Making a career change has never been an easy process and the pandemic has only increased the challenge. Many people have had to make a career change for reasons outside of their control, while others have had the opportunity to switch professions. In this article, transformational coach, Rowena Wood, shares three strategies that will help anyone going through a career change.
Understand your values and review your job description: two first steps in the process of a career change
Knowing your values is an important first step during a career change. Your values are essentially at the heart of who you are as a person. They act as a personal guide, determining your beliefs about what is important in life and shaping who you want to become. In general, when you don’t feel able to practice your values in your work and daily life, you don’t perform at your best, which has an impact on your overall happiness and wellbeing. Your values are shaped by your past experiences and current situations, which is why it is important to check in to see how your values have been altered during turbulent times such as the ones we are living in right now.
The second step in this process is to review your job description. If your job description was presented as a highlight reel, what would it look like? Are you experiencing those ‘highlights’ regularly in your role or are you mostly experiencing the ‘floor cuttings’?
As a coach, I have worked with people who found that their job description bears little resemblance to what they do day in and day out. It is no wonder that they feel frustrated, unhappy, and potentially heading for burnout as they push on in a role that doesn’t reflect their job description. The pandemic has affected how many of us do our jobs so it is normal to be faced with a mix of emotions because of this. In light of that, it is perhaps worth reviewing your job description and asking yourself these three questions:
- Does your job description reflect what you want from your career?
- What are the specifics that aren’t working for you? For example, is a hybrid work model, where you work from home but also from the office, not something that you want in the long term?
- If your job description doesn’t reflect what you want, what action can you take to change that, and what support might you need?
That last question is particularly important. You may not be in a position, emotionally or financially to change roles. So, it’s vital that any change you make is done after considering its benefits and risks with care. I encourage clients to think about the changes that they want to make as a series of small steps taken in the short, medium, and long term. For example, in the short term:
- Ask for a conversation with your manager to explore what changes, if any, are possible. An initial informal meeting in a neutral, safe, and calm environment can help you to talk things through with them, outside of the formality of a performance review.
- If you can’t make any changes to your current role and are still unhappy, think of what plans you can start making to prepare for a change, i.e., looking at upskilling, working on your CV, or networking.
- Use reflection exercises to consider what creates joy for you in your career and how you can do more things that fulfill you. For example, do you prefer working one-on-one with clients or being part of a large team? Do you enjoy having flexibility or do you prefer to have an office-based job?
The importance of mindset and motivation in your career change
As you go through a career change, it is normal for personal fears and anxieties to become apparent. Even if the change is positive and desired, you may be fearful or anxious. It’s not unusual! But these emotions can become problematic if they bring you to a stop on your journey to change. Find some advice below on how to identify fears and manage anxiety as you seek to create a healthy mindset regarding the change.
Identifying and Unblocking Fears
Sometimes fear is rooted in the potential loss of things that are familiar. Remember that it is all right to acknowledge your fears and as you take time to reflect on what they mean for you, you can find a way to move past them.
Managing Your Anxiety through the STOP technique
This isn’t as complex as it sounds! This simple exercise is part of a course originally developed by mindfulness pioneer, Jon Kabat Zinn. The technique helps you ground yourself when you feel yourself repeatedly analysing a situation or ruminating on negative thoughts that appear when you feel anxious. So, what do you need to do?
Stop: Stop what you’re doing and pause. My own experience is that it helps to say the word ‘stop’ out loud. ‘Stop’ is a word that demands action from you which is why it is considered a proactive starting point in breaking a negative thought cycle.
T: Take a breath, slowly and deeply, in through your nose and out through your mouth. It’s amazing how calming and clarifying this can be.
O: Observe what’s happening, what are you thinking and feeling?
P: Proceed. You’ve had a moment to pause, and re-set, so which way will you choose to go? Continue, with negative thoughts, or use this moment to re-frame and change your course to a more positive one?
A word on resilience during a career change
Resilience is a bit of a buzzword! Everywhere there are guides and courses on improving resilience, which leaves people with the impression that resilience is a commodity, something that can be purchased.
Resilience isn’t a strength that can be bought. It isn’t something to use as sticking plaster to cover over the emotional cuts and grazes that we may experience as we reflect on a current situation and consider what to do next in our professional and personal lives.
Yes, you need resilience in any change scenario, but personal resilience in your career and your life is as much about knowing when to change direction as it is about continuing on your current path.
As a coach, I use elements of transactional analysis, created by psychiatrist Dr Eric Berne, using it to help clients to understand why they feel, think, and behave as they do. It’s an important part of helping them to get to the root of what needs to change for them and how to navigate their way through that change. Understanding how you’re feeling, thinking, and behaving is an important part of developing true resilience that will help you adapt as you return to work or possibly opt to forge a new path.
Rowena Wood, the author of this article, is a trained transformational coach, specialising in later life career transition and women’s health. Find more details here.