Career & Work Life Matters, ISSN 2150-6299, Vol 6, no. 2
Ask these 3 Questions to Propel your Career Change
Canada geese don’t fly alone. Like other migratory birds they fly in a V-formation. Why? Because by pooling their resources they are stronger. The lead bird reduces the air resistance for the birds that follow. By rotating in and out of the lead position, the whole flock benefits from maintaining this structure.
As a career changer you may feel that you are your most reliable resource. It’s true that only you can change your career. But this doesn’t mean that support won’t make a difference.
The right support will make your transition easier and less stressful. But what types of support?
How do you find what’s right for you? Begin by asking the 3 questions below.
1. Who can I rely on for unconditional support?
Career transitions can be disconcerting, even when the change is a positive choice. One reason is that who you are at work is often be a big part of your identity. Changing your career may involve reconfiguring your identity. The professional identity you have invested a lot in, and the one you are recognized for, is now in flux. So why is support so important?
These in-between periods are times when big questions come to the surface. Core questions about your life such as “Who am I?” and “What do I want in my life?” These essential questions can leave you feeling very vulnerable.
As a human being you are of course more than what you do in your professional role. But if your professional role has been a big part of who you are in the world, you may need reminding of this. Psychologist Carl Rogers argued that unconditional positive regard is the foundation for learning and change. Knowing that you have unconditional support will make it easier to benefit from the second type of supporter – the challenger.
2. Who can I rely on to challenge me?
A common human response to change and stress is to narrow the lens through which we view the world. Withdrawal and deep reflection is recognized as an important part of the transition process. But a continued inward focus can be a barrier to change.
That’s why you need supporters who will challenge you and help you to see your blind spots. The importance of having input from a variety of perspectives is recognized by the great change-makers of the world. For example, Nelson Mandela is quoted as saying he liked “friends who have independent minds because they make you see problems from all angles.”
Do you have people you can rely on to expand the lens through which you view your situation and experience? This takes courage. Courage from you and courage from your supporters.
You need the courage to be able to hear things that can be challenging to hear. Your supporters need both the courage and the skill to ask the questions that will be most helpful to you. Questions that build your awareness of fixed ideas or limiting beliefs that are preventing you from making the changes you want to make.
Do you have these type of people in your life? If you do, be sure to contact them. Let them know how they can support you.
If not, don’t miss out on this growth opportunity. Don’t stay stuck because of a lack of support. Consider working with a career transition coach who can help.
3. Who can help me keep my promises to myself?
Uncertainty is part and parcel of career transition. You will be doing things that feel uncomfortable. You will be using skills you haven’t used for a while, and maybe doing things you’ve never done before. If you’re at your learning edge, expect resistance. Resistance that will be easier to manage if you have the right support.
Say, for example, today is the day you’ve allocated time to call someone you’re reluctant to call because you haven’t kept in touch. You think they might be able to help you, but you’re not sure. You want to be honest, but what should you say? You don’t want them to see you as a nuisance or needy. This task seemed easy when you noted it down last week. But today? Not so. You think, “maybe I’ll feel more motivated tomorrow”. And so you postpone the call.
But imagine the difference if you know that later today you’re checking in with an accountability partner. You have shared your commitments with each other. You know that your partner will ask what you’ve done.
If you find an accountability partner to support you, you will be amazed at the difference it will make. Keeping promises you make to yourself is much easier if at least one other person knows.
Who should that person be? It can be others making career changes. It can be a trusted colleague or a mentor. It can be your coach. The important thing is to identify one or more people who can provide you with this type of support. Someone without a competing agenda who can provide support in a way that works for you.
Proactively seeking support is one of the most effective ways to build the resilience you need for career transition. As mentioned above, Canada geese have learned the benefit of relying on each other. This allows them to cover amazing distances. When the wind is favorable, they fly as far as 1500 miles or 2400 kilometers in just 24 hours.
Your career change journey may be long or short. Either way, career transition demands a lot of you. What do you need to do the find others that you can rely on?
Take a close look at your existing support. Where do you have strong support? Where are there gaps? Work to fill these gaps. Look through your contact list of friends and colleagues.
If you have supporters who provide unconditional support, dare to ask the awkward questions, and keep your feet to the fire, you will travel further and faster.