Executive Master of Leadership Blog

Crossing the Bridge to Leadership: 7 Steps to Changing Careers

[fa icon="calendar'] Aug 16, 2018 11:41:07 AM / by Anna Montgomery, MPA

Cross the bridge to a leadership position with an Executive Master of Leadership degree.

The organizational change management process 
is similar to the individual process followed to advance one's career. In this article we adopt Dr. John Kotter's 8-step process for leading change to the individual level and demonstrate how to accelerate your leadership journey.


1. Get Started

Transitions are difficult, even when they're welcome. However, once you begin each action builds upon the next until you’ve reached a critical mass that propels you forward. The most challenging aspect is getting starting, even if it's simply taking a self-assessment to determine your leadership style to better understand who you are and how you lead. 


Deal with the concerns you have head-on

Annie Favreau suggests writing down any and all fears you have and frame them as "how" questions. This is a wonderful tip because people often fail to remember that fear is simply information. Reframing fears into "how" questions allow you to address the issues instead of feeding the fears.

For instance, you might be worried about changing careers because it will be too expensive. Turning this fear into the question, “How am I going to pay for my career change,” gives you a specific question to address rather than a looming, unidentified fear.

Be patient with yourself

Early resistance can derail your plans. Don’t fall into the trap of believing there’s a better time than the present to begin.

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2. Create a Vision of Your Future Leadership Position

It’s not just about identifying jobs but also understanding the types of places you’d like to work. Working in the public sector doesn’t require you to work in government or within law enforcement. Consider leadership positions in new places like public safety leadership or nonprofit leadership.

Next, take the time to investigate your options and find 1) a good fit between your current skill set, 2) what you can gain from further education (formal and informal), and 3) where you’d like to go. Get specific but don’t worry about how many jobs are available in your city just yet.

Establish a timeline for change.

Set goals that are specific, measurable, and challenging but achievable, realistic, and time bound. If education is a factor, take a self-assessment to determine if a leadership degree or MBA is right for you, investigate what it takes to complete a degree, and include these findings in your strategic plan.

3. Enlist Support for Your Vision

Now that you have a good grasp on where you want to go, enlist the support of family and friends. Look at your professional network from a new perspective. Ask yourself, "How can the people I know help me cross the bridge to leadership?"

Communicate your ambitions with others so they can identify other connections they may have. This type of strategic networking may help steer you in the right direction for a school, place of work, new position, or event help you find someone to write a letter of recommendation.

Look to make new contacts through professional associations, internships, or volunteer opportunities. You never know which connection will lead you down the right path toward a new career.

4. Remove Barriers to Success

As we've discussed, consider education, interning, independent learning, and/or volunteering to develop your leadership skills. Honestly assess what you know and what you can do and then find out what you need to be educated or trained to do.

Removing skill gaps and knowledge deficiencies can not only prepare you for your new position but also motivate you throughout the transition.

Learning is exciting and will expose you to options you may not have considered before, help you hone in on transferrable skills, and expose you to people already working in the field or graduates of leadership development programs who can broaden your perspective.

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5. Take Small Steps & Celebrate Accomplishments

Adjusting to new demands is difficult so don’t make it more difficult by trying to tackle everything at once. Taking small actions will not only make the process manageable but more enjoyable.

Celebrate each success; the journey is where the growth happens. Each new contact, skill, piece of knowledge, and experience will bring you closer to accomplishing your leadership goals. One way to celebrate accomplishments is by practicing self-awareness.

It can be easy to lose sight of the future amid setbacks. Over time, stagnation can erode your momentum. This is why celebrating the small victories will help keep you motivated. Small victories compound into larger accomplishments and each step clears the path for the next one.

6. Keep Moving Toward Your Leadership Goals

Stay up to date with what’s going on in the field by following news and reading publications related to your area of interest. Immerse yourself in your area of expertise. Share knowledge and talk about things that you're passionate about while networking or interviewing.

Another way to keep moving toward your leadership ambitions is to learn from leaders in the field and other people's leadership journey.

7. Build Upon Your Progress

Dr. Carol Geffner, Director of USC's Executive Master of Leadership program, says leadership is improvisationThe ability to adapt has great value and the flexibility to adapt to shifting landscapes is an in-demand leadership skill.

You have a unique history and perspective that helps you creatively solve problems. Innovation will be enhanced by broadening your horizons and allow you to make connections others may miss. Additionally, you'll bring transferable skills and experience to bear in your new endeavor.

Dr. John Kotter's 8-step process used in change management and leading transformational change within companies is similar to the individual process of advancing your career. Apply these steps and cross the bridge to leadership.


Topics: Leadership Development

Anna Montgomery, MPA

Written by Anna Montgomery, MPA

Anna Montgomery earned her MPA at USC Price and is pursuing her EdD at USC Rossier.

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