How To Stay Motivated During Career Change
How do you stay motivated when you reach a career change cul-de-sac and the enthusiasm you began with is fading? This article talks about how deepening your understanding of your own motivation helps you to stay on track. Use this insight to rekindle your energy for change and empower yourself to navigate the ups and downs of your career transition.
Career change can feel like being on a roller coaster. You’re excited by the prospect of new opportunities for fulfilling work. You have lots of energy early on in the process. But then the excitement fades. You are in a dip and wonder where your motivation has gone. Read this article to find out how to translate a better understanding of motivation into practical steps that help you navigate the ups and downs of career transition.
A good first step is to recognize that there will be times when doubt come knocking at your door. Transition is rarely a linear process. Variation in how motivated your feel is part of the normal experience of change. But you don’t have to be derailed by doubt. By deepening your understanding of your own motivation, you are growing the resources you need.
Psychologists who research human motivation have differentiated between extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation. You can use these distinctions to find new ways to manage your own motivation. Let’s begin with extrinsic motivation.
Create a Personal System to Recognize your Own Progress
Extrinsic motivation is related to external rewards that reinforce specific behaviors. The basic principle is that behaviors that are rewarded are more likely to be repeated.
Here’s a way to apply this to your own experience. Say, you are working towards changing your career, but you’re struggling because you’re not seeing signs of progress. Months have passed and it seems like nothing much has happened. When friends ask you how your career change is going, you prefer to change the subject. As human beings we need feedback. It meets a fundamental human need – the need for satisfaction. Without it, motivation soon ebbs.
This is a time to apply your understanding of extrinsic motivation. Go back to your goal and break it down into more proximal goals. Rather than focusing just on your ultimate outcome, such as change your career, create small steps. Add interim outcomes that signify progress even when your goal is still in the distance.
Doing this gives you a structure that makes your progress visible. Put this into practice by keeping a log of your activity. Each day choose something that you can complete during that day and then take a minute at the end of the day to write down what you did. You now have a way of logging incremental progress. You can see progress on the small steps that over time move you closer to your goal.
For example, if you intended to make three phone calls today, and have done them, then record that. At this point you don’t know the result you will get from these calls. Maybe they will move you closer to your goal. Maybe not. But you have completed them. For today, it’s a success. Let the satisfaction sink in. Taking the time to recognize this will make it easier to pick up the phone tomorrow.
Sometimes simply seeing the actions completed will be enough to evoke positive feelings and boost your motivation. At other times, you can augment your experience by adding your own choice of external reward. Give yourself a treat from time to time.
Bolster your Energy by Knowing Your Intrinsic Motivators
But what if your goals are not yet clear? Maybe you’re dealing with an unexpected career event or disappointment and you’re unclear about what’s next. Or you’ve broken your goals down into small steps, but the reward systems you have created are still not working for you? Extrinsic motivators are no longer enough.
It’s time to shift your focus and consider some of your intrinsic motivators. To get a better understanding of what you find intrinsically motivating, list your personal values.
Here are some ways to get started. Think about the things you do, or would do, just because you associate them with feeling good. Tap into your imagination and ask yourself questions such as: How would I choose to spend my time if I won the lottery and working for money was no longer a consideration?
Observing yourself is another good way to gain insight into what you value, and therefore your intrinsic motivators. For example, notice when you have strong reactions to events in your everyday life. Use your emotional responses as doorways to more awareness of what’s most important to you.
Once you have a list of your values, you can look for opportunities to rekindle your motivation by recognizing when you are being congruent with your values. Say, for example, one of your values is collaboration. Maybe you’re accustomed to being recognized for this in your professional life. This feedback helps you to sustain your motivation even when collaborating is challenging. But what if this type of feedback is not currently available to you?
This is a time to choose to be your own cheerleader. Do this by paying attention to times that you act in a collaborative way. Look for examples of how you exercise this value in your daily life.
Remind yourself by keeping a journal. At the end of each day, make a note of the ways in which you were true to that value during the day. By doing this you are increasing your insight into your intrinsic motivators and finding new ways to boost your motivation.
When disappointment dampens your enthusiasm for your career change, it’s good to know that you have the resources to recover. Awareness of both your extrinsic and intrinsic motivators provides you with new ways of maximizing resources you already have. Human motivation is complex and there are no magic motivation wands.
But you can allow greater insight into your own motivation to work its magic by applying resources you already have to intentionally create and refine systems that sustain your motivation.
Last week we discussed how to manage your contacts more easily and why this simple, but often neglected element is essential for your success. Next week we will talk about the third crucial ingredient for career change success — your personalized plan.
Career & Work Life Matters, ISSN 2150-6299, Vol 6, no. 8
|Jennifer Bradley, PhD helps professionals lead their own careers, empowered with the information, tools, and resources that they need. She offers individual coaching and consulting, teaches classes, and publishes articles on career development and career transition.
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