 Commitment: Once you've identified a new identity or direction that feels right for you, commit to it wholeheartedly.

Step 6 Continuous Learning and Adaptation: Embrace a mindset of continuous learning and adaptation as you navigate your career transition.


By following these steps and applying the principles of Herminia Ibarra's Identity Transition Framework, you can effectively navigate a career transition and position yourself for success in your new role or identity.


Herminia Ibarra has also written a best seller entitled "Act Like A Leader, Think Like a Leader". In this book she offers good advice on how to:

  • Redefine your job in order to make more strategic decisions

  • Diversify your network so you connect to and learn from a wider range of stakeholders

  • Become more playful with your self-concept, allowing a leadership style to evolve.

If you want to delve deeper, take a look at Herminia’s website on 

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