Episode 24 - Positioning Yourself for Career Change
Welcome back to the podcast! Today I want to talk about how to know if it’s time for a career change and how to position yourself successfully for that process.
You know, when you’re hearing that whisper deep inside that’s telling you, “this ain’t it,” or “you’re meant to do something different, something more.” When you’re at a crossroad, an inflection point in your life and career, and wondering what path or direction you should take next? Well, that usually a strong indicator that it may be time for a change.
In fact, it’s one of the most common issues facing our applicants to the Career Rebel Academy.
Now, I’ve already shared one of my own inflection points with you and it was my near-fatal car accident. It was the catalyst that set me on my current career path. And even though I had been hearing that whisper, that call for change, way before the accident occurred, that event definitely changed things for me.
It’s actually not uncommon for many of us to experience these moments of inflection throughout the course of our personal and professional life. Times where we question if the path we’ve chosen is the right one and if we should still stay on it, or if it’s time for something different or new. Whether it’s a life-altering experiences, like my accident, or a health scare, or a major birthday (like turning 40 or 50 or 60), or a new marriage or divorce, the birth of a child, an unexpected loss of a loved one, losing a job, or yes even a global pandemic, when we experience significant and profound moments in our lives we can begin to question pretty much everything.
In fact, my primary care doctor recently notified her practice and her patients that she’s taking a break and staying home to be a full-time mom. “After some reflection,” she noted, it was the best decision for herself and her family.
Instead of ignoring what’s going on or trying to keep your head down to get through these “course changing” experiences, you can look at it as an invitation to explore, to inquire, and possibly rethink our assumptions and the status quo. Much like my doctor did, and much like the women in the Academy are currently doing.
Midlife itself is a pivotal time of life and provide an invitation to rediscover who you are and rethink the direction you’re going. In midlife some aspects of our lives are on an upward trajectory, while others are not. Our identities become muddled between work, family, and our own personal wants and desires. And while caring for aging parents and our children, we’re trying to reconcile our younger self with the older one that’s emerging everyday. I mean, there’s a lot going on making it a complex and confusing time. And when that soft whisper turns into a loud roar you can either continue to ignore it, become reactive making an impulsive decision or become paralyzed by the uncertainty of what to do next.
Another indicator that it may be time to reflect on your where you’re headed, re-examine your priorities, and potentially engage in a career course correction is if you’re experiencing the Sunday Night Blues or Monday Morning Flu. While we may think we’re good at ignoring, mentally rationalizing, or justifying our choices, our bodies will always tell us the truth.
In my last role in academic leadership I remember consistently catching colds and having a few bouts of bronchitis. At the time I attributed my frequent illnesses to my busy and recurrent travel schedule. But as my mind tried to rationalize what was going on, my body was telling me the truth of the situation....I was overstressed, undervalued, working against my personal values and genius, and flat out unhappy. At this time, the whisper had become a loud roar and that I couldn’t ignore anymore.
So what do you when you’re hearing that whisper, when you’re dissatisfied and unfulfilled at work, when you’ve reached a point of inflection, or your body is trying to give you a clue to your level of career satisfaction?
What do you do when you believe it’s time for a change?
Once you’re clear that something needs to change, there are three important steps you need to take to position yourself for a successful pivot, shift or transition.
First, manage your thoughts. One of the things that can stop people dead in the tracks before they even get started is the panic and worry about what will happen if they make a change. According to the American Institute of Stress of the top 43 most stressful life events, changing careers is number 18.
That’s actually not surprising because our brains are wired to panic ever time we face something new or different. It’s because our most powerful motivational and emotional drivers lie in the primitive part of our brain and our actions at this level are motivated by three deeply rooted survival instincts:
Maintain the status quo (or seek the path of least resistance).
It’s called the motivational triad and it’s our brains way of keeping us safe. However, it actually causes us to be overly cautious, risk averse, hesitant, and fearful of change, difference, or the unfamiliar. So, when we’re faced with the idea of change or transition we'll feel a lot of stress, anxiety, and overwhelm; and when we’re flooded with these emotions we can’t think clearly, logically or make the best decisions for ourselves and our careers.
