I recently met a young man who is launching his solo creative arts business. He had been working for a company and finally decided to take a leap and go out on his own. He shared with me his journey including the challenges he experienced, and how long it took him to clarify his direction. He’s excited about his move and passionate about the work. However, he wishes he had received more help and support in not only understanding that change is a natural part of the career journey, but also in learning how to manage through the twists and turns of transition.
I thought of my conversation with him when starting to coach several clients who are in what can be called “career uncertainty.” What struck me is they are in different age ranges and fields, yet all have similar concerns. They want to find work that is more satisfying, but every time they consider changing careers they pull back. They worry about making the wrong career choice and being even more stuck.
This yearning for a more satisfying career is a common quest regardless of age, experience, generation, or life responsibilities. While the questions may be different at different stages, the theme seems the same – how does one transition successfully when it comes to finding the right work or the right life choice? My clients ask, “How do I sort through the different directions I feel pulled in?” Thoughts like these can feel overwhelming, sometimes nerve-wracking, and can result in a person being afraid to move forward out of a concern of making a mistake.
Here are five ideas that can help with a career transition journey.
- Change your perspective on transition: Change and the desire to change is part of the human experience. It’s like having multiple lifetimes. In the past it was more common to have a job and expect to stay in it for most of our career. While that may still happen, more likely transitions will occur several times over our working life. There are many reasons we may be going through a career or job transition including: a desire to grow and learn different skills or industries, dissatisfaction with the current situation, a layoff, or perhaps a change in family, or health. Nowadays, it’s as important to have transition skills as it is to have the skills and knowledge for a particular work.
- Understand your strengths, skills and knowledge: One of my clients had a number of interests and she said she was passionate about all of them. As a result she became overwhelmed with choosing which interest was the right next step. Every time she started down a path she became worried that she might not like this role or it wouldn’t have long-term viability so she’d stop herself. She had reached a point where she became so frustrated she had decided to take any job so she could just get back to work. I reassured her that having a number of interests is natural and normal. I helped her organize her skills, knowledge and experiences into a chart that highlighted what were activities that she had a passion for, what were activities that worked as “weekend interests,” and what were the key skills and knowledge that could translate into different careers.
- Seek help: Transitions of any kind have ups and downs that can leave us worn out. The process is not usually a straight line to success and is often unpredictable. Friends, advisers, mentors or others can help us clarify our thoughts, encourage us, and help with a plan. Be aware though, that sometimes help can pull us in different directions. So trust yourself as well on what feels right.
- Trade-offs are a natural part of the decision-making process: It’s important to be clear on your life and work goals. Sometimes, however, it feels like there are competing priorities. Asking yourself questions like the ones listed below can help clarify what is key to this transition.
- Where does my passion lie?
- What skills and talents do I want to focus on with this career move?
- What do I want to have time for in my life?
- What type of work environment/culture would I thrive in?
- What do I think I would need to change, learn about, or let go of to move forward?
- Networking: The idea of networking can often create fear or anxiety in people. They wonder, “What do I say?” or “What do I do?” It helped me to change my perspective from “Oh, I have to network” to “I would like to have a conversation with this person to learn more about them, and share what we love to do.” It becomes much more engaging. I have heard so many amazing stories about how people’s careers developed and the different roads they have taken. It can help to hear how others have handled career changes and transitions. Be genuinely interested in those you network with, and, who knows, you may develop great, mutual support throughout your lifetime.
As you explore your passions, talents, interests and skills on your transition journey, allow yourself to have the help and support you need and deserve. While transitions can be challenging, they can also be inspiring and enlightening. Who knows what unexpected opportunities could be uncovered!