Recently, I was given an excerpt from an article on the “4 S’s of Transition Theory” as discussed by Goodman, Schlossberg and Anderson. This excerpt was centred on the 4 S’s model which is designed to help adults in transition. Specifically, the 4 S’s are as follows:
Self Situation Support Strategies
I read through the article, took note of its ideas and theories, and wondered how this model might work for students who are in the process of finding employment. After some consideration, I came up with my own theories and ideas.
Self – What do you want? Often, students will say that their former career made them happy, that they wish they could return to it instead of taking on the difficult, and sometimes terrifying, task of finding a position outside their comfort level and beyond their experience. When you’ve worked at the same job for many years, even if it is no longer challenging in a positive way, it feels safer to stay with the familiar because there is a kind of safety in it. What I have told several students along the way is that who you were is not necessarily who you are today. In my view, this is a valid statement. Maybe you were great at your last job, but does that really mean that that is all you’re capable of doing? When you think about it, you have consistently evolved throughout your lifetime, so why would you think that this evolution ends just because you’re older than you used to be? Why would you think that you’re only meant to play one professional role in your career? The truth is that sometimes you outgrow what used to make you happy, or, conversely, sometimes the job you know evolves on its own and outgrows you. That’s why it is so important to take inventory of what you want and think about how you’re going to get it. Take time to get to know yourself and be realistic about what limitations may or may not exist. Perhaps most of these limitations are no more than the result of fear and do not merit the respect you may be giving them.
Situation – What triggered your need to find a new job? It’s important to remember that everyone has their own back story, as well as their own personal reasons for embarking on a new chapter in their education and professional development. Often, retraining later in life can be related to some kind of personal hardship: injury, layoff or termination related to some other reason, life challenges, etc. Sometimes, it’s hard to remember that other people are facing complex issues when you’re tied up in your own, but what makes it easier to adjust is knowing that these challenges are a shared experience. That anxiety you are feeling about starting over is what the person next to you is feeling, just like the person in front of you or behind you. While this does not erase your apprehension when looking for employment, it certainly helps to know you’re not alone. This brings us to the third “S”.
Support – Who will listen to you and understand the frustration you may be experiencing? I think this is my favourite “S”. Of course, some of you will go into the job search with a warrior spirit, eager to show employers what you can do, ready to take on the interviews with a steady, dazzling confidence. This is admirable, of course, but I suspect a greater number of you will feel discouraged at times during the process, because it’s difficult to be patient when you want something so badly. Being positive is difficult when you have submitted several résumés, certain that at least one of them would get you a call requesting an interview. This is where support is essential, whether it is letting someone else know about a job posting you think they’d be interested in, or proofreading each other’s cover letters and résumés.
On a personal note, several years ago, during my own job search, I was feeling confused and deflated by the general lack of interest in my résumé. I chatted with another student who was just as puzzled because she had been steadily submitting cover letters and résumés and had received no responses. We decided that we needed to be each other’s support, and we prepared five résumés each for five different places we were interested in working. I picked her up early one spring morning, and we planned our route, encouraging one another and making sure a destination coffee shop was decided upon as a reward for our efforts. I would park and wait as she would go in to whichever establishment she had selected, and then we would alternate. By the end of that day, we had each submitted all of the résumés and we had a very pleasant lunch together, feeling like we’d accomplished something without having to feel self-conscious or rejected. We supported one another, and while I didn’t get an interview from that experience, she did, and she got the job.
Be each other’s support. Encourage one another and help discourage negative thinking. The friendships and partnerships you develop along the way will provide the positivity and confidence you need to remain dedicated to your long-term goals. It works, and you will make friends, too!
Strategies – Do you have a plan in place to get where you want to go? Intention and dreams will only get you so far. You have to strategize in order to do what you set out to do, because you are not going to get your dream job by thinking about it. You have to plan! This means committing to your job search, fully understanding that it, in itself, is a job. You need to proofread every cover letter and résumé you submit, making sure that you are tailoring each one for the position advertised. You need to research a little bit about the company you are applying to, understanding what its vision is so that you can bring your knowledge into the interview. You need to identify whether the position you are applying for meets your needs, not just you meeting the needs of the position. Be vigilant in your job search, making an effort with it every single day and not backing away from it. Persistence is the key to success when looking for employment and part of that persistence is making certain that you have an effective strategy in place.
Think about your own uniqueness (Self), and come to terms with where you are in the present (Situation). By encouraging others and listening when they need to talk (Support), you will find that they will be there for you, too, allowing you to adapt more freely to the changes you are faced with. This will help you to successfully map your way to your destination (Strategies), where you can appreciate who you are and will be, instead of whom you were.