Skip to main content

Career Transitions, Part 1: Engage the Power of Letting Go

Career Transitions, Part 1: Engage the Power of Letting Go

In 2016, I made the decision after 6.5 years to leave my leadership role at a Global Software Development company. This three-part series focuses on the highlights of lessons I’ve learned during this time of transition. I sincerely hope that sharing my journey will help others think about their transitions in a different way. Please enjoy Part 1: Letting Go.

Regardless of how you exit a role, there is a period of mourning that takes place resulting in individuals going through the five stages of grieving (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). Even though I was voluntarily leaving, I knew that moving through the grief would require some support. So, in preparation for leaving my last role, I spent time with my executive coach. 

If you don’t have the luxury of an executive coach but have access to outplacement services, take advantage of the coaches provided to help work through your transition. For me, those frank conversations yielded a plan where I created a 3-step journey to finding my next career opportunity: 

Step 1: Letting Go

It sounds so easy, as if you could just open your hand and let go of any negative feelings or emotions stirred up by your last role or your exit from the company. Truthfully, letting go requires the hard work of introspection. I spent time with my executive coach identifying blockers and any “old tapes.” She gave me an exercise to sit down and write out all the things I needed to let go of in order to be prepared for my next opportunity. This list will be different for each of us but it may include anger at the way that you were treated, resentment at being passed over for a promotion or even jealousy for a variety of reasons. The core work of this phase is to dig deep and identify all of the blockers — those things that are blocking you from being able to step into a new role without the weight of negative thoughts, feelings and emotions.

[Related: The Career Crisis Affecting Thirty-Something Women That No One is Talking About]

To help me with the process of letting go, I read a wonderful book by Susan David called Emotional Agility. While I am, by nature, a reader, this book called to me because of the subtitle — Get unstuck, embrace change, and thrive in work and life. If you are not a fan of reading books and short articles are more your speed, I would suggest this article from The Muse. Regardless of your path, your goal is to identify your Letting Go list.

You may find this next step corny, but find a way to throw out or bury your Letting Go list. The objective of the list is to identify the negative things that might be holding you back and then literally…. Let go. I was fortunate enough to be able to go on a beach vacation and let go of my list by tearing it into tiny bits and burying it in sand. That action was surprisingly freeing. It felt to me as if a large boulder had been lifted. My sense is that the symbolism was a way to close that chapter. 

I hope you will come back to read the next article in this series where I discuss the next step in the transition journey: Aspirations.


Melissa Thompson is a strategic and collaborative senior executive with experience in Global Human Resources and Talent Acquisition. During her career, she has held recruiting leadership roles at Dell, Citrix, and Lenovo. Her background includes experience with RPO leader, Aon Hewitt, and global financial services giant, Bank of America. Melissa is now CEO of Thompson Talent Innovations, a talent focused consulting company.

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.


Continue learning with this Ellevate Playbook: