Will You Join the 90 Percent ?

02/06/2014 12:49 pm ET | Updated Apr 08, 2014

"There was a trigger that I ignored and I'm not really sure what that trigger was. I guess maybe boredom," shared a focus group participant. She'd been a senior marketing guru in a company for 11 years. She was one of a dozen women who I pulled together one evening to talk about women's transitions. Ever had one?

She told us that she had run a complex multi-year project. You couldn't miss her excitement and enthusiasm as she talked about it. When the project ended ,she went back to doing what she had always done.

In hindsight, this was her mistake. She ignored her instincts about moving on at that point. Complacency overtook her desire to reach, to meet new people and to explore new opportunities. The missed signals weren't from her boss or employer. They were her own. Her own voice.

She laughed when she told us, "that hot little paycheck," had won. "I realize (now) that probably I should have left or started this transition a couple of years ago." Ever been there?

Would it surprise you that over 90% of women recently polled stated that they "expect to transition again within the next five years."

A lot of people use the words "transition" and "change" interchangeably. Merriam Webster's defines change as a verb, "to become different," while for transition, a noun, they offer, "a change from one state or condition to another." Merriam Webster's also gets a little techie with transition, an "abrupt change in energy state or level (as of an atomic nucleus or a molecule) usually accompanied by loss or gain of a single quantum of energy."

I'm no stranger to transition. I found myself in one in my mid-forties after pivoting from a C-suite role at a Fortune 500 company. I'd had two children within 16 months of each other right around my 40th birthday. My 7x24 extreme job was becoming more and more out of synch with the parent and person I wanted to be. At the time, I reasoned it was time for a change. "I need a new job minus the travel," I told friends. I had all sorts of experience -- tech start-up CEO, Harvard MBA -- how hard could it be?

What I encountered once I departed my job surprised me. The path, or lack thereof, had a cone of silence around it. It was isolating. Unnerving. Despite my interest, I couldn't find a place where transition was discussed, let alone a place with information on how to navigate it.

Frustrated, I started to reach out and talk with women. Many have shared their voices and experiences with me. It was this process that led me to the focus group on a Thursday night in an unassuming conference room discussing triggers. Here's more of what I heard....

An unexpected job loss. A divorce. A decision to change careers. A miscarriage. The realization that more was possible. A household bursting with children ranging in age from kindergarten through high school. An empty nest. The death of both parents. Any of these sound familiar?

The funny thing was that even though the triggers differed for each of these ladies, the process of transition that they were going through was largely the same.

Ever wonder what other women feel like as they transition? Here's what I learned that evening. It is:

  • Surprising.
  • Scary.
  • Embarrassing.
  • Liberating.
  • Funny.
  • Awkward.
  • Uncomfortable.
  • Peaceful.
  • Quiet.
  • Anxious.
  • Exhilarating.
  • Frightening.
  • Exploratory. F
  • Financially Debilitating.
  • Empowering.
  • Shameful.
  • Confusing.
  • Unstructured.
  • Urgent.
  • Stressful.
  • Isolating.
  • Freeing.

By the way, the ladies who joined me had to go through all this while making the trains run. Paying the mortgage. Ensuring everyone had lunch money. Making sure Grandma has access to the right doctor. No wonder we're tired.

Sheer exhaustion caused me to seek change. Something else drove me to look further. Boredom was probably there. Possibility too. A strong desire to reach for something more.

Can you carve out a place to listen to your instincts? Will 2014 be the year that you dignify what you hear?

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