How to go through a career change smoothly?

A career change is often associated with external factors that influence our career path. This is in contrast with the term career transition which is understood as a process of investigating, discovering, and transitioning into a new occupation or a different career path based on internal motivation. This, going through a career change might be sometimes challenging since it can catch us unprepared.

To be better prepared for any change, it is useful to understand particular stages which we go through when undergoing a situation requiring adaptation. A very good example of a change model with universal validity is the so-called Kubler-Ross Change Curve®. In 1969, Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross introduced a concept of “5 Stages of Death” which is also known as the “5 Stages of Grief/Loss” or just “The 5 Stages”. This framework recognises specific phases as protective mechanisms or adaptive responses to unexpected situations. While these specific shifts may not always follow a linear or sequential pattern, this framework can aid both individuals and organisations in comprehending their responses to substantial changes. The Kubler-Ross Change Curve is a very adaptable model that can be also used when undergoing a career change.

Once such a situation arises, one is faced with diverse challenges. To better faces them, it can help to understand our reactions as a journey which consists of seven stages according to Kubler-Ross:

a/ SHOCK: In the initial stage, there is a sense of astonishment or unexpectedness regarding the change that has occurred.

b/ DENIAL: The second stage involves resistance or disbelief, where we reject the change and seek evidence to contradict it.

c/ FRUSTRATION: The third stage is marked by frustration, when we acknowledge the changes that happen in our lives and it’s often accompanied by anger.

d/ DEPRESSION: The fourth stage is characterised by depression, during which our energy and mood are notably low.

e/ EXPERIMENT: The fifth stage is the exploration phase when we begin to adapt to the new circumstances.

f/ DECISION: The sixth stage involves making decisions, as we strive to learn how to function effectively in the new situation, gradually experiencing improved and more positive feelings.

g/ INTEGRATION: The final, seventh stage is integration, where we start to embrace the change as an integral part of ourselves.

Source: Kubler-Ross Change Curve®

Hopefully, this model will help you to understand your own journey and to better cope with any changes. You can find more information about Elisabeth Kubler-Ross here.


KUBLER-ROSS ELISABETH. Kubler-Ross Change Curve. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation. Available at:

SULLIVAN SHERRY E., AL ARRIS AKRAM. Making sense of different perspectives on career transitions: A review and agenda for future research. Human Resource Management Review, VOlume 31, Issue 1, 2021. Available at:

CHUDZIKOWSKI KATARINA. Career transitions and career success in the new career era. Katharina Chudzikowski. Journal of Vocational Behaviour. Volume 81, Issue 2, 2021. Available at:

TAN JANESSA. Navigating the three phases of career transitions. 2021. Available at:

Photo by Towfiqu Barbhuiya

Author: Team AVITEUM, Prague / Czech Republic

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