This the second in a series of three articles about how to make career change easier and less stressful.
Last time we focused on how to leverage what you already know from previous transition experiences.
Identify One Specific Career Change Challenge.
In this article, we focus on taking a closer look at your present experience and the difference awareness can make.
When you think about your present situation, what stands out? Are you struggling with one aspect of your career change?
For now, choose just one thing that is challenging to “put under the microscope.”
Write down the obstacle that is preventing you moving forward.
Next, take a closer look. List some of the reasons that come to mind right away when you explore what it is that you are struggling with. Examples might be that you feel stuck because you are not sure what to do. Or maybe you’re doing something that feels uncomfortable.
The combination of reasons are different for each person. But often they culminate in some type of self-criticism which keeps us stuck rather than helping us make progress.
So what can you do to get unstuck?
Observe Your Own Experience as You Prepare for Your Career Change
Try observing your own experience.
Let’s take a specific example that many career changers share — the example of using networking to advance your career goals.
Look back at your personal work history. It’s likely that the people you had a connection with played a role in your success. Maybe someone you knew well opened a door for you by telling you about an open position. Maybe a new acquaintance first introduced you to a friend of a friend who worked in a company that you wanted to work for.
Yet, although we know, both from research and from experience, that networking is often the fastest route to finding a job, resistance to networking is common among career changers. Knowing this is not always enough.
If this kind of experience sounds familiar to you, your first response is often to push yourself harder. You try to force yourself to “get out there.” It may work for a short time. But often it’s not sustainable. So what should you do instead?
Apply Curiosity for More Options
Instead try this. Focus on your present experience as a way of getting to the root of the issue. Begin by getting curious about what happens — as it happens. What concerns do you have? What goes through your mind? What do you feel?
Becoming more aware of what you think, feel, and do, will open the door to new options. Rather than staying stuck, you will begin to see ways of doing things differently.
For example, if you say “I’m not the networking type,” your options are limited. But if you ask “as some who is networking effectively, what am I likely to be doing?” you begin to see opportunities.
So even if your schedule is busy, you can ask “What do I have time for today?”
Maybe you have time to list five people you would like to reconnect with. Will you write their names and contact information on your calendar and contact them by the end of this week? Writing down what you will do and when helps you to follow up on the intentions you set for yourself.
How are you Doing?
It’s also important to log your progress.
As we all know from personal experiences, such as making new year’s resolutions, starting change is easier than keeping it going. Research on successful change shows that it’s rarely a linear process
Be sure to take a few minutes to review what happens at the end of the week.
Remember this is a learning and awareness experiment. It’s not just about the outcome. Focus on the process as well. You can use these questions as a structure if it helps.
- Did I keep my commitment?
- What helped me?
- What hindered me?
If you didn’t do what you intended to do, what happened? Did you miss a day and then stop? What did you think and how did you feel?
Often what happens is that we slip up and then become self-critical. This leads to wanting to avoid the situation. But the more awareness you have of your own patterns and responses the easier it will be to coach yourself to begin again.
Be on your Own Side for Greater Career Resilience
As a career changer, it’s likely that you’ll begin again many times. You’ll talk to a lot of people before you find some promising openings. Some opportunities that appear appropriate turn out to be not so appropriate. It’s not easy to start over repeatedly. But reaching your goals may require this.
You definitely need to be on your own side to be able to handle the roller coaster that is often part of your career change experience. By putting one small change experience under the microscope, you can learn better ways to support yourself.
Career & Work Life Matters, ISSN 2150-6299, Vol 7, no. 5
About the Author
Jennifer Bradley, Ph.D. 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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