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Jelena Zikic is an associate professor at York University in Toronto. In her research and practice, she explores a combination of career and life transitions of diverse populations.

Having gone through times of major uncertainty in the past two years, many of us are asking questions related to the purpose and meaning of what we do for work.

That is translating into most Canadians (65 per cent, according to a survey by recruitment firm Hays) looking for new opportunities.

In addition to financial considerations, what else is motivating you and how can you make a career change happen?

One of the major challenges many workers struggle with in making a career change is letting go of the established ways of thinking about ourselves. Our current professional identity is often a powerful barrier to making changes. Trying to understand “who am I in the context of work” may be the first step to making a change or at least allowing this idea to develop.

Once we are able to reflect on who we are at work – what we do, what fulfills us and what may be a constant challenge – we can put together our work identity “profile.” In addition, our work identity is influenced by those around us. Asking questions about how we’re perceived by others may help us understand our current identity.

Similarly, we may need to understand how we can contribute through work to making this world a better place? Clearly, some jobs will more directly lead to answers than others. But overall, understanding and reflecting on your current work identity is a key part of any career transition.

Secondly, major career transitions require time, and often many conversations with those around us. While certain career options, such as moving to a gig economy type work, moving for a job or even starting a business may all be viable options – career transitions do not happen in a vacuum. These external views should be combined with your own identity assessment.

Finally, a key question to ask yourself is what part of your current job makes you smile when you go to work every day? Hopefully, you will be able to identify that aspect of your “passion for work” and if it is currently minor, perhaps finding out what makes you happy is where your career transition exploration should start.

Take time, practice patience, involve self-exploration as well as others, and you will be on the right track to making a meaningful and desirable career change.

This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about the world of work. Find all Leadership Lab stories at and guidelines for how to contribute to the column here.

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