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How to break up with your career (this time, it's definitely you, and that's the way it should be).

Depending on your mindset and circumstances, it could be said that we are lucky to work for five days a week. But if you’re lucky enough to have a secure full time job, that doesn’t automatically translate into happiness, fulfilment and joy. You might be working in a role you’ve grown out of, or are dissatisfied with. Perhaps the organisation you were proud to join all those years ago has changed around you beyond all recognition. Perhaps the boss you were proud and inspired to work for has now moved on, and you don’t have the same connection with the one in their place. And sure, you could simply look for a new role. But what if, like me, you’re one of thousands of people who haven’t simply fallen out of love with a role or an organisation, you’ve fallen out of love with the career itself?

You may feel excited and energised, but you may feel scared, it’s a huge thing to contemplate - these feelings are perfectly normal and you are not alone. Having myself transitioned from a successful and rewarding corporate career, but one that didn't offer me the deep fulfilment and satisfaction I craved, to one that now brings me so much joy and happiness that work rarely feels like work any more, I wanted to share a few thoughts about some important ingredients that make for a smooth transition.

  • Feel your feelings. Spend some time with yourself, and try and put a name to the feelings you’re carrying. Try not to be judgemental. If you’re feeling low, that’s ok. If you’re feeling lost, that’s also ok. If you’re feeling angry or frustrated with yourself, acknowledge it. The absence of negative emotions is not the definition of good mental health, and trying to bury your own feelings is a sure fire way to ignoring or hiding from yourself. And what good is that going to do? The definition of good mental health is about acknowledging what’s going on for you, in order that you can listen to your feelings and do something to change them for the better. It’s about aligning with self, listening to self, and backing yourself.

  • Get conscious. Acknowledging a sense of dissatisfaction, a lack of energy, a void, an emptiness, an uneasy feeling that tells you that your relationship with your job has changed isn’t easy. But, it’s just the start. Getting conscious means actively thinking about the things that bother us on a deeper level, so we can use more of our available resources to better understand what might be getting in the way of helping ourselves, and what we can do to change things for the better. Try and define what’s really going on. Is it the job that’s the issue, or is something else in your life clouding your ability to feel motivated at work? Is the feeling telling you something needs to change? Ask yourself, 'what would happen if I don’t make any changes?'

  • Develop a gap plan. This is a smart next step for you, and one that the excellent Brene Brown talks about at length. When you think about making changes, embarking upon a new career, what gaps are there? Examples might include:

    1. I lack ideas.

    2. I lack a supportive sounding board to help me define plans.

    3. I lack drive or motivation.

    4. I lack the qualifications I need.

    5. etc - your list will be unique to you.

  • You know what’s coming next… Develop a plan that addresses what you can do to mitigate the gaps you’ve already identified. Using the same ideas as above… this could include:

    1. Make a list of your strengths and superpowers and map careers or roles that require those skills in abundance. As part of this process, ask yourself ‘What’s really important to me?’ ‘How can I add value the most?’ ‘What brings me joy?’ ‘When am I in my flow?’. An interesting technique I often use with clients is to work with them to develop a future self avatar... what does that person look like, feel like, sound like, what are they doing , what are they wearing, what kind of a life do they have. The more specific and the more tangible you can make this future self, the easier it will be to work towards bringing them to life, and stepping into their shoes, both consciously and on a sub-conscious level. Perhaps the answer doesn't lie in working for someone else at all. Perhaps you've got a great idea for a new product or service and the time is right to build a new company, or offer your services as a sole trader. The only limitations in these planning stages are the ones that you place upon yourself.

  1. Partner with someone you trust - this could be a friend, a colleague, or you may want to work with someone outside of your immediate circle, such as a coach, or a hybrid multi-skilled and classically trained therapeutic coaching practitioner like myself. The right person should be someone you feel safe with, who can work with all areas of your psyche to help you define what you want from your life going forwards.

  1. Write a list of blockers and any ideas you have already to overcome them, injecting the will and drive you need to take yourself forward.

  1. Consider what qualifications you might need, or want to add to your skills arsenal, making you more attractive to future clients or employers.

  • Consider your timeframes. It might be perfectly possible to move quickly - but the likelihood is that your transition won’t be black and white, an overnight switch from one to the next. So now is the time to inject some realism about what is right for you. Perhaps you have dependants. Perhaps you need some time to save up. Perhaps you have a professional commitment you need to see out before you make a switch. All of that’s ok, it’s important to align with yourself and make a realistic plan from the start. The difference between a solid plan and your ability to execute it flawlessly is your mindset. And if you set yourself up from the start with unrealistic expectations of how quickly something can be achieved, you may convince yourself it’s not going to work before you’ve started to put your plan into action. Which is de-energising to say the least. So, if it’s going to take three years - that’s now part of your plan, and every day is going to get you closer to your fresh start.

  • Set yourself micro goals. As we’ve just agreed, between now and then (then being you rocking it in your new career) could be a period of years. So what markers along the way will give you a sense of satisfaction? This could be talking to your boss about reducing your hours to give you time to study. Or sharing your plan and ideas with your partner. Or investing in a new qualification. And so on. Micro goals are just as important as the end goal - and remember the old saying? The journey is more important than the destination.

  • Get comfortable with the uncomfortable. I was listening to a great interview the other day, and the interviewee quoted a great lesson from the late David Bowie, who was talking about the importance of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. I’m paraphrasing but it went along the lines of… ‘when you feel like your feet aren’t quite touching the ground, that’s the place that’s going to teach you the most, where it’s important to be’. He’s right. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is scary - but every time you do so you’ll be creating memories for yourself, which create a positive association with change. This means you’ll get more and more used to it and your capacity/tolerance to do so will increase. Meeting your growing edge is where we learn, acquire new skills, dare to dream what at first feels like the impossible. It’s exciting and energising, and you will have a sense of backing yourself no matter what. Backing yourself and having self-belief, is often the difference between achieving your goals, and standing from the sidelines watching as someone else does. There’s only person holding the keys to your life, so if you’re not in your own driving seat then who’s going to do it for you?

  • Start today. That’s it really. No time like the present after all.

Feel free to get in touch if you'd like to work with me on a bespoke plan to help you manage your own career transition; I'd love to hear from you.

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