What To Do When You’re Not In Kansas Anymore: A Transformative Seminar For People In Transition

By Sunitha Narayanan and Linda Tefend

Tom enters the training room at 8:50 a.m. wearing pressed khakis and a powder-blue button-down. He prints his name carefully on the table tent, glances at the Transitions Seminar: What To Do When You’re Not In Kansas Anymore outline, takes a second sip of his coffee and cracks open the Guide to a Successful Career Transition binder, intentionally avoiding eye contact with the person seated next to him. His silver hair is freshly trimmed, yet his eyes are puffy, belying subsequent nights of less than optimum sleep. Tom doesn’t speak until he takes his turn during introductions.


“My name is Tom Jacobs,” he states, and then continues with an edge of sarcasm, “and what I DID for a living is…” Tom has diluted his worth and value because of an external circumstance – a corporate restructuring or cutback and the temporary absence of a paycheck.


The stress of losing a job fosters negative and often disabling thoughts that distort people’s self-awareness, interfere with their perception of career choices and breed sluggishness in tackling the transition process. According to William Bridges, a recognized authority on dealing with change in the workplace, change is external (the restructuring, the acquisition, the downsizing) while transition is internal (a psychological adaptation that is necessary before a person accepts the change.) Change is situational and fast while transition is psychological and slow.


Bridges’ three-part model – An Ending, A Neutral Zone and A New Beginning is the foundation of the Transitions Seminar and helps participants feel validated, discover what behaviors might be working against them, and learn practical, immediately applicable job search skills.


The Ending: The goal of this stage, according to Bridges is to “let go.” A simple yet powerful exercise that helps people to do this is the Gains/Losses exercise. This begins with quiet reflective time for participants to list at least 10 things they lost when they lost their job, and 10 things they gained by losing their job. In small group discussions, participants learn that their reactions such as denial, anger, shock and resistance are a natural and normal part of the transition process. Learning about the transition cycle infuses hope and helps them embrace new possibilities. Importantly, it gives them pause as they consider the “The Tarzan Leap,” the temptation to “leap” from the last job to the first offer that appears, whether or not it’s a fit.


The Neutral Zone: By mid-morning, the participants are feeling validated and relieved, and are no longer hesitant to share their thoughts openly. The first two of five “job search weapons” are introduced here:

  • A Public Reason for Leaving – Participants practice brief and positive ways to discuss the job loss, reinforcing confident and hopeful behavior.

  • C-A-R Stories (Challenge-Actions-Results) – Participants learn how to effectively illustrate accomplishments by writing stories and identifying career “themes.” Using one person’s accomplishment story as an example, the facilitator harnesses the creative power of the group by revealing and guiding people through a step-by-step process of verbalizing the challenge, extrapolating relevant actions, highlighting the results, brainstorming action verbs, and crafting a brief accomplishment statement.

Momentum builds as these vulnerable people transform each other into confident and energized souls, no longer feeling isolated and broken but excited and full of renewed self-worth.


A New Beginning: Participants are beginning to feel the curative power of the morning’s work and come back from lunch with a sense of openness to new possibilities. The third job search weapon is introduced here:

  • The 90-Second Pitch – Learning how to answer the question “Tell Me About Yourself?” in a compelling way is made user-friendly through a concise outline and several examples. As participants practice this pitch and respond to feedback, voices become more buoyant and non-verbal behaviors become more natural and self-assured.

Armed with a slowly building paradigm shift – they have simply lost a job, not lost who and what they are – participants are ready to add two more weapons in their job search arsenal:

  • Filling the Well with News and Research – Job seekers are reminded of the importance of keeping their fingers on the business pulse of the community, and shown ways to do it.

  • Interview Preparation for the Questions You Hope You’re Never Asked - In a creative discussion format, each participant takes a turn choosing a question from a grab bag of potentially challenging questions, reads it aloud and answers it spontaneously.

By 2:30 p.m. that same day, Tom is smiling and confident.

Is this rocket science? No. Rather, it is a way of creating powerful group synergy that gradually builds momentum as each person slowly becomes aware that they can look at this transition through a different lens, one that leaves them more energized, more confident and armed with practical tips to find their next job faster. An often-repeated comment by participants is, “I didn’t want to be here today, and now I can’t believe how valuable this has been for me. You have given me hope!”



Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes.  William Bridges. ISBN: 0-201-00082-2



Sunitha NarayananSunitha Narayanan, CMF,is a certified Career Coach with a passion for connecting people and their talents to life and work opportunities. She is a co-active coach, empowering her clients to believe in their dreams, set actionable goals and actively create joy in their work lives. Her niche is working with clients on exploring and researching career ideas, writing proactive job search plans and identifying strategies for transition, work-life balance and career management issues. Sunitha enjoys writing articles on career management topics and is published inMobility Magazine, H&R Relocation NewsandCareer Convergence. She is with OI Partners Promark Company, a firm that offers executive coaching, leadership development and outplacement services. She can be reached at snarayanan@oipartners.net or http://www.linkedin.com/in/sunitha4.


Linda Tefend

Linda Tefend, CMF, is a certified Career Coach, with OI Partners Promark Company, a global leader in providing customized talent management and leadership solutions to clients worldwide. She specializes in helping clients overcome job search fears to find meaningful work. Her clients tell her that each conversation with her is joyful and inspiring. She particularly enjoys delivering motivational workshops, such as “The Five Most Important Job Search Weapons in Your Arsenal, “Networking for People Who Don’t Like to Network,” and “The Image Advantage: Creating Lasting Impressions.” Linda is certified as a Career Management Fellow with the Institute for Career Certification Int’l, as a MBTI Instructor and an Image Consultant with Conselle Image Institute. She can be reached at ltefend@oipartners.net or http://www.linkedin.com/in/lindatefend.

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1 Comment

Ann Mills on Monday 12/05/2011 at 11:10AM wrote:

Thanks Sunitha and Linda for sharing your approach working with clients in transition. You have turned a time when clients are typically downcast into a time when they realize their value and worth. I am encouraged to use Bridges' model with my clients who are also going through transition.

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