3 Keys to a Successful Career Transition

hwang chi yeol 2

There once was a young man in South Korea who dreamed of being a musician. 

To pursue his dream, he moved from his hometown to Seoul in 2004. For a while, it seemed like he was on track. He had his official debut in 2007 and released 2 albums – a common start for K-pop idols.

After that, he disappeared from stage and screen – and no one heard of him again until 2015.

What happened in the intervening 8 years?

According to his Wikipedia profile, his management company ran into financial difficulties and closed down, and the young man’s dream of making it big gave way to reality. He took on part-time jobs and became a vocal coach; some of his students became members of idol bands. Money was so tight that he couldn’t afford to eat meat, or get a dislocated kneecap treated properly. He lived in less-than-ideal rental accommodation, picked up unwanted furniture that he found on the street, and even now is loath to throw things away.

In March 2015, the young man was invited to appear on a reality music show, where he experienced his first success. This led to appearances in other TV shows. Then China’s Hunan TV invited him to compete in the reality music show I Am A Singer (Season 4), and his career took off. He arrived in China in January 2016 and was greeted by ONE fan. By the fourth episode, his Weibo (China’s equivalent of Twitter) account had exploded to over 1 million followers.

The audience loved his friendly and self-deprecating personality, his good manners, his ability to be the character he was singing about, and his spare-no-effort attitude of trying to surpass himself in each episode. Starting with love ballads, he surprised everyone in the fourth episode with a high-energy jazzy reinterpretation of K-pop icons Big Bang’s hit song “Bang Bang Bang” that showed off his impressive dance ability. To overcome the language barrier, he learned Mandarin and sang in it, impressing the mainly native Chinese audience and his fellow contestants from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The young man – Hwang Chi Yeol – won third place in the finals, outdoing older and more commercially successful performer. An astounding achievement for an outsider and a stranger to the audience.

When interviewed on his performance, one music industry expert noted: “What he accomplished in one minute on stage, was only made possible because of ten years of hard work off stage.” It was a respectful acknowledgement of the difficult journey the young man had endured in pursuing his dream.

What does this mean for your career transition?

Right now you may be planning to move out of your current day job into something that is more fulfilling, that speaks to your heart and passion, that will give you meaning and significance and freedom and flexibility, and the lifestyle of your dreams.

Many people will tell you to stop dreaming and get real. Some may actively discourage you or say cynical things about your effort to be different. Your own friends and family, whom you look to for support, may tell you to stay safe and not take risks.

Let’s admit it: change is confronting. When you’re coming from a professional background where you’ve worked hard to earn your credentials, establish a track record, and convince people of influence that you have the capacity and qualities needed to succeed, giving it up to start over is hard. And when your dream is something you can’t yet articulate and comes with no safety net or guarantees, that’s even harder.

So here are three things I highly recommend you have by your side as you begin your journey of transition:

  1. A DREAM OR VISION that is so bold and crazy and compelling, that it will make any obstacle and objections seem trivial and insignificant, and that is big enough and worthy enough to keep you powering on even when you doubt your ability and feel like a fraud.
  2. SUPPORT NETWORK who will lovingly hold you accountable to your dreams and goals, and who will be there to provide honest feedback, encourage you when you’re in the valley, and cheer you when you reach the peak.
  3. RESOURCES: mentors who have been down a similar path and can point out shortcuts and speed humps; experts and teachers in the areas that are your biggest skills gaps; coaches who will listen, guide and nudge you on without prescribing or judging.

To make sure you have all these essentials in place for your transition, I recommend that you schedule a 30-minute Career Health Check with me by clicking on the link:

The purpose of the call is for us to have a conversation about your key priorities and what you are willing to do right now to achieve them, and I will then share with you my realistic assessment about your next steps.

If you are serious about making a transition, I invite you to make our conversation one of your priorities this week.

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”

Steve Jobs

To Your Life’s Work,