It’s important to remember, however, that our feelings come from our thoughts and when we learn to manage our thoughts, we can manage our emotions.
According to psychologists, 85% of what you worry about never happens, so it doesn’t help to entertain the stressful or anxiety provoking scenarios our brain is throwing at us that may never come to fruition.
When you find yourself thinking, “I’ll never have it better than where I am now,” or “I want to make a career change but I don’t have enough experience or skills in xyz,” or “I can’t make this money anywhere else,” argue with that line of thinking and try to consider what could be possible for you with a career change.
Managing your thoughts takes practice so you want to develop an intentional practice of becoming aware of your thoughts and stop believing all the negative shit your brain is feeding you. Remember it’s just trying to keep you safe and make you stay put so be compassionate, but don’t get stuck. Check out episode #3 of the podcast where I did an entire episode on managing your mind.
Second, know what you have to offer. When I say know what you have to offer, I mean at a cellular level you need to know that what you bring to the table is brilliant, necessary, and will bring a return on investment to whomever you decide to work for or with. Your pay or income has a direct correlation to the value you believe you bring to the table.
It’s why many women struggle with changing their job or career because they fear they’ll lose income or won’t make what they’re currently making. But that’s because you don’t see, know, or believe in the value of what you have to offer.
You don’t get paid for the hours you work, the days you show up, or even because of the title you carry. You get paid based on the value the company believes you’ll bring. The value you’re able to offer through the results you can deliver. So it doesn’t matter what a company says that salary pays for a particular job, if you can show and prove that you can provide tremendous value by what you have to offer, they will be willing to pay for that value if it gives them the results they want. That what salary negotiations are all about.
It’s also why women are less likely to negotiate their salary, because they do not have a cellular level confidence in what they have to offer or the genius they bring to the table. When you don’t know the value of what you have to offer, you offer it to the wrong people who can’t appreciate or value what you bring.
In other words out of worry, fear, or desperation you throw your resume at anything that moves, applying for positions hoping to get something, anything. And then when you don’t land an interview or don’t get the job you think it’s because you don’t have what it takes when the truth is you’ve applied for positions that out of alignment with your genius and what you have to offer, or you’ve applied to organization’s that don’t value your particular genius.
When you’re clear on your brilliance and the genius you bring, you act in accordance with this knowledge and are confident that you’ll be able to be paid for the value you offer. It’s easily recognizable by the person or organization who is willing to pay and you have no trouble or hesitation asking to be paid accordingly.
There are three questions you want to ask yourself and know the answer to before you embark on a career change.
The first question is: What is my zone of genius? What are my superpowers? The gifts, talents, strengths and skills I bring to the table. This isn’t about your education or degrees or even the jobs you’ve held in the past, it’s what unique promise of value to you bring to the table. Also ask yourself are you working in that zone of genius now?
The second question is: How do I want to provide the value I offer (and we’ll go more into this next)? What do you want your contribution to be? What’s the meaningful work you want to do in the world? Also ask yourself if you’re doing that work and providing that value now?
The third and final question is: Is where I’m doing it aligned with my values and lifestyle?
When you understand your value, you know the brilliance you have to offer, and when it comes to shifting, pivoting or changing careers you’ll be confident in the process and be less fearful about the outcome.
Third, get a clear career vision. Spend time envisioning the future you want for your life and career. There’s a saying that goes, “without a vision of your future, you’ll return to your past.” Our minds like to think about what’s possible for our future from our past because it’s predictable and safe. So we create dreams and visions that are basically where we are now with one or two added wishes.
For example, we’ll have a vision to be doing the exact some thing but maybe in a different a place. We have goals and visions based on things we think we can achieve based on past efforts and successes. In order to do and achieve things that are new and different you have let go of who you are and where you are right now to make room for who you will become and what’s possible for you to have and achieve in the future
Are you with me?
No matter where you are in your career, you can create an incredibly powerful vision by living that future now. Start by asking yourself three key questions. Think about where you want to be in your career a year or five years from now and ask:
Where do I want to be?
Who do I want to be?
