Ed’s note: This post was written by guest editor Jo Green of Jo Green Coaching.
Right now I’m surrounded by change. Several friends are moving away or having babies. My parents are downsizing from my cherished childhood home. A wonderful elderly relative has died. An adorable lost kitten has charmed his way into our hearts and our household. I’m congratulating several clever courageous clients who are starting new roles having completed our sessions over recent months.
A focus on changing autumn leaves at the heart of a weekend yoga retreat got me thinking about the impermanence of everything. Okay, so it probably wasn’t ideal to be thinking so much as I moved between Downward Dog and Warrior One. However, I caught myself meditating on changes of all kinds – the big scary ones, like leaving a comfortable, familiar job and the small almost imperceptible ones we often miss like nature’s seasonal flux or our partner’s new haircut.
Nothing stays the same. Not the skin we walk around in, not the landscape we love or loathe, not the people we spend time with, not the work we do, not the way the world works.
Although we ‘know’ this in our rational minds, we crave safety, security and understanding about what’s next. We struggle with life’s uncertainty and flux.
When the jitters hit me hard just before I moved to Australia, a friend offered this wise, insightful advice:
“At the moment you are feeling rubbish because you can only see what you are leaving behind, and you can’t see what you are going to.”
Career change is a prime source of fear and uncertainty. It’s hard to let go, and even harder to trust that what’s coming next won’t bring you unstuck. This is a bit of a monkey bar experience. You’re holding a bar you know will support your weight, but you can’t just hang there. You have to move on. But have you got the strength and skill to grab the next bar and will it hold you up?
If the fear of career change has got you hamstrung, here’s what I suggest:
Focus on the things you can control
Gather as much information as you can before you leap. Begin by looking inwards.
Know your game
Ask yourself, “Who am I and what do I want?” A lot of the work I do with clients begins with finding clear honest answers to this question. Getting a good grip on this rung of the career change monkey bars can help you reach for the next rung more confidently. Once you know more about you, you can measure the fit of any likely looking career change decision against your skills, strengths and motivations.
Set your boundaries
Firm up your ‘must-haves’. These include the significant and the small practical things we overlook when we’re suspended in career change mid-air. For example, do you need to work with a particular type of manager? Can you work in an open-plan office or do you need quiet private space? Do you need a work culture that supports working remotely or an active social program?
Work your ‘must-haves’ into your interview questions. Remember that interviews are just as much for you as they are for them. Ask if someone can walk you through the office. This will give you a sense of the ‘who’ and the ‘how’ of the place where you may be about to invest sizeable chunks of your time and energy.
Test the waters
Think laterally about how you might learn what any potentially perfect role is really like. Take a deep breath and approach your career change target to ask about work shadowing or volunteering for a day. Offer coffee to someone you know who works in a role you covet. Ask them about their average working day as well as their wider aspirations and experiences. The more we know, the less change scares us.
Reframe a fall
Finally, I’m a fan of author Susan Jeffers’ timeless advice in Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway. Essentially, every decision we make is an opportunity to grow and learn. Knowing this helps us handle anything that career change or change of any sort presents. So if you reach for the next rung on the monkey bar and slip, there will be something to learn from how you react to a fall and how you pick yourself up.
Jo Green, career change coach
I know how it feels to be lost in your career. That’s why I coach, to create learnings, action and help others get stuff done. Changing your career can be lonely and confusing, so I’ll walk alongside you, be your cheerleader and help you figure out what meaningful work is for you.