Mental Model

You are ready for a career change but what you want to do next is not exactly clear. As opportunities come your way, you have ineffective means to evaluate them for fit. Only you know what is best for you, but the lack of clarity is delaying the transition. Write a short description of your ideal next opportunity. Give it to prospective buyers of your talent instead of them giving you a job description.


Deciding on the next step in your career journey can feel overwhelming. With many ideas in your head, a transition statement is an effective strategy for synthesizing your thoughts into a tangible document that describes what you want next. It serves as the “design” canvas that outlines the characteristics of your ideal opportunity.

The initial audience for your transition statement is you. It will help you analyze various dimensions to first convince yourself of what you are looking for. If you running your own business or a side hustle, this will serve as a guiding force to shape your direction.

The other audience for the transition statement includes your current manager, recruiters, and hiring managers. These stakeholders are not in a position to support your career journey unless they know what you are seeking. You need to arm them with a clear and concise set of requirements to calibrate their mental model.

Using a Transition Statement for Internal Transitions

During my career at Microsoft, I used a transition statement to shape the dialog with my current manager. This would influence the skills I need to build in my current role to realistically enable my next transition. It was a helpful way to get feedback from leaders on what I would need to do in both skills development and relationship building to reduce the friction to that next step. The simple act of this open discussion would often refine the specifics of the transition and timing.

Reorganizations were typically every 6-12 months and a transition statement can be used to influence where you end up. In 2014 there was a significant reorganization in flight and the leadership wanted me to continue managing the same team I had for the last four years. The team was self-sufficient by then and I was on a path to going deep into data science as a practitioner. I remember sending the one slide in my career deck that summarized my transition statement to leadership and requested that they get me as close to that as possible. They respected the fact that I had architected my career path and were open to changing their plan. Having credibility with the leaders, they found a role that enabled me to contribute to the organization while enabling me to chart a new direction. On-the-job work experience together with grad studies at UC Berkeley accelerated my skills in data science. Had I not advocated for myself, it would have delayed my transition.

Using a Transition Statement for External Transitions

Recruiters and hiring managers serve as matchmakers between you and a business need to deliver value. Personal performance and business impact increase when there is a solid overlap between personal and business needs. Your transition statement is invaluable to a recruiter as it enables him or her to filter opportunities and effectively position you to organizations. You do not want to leave it up to recruiters to figure that out. Imagine the reaction when you deliver a recruiter a one-page summary of what you are looking for and why. You have just saved them the valuable time of asking many questions and attempting to piece together what they ideally want.

Design Your Transition

A transition statement can take many forms including a written paragraph, one comprehensive one-pager, or a visual concept such as a slide. Be creative and use the format that best works for you and your domain. My experience is that people are willing to support your journey when you arm them with a mental picture of that destination.

Use this overview to shape the design of your next career transition.


Securing the next stop on your career journey takes clarity to outline the expectations of the experience you are looking for. Only you know what is in your thoughts and what that may ideally look like.

Translating thoughts into a succinct written summary will provide clarity for you and the stakeholders involved in your transition.

Recruiters that represent you and prospective hiring managers are not mind readers. Make it easy for them to understand your aspirations and quickly assess if there is a fit. People will respect you and be in awe of your clarity of purpose when it’s written.

Transition statements can include a mix of the following elements.

“What” is your target experience?

Title/Role – if you are set on a specific job discipline and the taxonomy is well understood within your industry, then identifying a specific discipline and level (e.g., product manager) can be helpful. Job titles and their responsibilities can vary so consider this. It is ultimately the responsibility you will perform to gain specific experiences and skills.

Experiences – any situations you want to put in or specific experiences you need to deepen or broaden the range of your competencies.

Responsibilities – a summary of the high-level activities you will ideally perform to set expectations on where and how you will allocate your time. This ultimately will translate into the competencies you will develop or master. Be selective when you are in a position to do so otherwise there could be a mismatch that leads to dissatisfaction.

“Why” is this your next step?

The “why” behind this transition may be for synthesizing your thought process, although it’s likely that recruiters and hiring managers will inquire. The driver may be for family reasons to relocate, incompatibility in your current environment, higher compensation, etc.

“Where” is the optimal environment for you to gain this experience?

Named organizations – prospective organizations that you see as a fit given your research.

Industry markets – specific vertical industries (e.g., healthcare) where your value proposition is relevant.

Organization size – the number of total employees or team size may be a factor given the expectations of the responsibilities and experiences you are seeking.

Organization stage – where the organization is in its lifecycle may be a factor for you such as desiring to be in a startup for rapid experience building or a well-established company that may provide stability and process.

Culture – organizational norms that form the basis for how people collaborate, how they are rewarded, and how they are valued.

Geography – specific cities or regions of a country

Lifestyle – expectations you have of the role and/or organization to help support your uniqueness or areas of your life including flexibility to work remotely, time of day work hours, etc.

Sample Content

These are a few leading sentences that can be used to outline your transition statement. I recommend that the transition statement be limited to a single page.

“My next transition is to a <type of role/level> where I can <the responsibilities I can perform> ….”

“My target role enables me to …..”

“I will thrive in a culture that ….”

How You Can Use a Transition Statement

Arm recruiters that represent you with specifications that simplify and accelerate their search for opportunities that have a high likelihood of fit.

If your plan is to progress within your current company, position your next role in the mind of your current manager so that he or she can support your career plan. This may also include on-the-job experiences that reduce the friction to the transitional role. Great managers will support you. Those who aren’t will feel threatened and inadequate.

Set expectations, explore fit, and negotiate a role with a prospective hiring manager. The transition statement will help you drive the discussion.

Experiment with This

  • What are the potential next roles and experiences that you see as your next transition? Be creative and explore multiple paths that align with your value proposition. Consider a simple visual that makes it easier to communicate with others.  
  • How would you describe the next role and experiences you want that align with your target? This is your “Transition Statement” that will shape your search and provide prospective buyers with what you are looking for.
  • What is the timing for your transition?  
  • What are your competency gaps (including certifications and degrees) that will make it challenging to make this transition? (This is an input into your learning plan)
  • What are other factors (e.g. biases, culture, processes, confidence) that must be managed to make this transition?
  • What are your fears or what is stopping you from pursuing this next transition?
  • Who are the relationships that you are going to engage in to support this transition? What do you need from them?
  • What kind of manager would you like to have in your next job? What competencies are you looking to learn from him or her?