The New York Times recently published a great article about Ellen DeGeneres facing a career transition. The article describes how Ellen is considering ending her hugely successful The Ellen DeGeneres Show, which she's run for 16 years.

To me, the most interesting point in the article is how Ellen’s brother talks about her career transition not as “breaking out of a rut” (her show continues to be wildly successful), but rather as “breaking out of a mold”.

I love this differentiation between a rut and a mold.

A rut is something you clearly want to get out of because you're unhappy, dissatisfied, and probably bored. The people around you probably want to help you get out of a rut because you're not making life fun for yourself or anybody else.

But breaking out of a mold is a lot trickier.

You're probably doing really well and enjoying what you're doing to some extent. But maybe you're being typecast, just like an actor might always gets cast as the villain, or always get the role of the best friend or sidekick when they have aspirations of being a main character.

If you're in one of those situations, you may have this nagging feeling that you're not getting to use all the best parts of you. And that maybe what you're doing now doesn't allow you to be the person you know you can become.

Breaking Out of the Mold

It can be hard to justify making a change when things are going well. The people around you might even have a vested interest in keeping you right where you are.

So, the question is: How do you break out of the mold?

Here are five things I recommend doing to break out of the mold.

1. Get Back in Touch with Yourself

Get back in touch with who you are and who you really want to be.

Focus especially on the areas that are below the water line, the parts that don't quite show up in your everyday work yet. You also want to tap into the parts that you really enjoy doing but don't get to do a lot in your current day-to-day work.

2. Develop Yourself

Find outlets for experimenting and developing the other muscles you don’t get to use in your day-to-day.

In Ellen’s case, this could be something like returning to doing some stand-up comedy while she's still running her show or starting a podcast.

For you and me, maybe it's a side project where we get to do something creative like write that book that’s been on the back burner. Or it could be a side project where we get to exercise our leadership skills in a different direction.

3. Build Your Network

Build and strengthen your network beyond your current circle.

Whenever we're making change and we're learning and growing, it's important to start hanging around with people that are different than the usual suspects. This helps develop the kind of connections that we'll need in order to produce a smooth glide path into our future.

4. Prepare Others

Prepare others so that it doesn't feel abrupt to them as you’re going through this transition.

You’ll want your team members and others in your organization to land on their feet. It’s important to make people feel secure about their role after you’ve transitioned elsewhere.

5. Find People Who Are Making a Career Transition

Find people who have gone through what you're going through now and who can advise you through the transition.

If you can find people who are currently going through the same experience as you, that’s great too as it enables you to compare notes and brainstorm together.

What kind of transitions have you made successfully and what's worked for you?

Leave me a comment and let me know.