What Is a Hero’s Journey?

Dorothy in the Wizard of OZ is a metaphor for those in career transition, either losing or seeking new career positions. Dorothy’s journey through OZ back to Kansas is not unlike the hero’s journey described by Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero With a Thousand Faces. (Campbell. 1949). Read on for more about the career transition journey. Discover how a career coach, like Glinda, the Good Witch, can assist along the journey.

We will use Campbell’s three phases of the Hero’s journey, 1) Departure, 2) Trials, and 3) Return and Reintegration with Dorothy as our hero. We’ll use the same phases for one in career transition to describe the journey one will undergo till landing the next position. See how a career coach, aka Glinda, can serve in each phase.

Phase 1 – Departure

Dorothy finds herself swept up in a tornado and landing in the strange new world of OZ. Although overwhelmed and a bit scared, Dorothy looks for the positive and becomes curious about the new sights, sounds and people she encounters. Dorothy focuses on what is front of her (the Now) but never loses sight of her goal to land back home. It is the attitude that allows Dorothy to move forward, just as it would someone in career transition.

Dorothy in this stage of her journey meets the Good Witch, Glinda. In Munchkinland she doesn’t know where to start in her quest to return home. Glinda coaches her to “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” toward the Emerald City. For those in career transition, three coaching benefits exist at this stage: 1) To move from the past (longing for what once was); 2) Dispel negative emotion, such as anger or depression; and 3) Creating a sense of curiosity about this new foreign land.

Phase 2 – Trials

Dorothy forges friends along the way in the forms of the Scarecrow, Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion. Together they march toward OZ to obtain the goals they individually seek. All four characters embody traits the Job Seeker needs along their own hero’s journey. Dorothy is the leader – holding vision to guide them on their way. Scarecrow uses his brain to make decisions at key junctures in the journey (aka forks in the yellow brick road or solving problems in the poppy fields). Tin Man brings his heart to the journey, caring and nurturing the group along the way. Cowardly Lion demonstrates great courage to see the journey through to the end. Together, their traits and strengths are needed to face their many trials so they can move to victory.

The Job Seeker needs these same traits as the hero on their own journey. As leader of your life and work – you must determine your end goal and hold that vision. You need to use your brain to create your job search strategy. The search holds its own trials and stressors, so you must find heart to nurture yourself along the way. Finally, you will need to drawn on courage as you face the fears and stresses that journey brings.

Dorothy has Glinda supporting her throughout the journey. Sometimes it was to support Dorothy in challenges (making it snow in the poppy fields). Sometimes it was to provide needed wisdom when Dorothy felt lost along the way (telling her to follow the Yellow Brick Road). Like Glinda, a coach helps you draw upon your strengths and on those around you. If you lose momentum or give up (Dorothy in the poppy fields), a coach can cheer you on and offer a solution to move you forward again. A career coach supports and sheds light even in the darkest of forests along your journey.

Phase 3 – Return and Reintegration

Dorothy obtains victory, returning the Wicked Witch’s broomstick to Emerald City. Dorothy is ready to return to Kansas and the Wizard promises to take her home in his hot air balloon. At the last minute, Dorothy is left behind, crestfallen as she watches the Wizard leave; her return seemingly impossible.

Glinda arrives to coach Dorothy through this one last trial. Like any good coach, Glinda guides Dorothy to find the wisdom within herself to end her journey. However, it took Glinda’s aid and the challenges of our hero’s journey for Dorothy to find the answer within. Only then can Dorothy go home. Like Glinda, a career coach will provide that same probing and illumination for the Job Seeker Hero.

There is one more way that coaching can assist. Completing the journey to ‘home’, Dorothy and the Job Seeker Hero are changed but must reintegrate into their worlds. The Hero is a very different person than the one that was uprooted at the start of the journey. Dorothy will still face with Miss Gulch, the challenge that led to the start of the journey to begin with. A coaching guidance would be helpful to Dorothy as she readjusts to a new view of her world.

The Job Seeker Hero will also face new challenges in their changed world of work. It might be assistance in negotiating the best terms of employment before the first day of work. It could be guidance in adapting to the new work environment and culture. Or it could be dealing with the same work-related issues that existed before or may have even lead to start of the original journey, like mean Miss Gulch for Dorothy. All are reasons for using a career coach in this new phase of the hero’s journey in the world of work.


If you find yourself in some sort of career transition, career coaches can serve as a Glinda – letting you choose the path along your own yellow brick road, steering you to your heart’s desire. A skilled career coach provides:

  • Assistance in formulating the vision (Goal for the journey)
  • Support in implementing the vision (Glinda)
  • Offering solutions when stuck in the journey (Scarecrow)
  • Heart – emotional support (Tin Man)
  • Courage – to reach the end (Lion)

When a career coach shortens the process by one week, a month or more, what is the income lost to you if you choose to walk your path alone? How well would Dorothy have found her way home without Glinda, Scarecrow, Tin Man, or the Lion? Changes are the journey would have been much longer and much more stressful. If you find yourself along the Career Transition path, we wish you safe passage and strength along the way. Just know that you don’t have to walk alone.

Maureen Purcell
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