Stepping off the Ladder: How to Successfully Transition

Stepping off the Ladder: How to Successfully Transition

Define Success Your Way

My recent TEDx Talk, entitled “Can stepping off the Career Ladder enhance success at work?” (available here:, encourages people to define success their way and follow their own path, even if the road less travelled. Of course, a message like this means many things to many different people.

How to Successfully Transition in your Career

The missing piece in that bigger picture then, as requested by someone who viewed it, is specifically identifying strategies to successfully transition: the “How to…” if you will.

Each Journey is Unique

Let me make it plain before sharing my top tips: career transition is unique to each individual. No one size fits all. My ideas do come from a place of lived experience, though, as a person who has successfully transitioned. What’s interesting is that many clients come to me at the point that they THINK they are on the cusp of something, but initially at least, (as I did myself in the early stages), they make small tweaks in their day to day working life to make the “daily grind” more manageable, less overwhelming, and give themselves the space to make considered, rather than knee-jerk or reactionary, changes to their professional lives.

Be Patient

There were years, and I mean YEARS, before getting to that point in my own journey, so if doesn’t become obvious, I would caution that these things don’t happen overnight. They are best tackled with a lot of fore-thought and long-term planning.

What’s next after taking the leap?

That said, this blog assumes you’ve ALREADY made that leap: You’ve shaken off the shackles of the ladder and you are surveying the scene.

What might you then do?

Here are my 5 Coaching Strategies to successfully navigate Career Transition

  1. Have a vision, a goal, of where it is you are headed. As the saying goes, “It’s hard to score without a goal.” It’s only then that you can make a realistic plan. Peak performers studied by Stephen Covey in his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People book were found to be visualisers, had already experienced in their mind’s eye standing on a podium as an Olympic medal winner, before doing so for real, or even starting their four or eight year training regime. They “start with the end in mind”. You might find it helpful to make a Goal Board, or Dream Board, for example – a visual representation of what it is you wish to achieve, so you can see it with more clarity, and regularly, to motivate you.
  2. Then make a plan. “A goal without a plan is just a wish” – Antoine de Saint Exupery. Break down the bigger goal into smaller, bitesized chunks. As part of my plan, I undertook a course to re-train and qualify as a Corporate and Executive Coach. It took over 2 years, whilst still working full time at the Bar. It wasn’t ever easy, but it was necessary, so managing expectations around this, and your timeline, is critical. Plan for thinking creatively and putting in some hard graft towards that clearly defined goal.
  3. Armed with a clear goal and plan, remember, planning is nothing without action: “Positive intentions without positive action lead to positively nothing.” A good way to drive action and momentum into your career change/ new business, over and above following a good plan, is to know “your why.” If you have a powerful enough motivation, you will be driven to act upon it. Ask yourself if you normally start your day at 6am, “what gets you up at 5am?” Once you have established a powerful, emotional connection to “your why”, implementing your action plan will become more instinctive, more passionate, and you will act with unshakeable conviction. You will then be able to put the plan into forward momentum, even if it means stepping out of your comfort zone. As Marie Forleo said, the key to success is to “start before you are ready.
  4. Go all out. It’s only then that you will find the right moment to, borrowing a Mark Twain quote, “throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbour”. My experiences of running my business alongside having a place in Chambers were not productive ones: I was neither one thing nor another. When I finally pinned my colours to the mast, went all out on the business and resigned from Chambers, clients knew they could back me with confidence, as I was backing myself. So much is about adopting the right mindset.
  5. Equally, have what it takes to keep going!! You may have seen the image of success as an iceberg – the tiny frozen peak of success that protrudes from the water contrasting with the picture of what really happens, the massive ice cliff hidden from view below the surface: risk taking; 100% commitment and focus on goals; persistence; hard work; failure; sacrifice like you’ve never known; daily habits; massive action. Despite appearances, like I said in my introduction, journeys like these are neither short nor easy. For me, over the last ten + years, a tiny idea that was fed, watered, nurtured, and combined with the most committed action, finally paid off. Evidence if it be needed that “if it is to be, it is up to me”.

My advice to all of you wondering, “Should I?”: Keep going. You’ve got this.


You can find out more about how to navigate a career transition in Nikki’s bestselling book, Raising the Bar: empowering female lawyers through coaching

Nikki Alderson Biography

Nikki Alderson, specialist coach, speaker and author, & former Criminal Barrister with 19 years’ experience:

  • supports organisations, law firms & barristers’ Chambers to retain female talent; &
  • empowers female lawyers to achieve career ambitions.

Nikki specialises in 3 areas:

  • Women leadership transition & change;
  • Enhanced career break returner support; &
  • Workplace resilience, mental toughness, confidence & wellness.

She is the author of Amazon No.1 Bestseller Raising the Bar: empowering female lawyers through coaching, ( nominee for the Inspirational Women Awards, Champion of the Year Category & finalist in the 2020 Women in Law Awards, Legal Services Innovator of the Year & 2019 International Coaching Awards, International Coach of the Year Category.