What do I want to be doing? What value do I want to offer?
Allow yourself the gift of imagination. Your vision should be big, bold, fun, exciting, and should push and stretch you. Don’t censor yourself. Your imagination is where your possibilities live.
Next imagine that you’re in that space right now, you’ve achieved your vision. You’re in that new career, landed that executive position, or started that new business. Who are in that new career, how do you show up, what are you doing differently than you’re doing now? Write it all down. What advice would your future self have for you today to help you get there? What would she tell you to do about your current role, a new opportunity, or listening to that whisper, that voice that’s telling you it’s time for a change?
Creating your career vision this way takes you way beyond the traditional vision board exercises you may have done year after year. And listen, I am not knocking vision boards, I believe in the power of writing down your visions. But in order for them to be effective you have to do more than just add images to a board or sheet of paper. You have to think deeply about who you want to be AND the steps it takes to get what you want. You need to take inventory of what you need to start doing and stop doing, what communities you need to start or stop affiliating with, what resources you need access to like a coach or therapy or what material or social resources and networks you should start accessing.
Jen Sincero, author of You Are a Badass said it beautifully, that in order to create a new life, you must become unavailable to your current one.
One of my mentors has a goal of making $100 million dollars in one year in her business because she wants to be an example of what’s possible. When she made that goal she was maybe at about $20 million a year in her business. She’s now at about $57 million and growing. What she says repetitively that always sticks with me, is that who she is today is not what will get her to $100 million, so everyday she works on becoming a $100 million dollar a year business owner because that future version of herself has already achieved that goal AND knows how to do it. So she spends her time in that mindset, with those thoughts, taking the actions of a $100 million dollar business owner.
That person carries herself differently, has a different perspective about her career, problem-solves differently, deals with challenges and fears differently, dresses differently, manages her schedule differently, and shows up differently.
That’s how you create a vision for what you want and achieve it.
You don’t become someone different once you achieve your vision, you become someone different on the path to achieving your vision. So spend some time getting clear on what that is, who that person is, what she wants and what she’s doing to get it.
Taking yourself out of your past and positioning yourself in the future you want will help you navigate the new terrain you’ll be embarking upon during your career pivot or change.
Listen, no job is perfect, and there's a difference between needing a break, needing to adjust your current work conditions, and needing to move on to something new. By working through these three steps you’ll get the clarity you need to know what’s right for you.
It’s important that you never feel trapped by the decisions you made years ago. There is a quote by F. Scott Fitzgerald that has became one of my mantras when I turned 50 and launched my own business.
It goes, “It’s never too late to be whoever you want to be. I hope you live a life you're proud of, and if you find that you're not, I hope you have the strength to start over.”
Powerful right?! But oh, so true!
The beautiful thing about life is that you CAN always start over. You never have to feel trapped by a decision you made years ago in your 20s, before you got married, had kids, moved across country, etc. Decisions you made at different stages and based on different inflection points in your life.
When you look at life as a journey, everything you do is in preparation for your next step, your next chapter. In fact, I believe that everything I've done in the past has prepared me for the work I’m doing today. And the decisions I’m making today are preparing me for the ones that will come in my 60s.
But to get to the place or places you want to be, you have to roll up your sleeves, ask yourself the tough questions, embrace whatever answers you find, and take intentional action to achieve the results you want. These skills will help you navigate every inflection point in your personal and professional life and any periods of change and uncertainty.
Well, that’s it for today Rebels.
Don’t forget to join me in The Boardroom, a monthly facilitated discussion on how to successfully navigate the key issues facing midlife career professional women, particularly those who are senior leaders, rising executives, and experienced high-achievers. We’ll discuss issues like this and so much more. We meet the last Friday of the month at 10am PST and if you can't make it, you'll be able to get the recording if you register.
You can register at www.carolparkerwalsh.com/boardroom, and I'll also add the link in the show notes for your convenience.
Also please leave a review and subscribe to this podcast and share it with those you believe could benefit from what I’m sharing. If you find it useful, chances are your colleagues and peers will too!
Until next time…have an amazingly rebellious week!