I recently attended the Quinceañera party that my best friend from high school threw for his daughter Ceili (pronounced Kay-lee) and came away with valuable insight about how to effectively deal with significant transition.


If you don’t know, a Quinceañera is a relatively formal party to celebrate a young woman in the Latin American community as she turns fifteen years old – or quince años, in Spanish. This was my first Quinceañera and I wasn’t sure what to expectMaybe I was thinking it would be all pageantry. Well, it wasn’t.


As a career coach, I often work with people who are transitioning. Whether they’re being laid off, their company is “reorganizing”, or they’re proactively looking for a new job or career, most people in transition are dealing with the pain and anxiety that tends to surround change.


Ceili’s Quinceañera included important elements that will surely serve her in her transition from childhood to young adulthood, and help ease some of the pain and anxiety associated with the changes that are on the horizon for her. I’ve distilled those elements into the following:


5 Tips to Help With Transition

#1 – Feel the support

Friends and family traveled from far away to Madison, Wisconsin for Ceili’s Quinceañera. They came from Washington state, Massachusetts, upstate New York, and Puerto Rico. Friends of the family with whom Ceili’s parents had formed bonds as far back as high school, and as far away as Spain, were there. Ceili’s good friends from school and from the neighborhood were there. Ceili’s violin teacher of many years was there, playing music at the reception. And all these people were there to show support for Ceili. They were Team Ceili.


Ceili’s parents reminded her, “Look around, these are the people you can count on.” As you transition in your life or career, on whom can you count?  It’s a good idea to take stock of everyone who’s on your team and feel the support that’s already in your corner.


#2 – Honor your past

When Ceili stood up to speak to the people in attendance she thanked her parents (smart move, by the way), not only for the wonderful celebration they had planned in her honor, but also for her heritage. Her father Puerto Rican and her mother first generation Irish American, Ceili was grateful for the unique and rich heritage she enjoys simply by virtue of being their daughter.


As you go through transition in your own life, it’s a good idea to acknowledge where you come from and how that makes you unique. Maybe it’s where you grew up, where you went to university, or what work you’ve done. Or maybe it’s your extra-curricular interests, the languages you speak, or the summer jobs you had in our youth. Whatever the case, understand and honor all the things that make you the unique individual you are today – including where you are, doing what you’re doing, and looking to do what you want to do next.


#3 – Seek advice

I’m not sure Ceili came to her Quinceañera knowing that she would get as much advice from older people as she did. But it was good advice around the subjects of empowerment, self-worth, and happy living – not just for a 15-year old, but for anyone.



From Carrie Shanti Norman:

“…each of us is on a Hero or Heroine’s journey… (allow yourself) to relax… into the mystery of not knowing what will come next… this… is where the true adventure in life has been for me”

Quoting Julie Tallard Johnson:

“Everything that is born into the world… a place is made for it… Honor this place… by honoring yourself… Remember you are part of something”

Quoting Elizabeth Lesser:

“Everyday we’re given a choice: we can relax and float in the direction that the water flows, or we can swim hard against it. If we go with the river, the energy of a thousand mountain streams will be with us…”

From Marshall Norman:

“We are always worthy of the goodness of life no matter how many times we may disappoint ourselves”



As you transition, seek advice from people you respect and people who know you. The advice that resonates with you at any given time is the one you most need to hear and contemplate at that moment.


#4 – Celebrate what you have

Ceili’s Quinceañera came at the end of the school year, with all the heightened activity that implies. I happen to know that her dad’s workload in the office had been especially heavy of late.  And still, they made a point to celebrate.


There were many reasons not to celebrate the occasion. We’re too busy. It’s a big expense. It’s a hassle to coordinate everything. Surely, it would’ve been easier not to celebrate. Also, it was a choice. No one said Ceili MUST have a Quinceañera. And yet, as a family, Ceili and her parents decided to celebrate.


As you transition in your life or career, take time to celebrate. Whether it’s your accomplishments, the people around you, your health… anything at all. When you’re anxious or stressed, celebrating may seem like the last thing you want to spend time and money to do. However, consider that to celebrate is to honor yourself as worthy of celebration, irrespective of the challenges you’re facing in your transition.


#5 – Look forward to inhabiting a new identity

When Ceili’s peers “toasted” her throughout the Quinceañera, almost without exception everyone expressed the sentiment, “You’re wonderful, don’t ever change.” A beautiful sentiment, for sure. But the fact is Ceili IS changing. The very reason we were gathered to celebrate was that she’s transitioning from childhood to adulthood, with all the change that implies.


Another popular sentiment was, “I can’t wait to see what great things you end up doing.” And it occurred to me that maybe that’s the trick: to stay your wonderful self at your core, while changing what you need to change to do great things.


As you transition, from who you are or what you today, to your vision of what you want to be do, get excited! Consider what great things could be in your unknown future, and think about who you need to “be” to have those things in your life or career.



My first Quinceañera party was a total blast and, as you can see, also a thought provoking experience. I hope these 5 tips provoke some thoughts for you as you transition, in your own way, to the career and the life you want.