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Looking to make a BIG Career Change? Start Small and Start Now (5 min read)

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“I think I need a completely different career.”

Maybe because it’s nearly 2016 or perhaps because 2015 is almost done, I have been getting many more wholesale life/career change coaching requests. I am starting to feel like Father Christmas.

So you need a completely different career – by when do you need it?

Curiously, when it’s agreed that making the leap from litigation lawyer to baker in the final two weeks of December is a bit rushed, the timeline moves to “perhaps it can be part of my New Year’s resolutions”. Then I have to ask – what was on your last year’s resolutions list? You know the answer.

I don’t even have to ask what action they have taken since the last New Year (See Time for Change).

When your goal is too large, too nebulous, too immeasurable – your brain is overwhelmed by its sheer size and the infinite consequences (See The Art of Self-Sabotage). Break it down. What would move you closer to your ultimate goal? Suddenly, there are more possibilities. “Aaah, I just remembered my local baker has a sourdough bread making course…Maybe I can ask for it as a Christmas present. And maybe I can get that new book on sponges…”

What if the calendar system was never invented? Imagine no Mondays, no New Year. What if every sunrise was a chance for doing something new, seeing afresh, moving beyond fear? How about starting a new habit on a Tuesday? Mondays are busy getting into the new week, but Tuesdays you have more headspace. There is also less pressure. Try it.

There is the old “throwing the baby out with the bath water” syndrome. “I hate my job”. What specifically do you hate about your job? “I never know when I’ll be home, I don’t spend enough time with my kids. I am a bad mother.” There is a deeper issue here, don’t stack it all on the wrong job. And anyway, you are a bad mother according to whom? Which bigot is there to judge you? I’d like to remind you that you are doing your best, so cut yourself some slack (See The Art of Self-Sabotage).

What small action can you take now to make the situation better? A friend of mine who is a senior consultant at a Big Four accounting firm made a rule: Every Friday I go home at 6pm to spend time with my family. Importantly, he communicated this to his boss and his colleagues. The rule is respected in all but dire circumstances. Interestingly, that one small change stopped him leaving the firm.

What about other firms in the same sector – how do they stack up – say on flexible working? “They are all the same…” Talking about a sector I know well, law firms, even in the same tier, have markedly different approaches. Even different departments within these law firms have different approaches. Do your research. The best way is to talk to people who work in these firms (See Should I Change My Job?).

The grass may seem greener on the other side. Sometimes it actually is greener on the other side. Sometimes not. Sometimes it’s Astroturf. It’s best to find out before you end up playing on it.

What aspects of your current career do you enjoy? “I quite like problem solving…and working within a team”. How much problem solving and working within a team will you do as a baker? “Well, at the beginning, it will be just me. There will probably be a few problems to solve though, like fixing the second hand mixer.” Have a think and find out in practice what will your new career involve – what will an ordinary workday be like, look like, feel like…perhaps taste and smell like? Ask yourself what upsides of your current career you would like to keep in your next career.

So what attracts you to baking? “I love baking. I can see tangible results. It’s like finalising a [legal] case, but every day.” What other tangible results do you see in your current role? Sometimes, making the invisible visible – raising the awareness of what you actually achieve day-to-day increases job satisfaction. If it has the opposite effect, then you are probably treading water and it’s time to swim to the other hopefully greener shore (See Should I Change My Job?).

Change is a process, not an outcome. It starts in our head with an idea – a seed. That seed is vulnerable and will die if you do not protect and nourish it. Protect by choosing wisely to whom you disclose your idea to – some of your “friends” will doubt you (in fact they are probably transferring their own fears and self-doubts to you), others will spur you on. Nourish by feeding the idea with information and motivation.

Maintaining your motivation is key. Setting yourself achievable, specific, short-term goals will help you to measure your progress towards the ultimate goal. Think of it as stepping-stones. Each time you move to the next stepping-stone acknowledge your progress and give yourself a pat on the back.

Looking at change as a process makes it less threatening. It’s no longer a perilous chasm that you have to cross – it’s a stream with stepping-stones.

When the seed grows into a seedling, it’s time to take it outside into the sunshine and the real world. That will test out how strong it is. Give yourself the best possible chance – don’t put it out in frost. Build connections with others who understand your idea and appreciate the challenges.

In any career, and especially if you are running your own business, there will be highs and lows. It’s much easier to ride out the lows when you are on top form – so prioritise your wellbeing (See The Art of Self-Sabotage).

Put bluntly – you are the machine that will make change happen.

So what can you do right now to initiate positive lasting change? Change the way you see and treat yourself. Zoom in on your strengths and achievements. Identify three ways in which you can boost your health, mental wellbeing and fun. Most crucially, realise that your life and your career are fully in your control. You are in charge. So make it happen. Start small and start now.

“Choice not chance determines your destiny” – Aristotle

If you would like career change coaching please contact Natalia for a free consultation.

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