The Raft Called the Career Change; Steps for Planning and Maneuvering the Waves
It’s summer and the glowing sun outside coupled with the ocean breeze remind me of renewal and introspection. Are you with me?
New eating habits, a good workout regimen, and new favorite restaurant. New career may be? Many individuals I come in to contact with contemplate their career. They are satisfied with their existing role, and they are successful, their organization is successful and they have a sturdy title, relatively large staff and job security. Yet may be that’s the problem. Too much satisfaction is the enemy of innovation and growth. They tell me they have an aching within that desires change. They don’t feel challenged anymore. That feeling of confidence is making them feel almost bored. They yearn for excitement, intimidation and that adrenalin rush of sink or swim.
I tell them, your instincts are telling you its time to swim, so swim. To them and to you, who are even considering the possibility of a career change, or position change for that matter, I offer the following:
- Are you ready to hit the waves?
Start by weighing the risks. Know that there always will be that. Family, your identity, and financial responsibilities will always be there, but so will fear. The fear of change and the fear of the unknown. At some point you would have to push away the fear and swim with the waves. Once you accept that reality, your mind and heart will unite and you will be ready to make the proper recourse to weight the real costs and benefits for your decision, without the common denominator of fear.
- Go for the plunge!
At some point the weighting would need to stop. The decision must be made. Plan your course with plan B’s along the way and start what will undoubtedly feel like an uphill or upstream swim.
- Enroll an Audience and Cheerleaders
You ‘re going to need all the emotional support you can get. Set yourself up to be around supportive, calm and clear people. Your network will help you get the position you want, but your support system is the one that will get you through this phase of the game. The AA mentality applies here. The buddy system is meant to create accountability. When you share what you are doing with an invested person, you are more likely to persevere. We all like to achieve and part of achievement is the reinforcements we get along the way. Stay on course and celebrate small wins.
- Assess the Course and foresee Obstacles
Get a clear assessment of your knowledge, skills, abilities and network. It doesn’t mean you can’t expand on them, but you want to be realistic in setting your goals. Many people assume that because they like a type of job, they have to bend backwards to fit themselves within its walls. Think about industry, and organization type, the everyday nuances, and the type of people you want to be working with, the key players and whom you are already connected to. When I do career assessments with my clients, we do a lot of work together. It is deep. Often times, they themselves are shocked at how far they were from their vision, by the time we complete and interpret all the quantitative and qualitative data. The research is imperative. Let me say that again: the research is imperative. The reality is we are all born with certain traits that make us who we are, are family and upbringing solidify them as well. So I always recommend going after something you know you are good and knowledgeable at, rather than going after something you think you like. The other neat thing is that we get attracted to people whom we can relate to, so your network of people will serve you better being that you have built them through “connections” rather than ambiguity. At least that’s the network that we need to be making. Not random and without follow-up. Challenge is good, complication not so much.
- Get on the Diving Board and Jump
I like the analogy of the diving board because when you get on a diving board, it means three things: 1. You are making the conscious effort to jump and you know it’s going to be a high jump, 2. You are letting the world know you are jumping, and 3. When you are up in the air, there is no way going back. When you started this journey, you had internal conversations about it. May be you discussed it with a significant other, a colleague or a family member. But your paradigm is still the same. You are in comfort zone. You get the paycheck and the boss still assumes you will be at the next monthly meeting. If you stop here, you don’t have to fear. You are not committed to anything. You didn’t loose anything, but you also didn’t gain anything. Half the battle is the mental decision, but the other half is get on that diving board. You have to make the decision irrevocable. Our brains are trained to form habits. We are creatures of repetition. So unless the walls of the maze are reset, our brains will command us to repeat the past and to not rock the boat. Pull the anchor and let the ship sail where it needs to and don’t look back.
Fear is a defense mechanism to protect us in life. But it’s also there to motivate us and propel us forward. I am not saying live life in fear. But I am saying don’t expect fear to ever disappear. It’s through fear that your interests get peaked and you search for that truth and possibility. Fight fear and it will haunt you, look at it in the eye and it will guide you. Life is a raft, not a ship. Life of Pi was the perfect demonstration of that. Ships have navigation system, propellers, and radars. Your career is one aspect of your life, and just like any other, demands determination, patience and exploration. There are no guarantees, you have to do your due diligence, and take a leap of faith. Let the waves take you where they may.