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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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Events

Should I Change My Job? (6 min read)

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“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old,
but on building the new” – Socrates

Do you see your future within your current organisation?

One of the most common questions I get asked by my clients is “Should I change my job?”. Once in a blue moon, a career move comes along that ticks all the boxes – role progression, great team, excellent work quality, convenient location and more money for the hours. More typically, something is missing, leading to lengthy and draining “Should I stay or should I go” debates. While you are thinking of leaving, your current role gets less focus and your new role is still a mirage.

Here are some pointers for centring your decision and avoiding “analysis paralysis”:

1. Take stock of your current role. Following Socrates’ wise words – the key to successful change is to focus on building the new rather than fighting the old. However, it is important to understand what is driving you to new pastures. Is it limitations of the current role (push factors) or benefits of the new role (pull factors) or both? Conduct a cost versus benefit analysis.
Ask yourself: What do I enjoy about my current role? Aside from day-to-day frustrations, what gives me the most dissatisfaction? What could address these concerns? If you already have a new role in mind, ask yourself whether it will offer the benefits of your current role and address its limitations. What other considerations are there?

2. Sit the Chair Test. Imagine your current job is a room with an open door. There is a chair in the middle of this room. Where are you? Sitting comfortably in the chair, getting up from the chair, half way to the door, one foot out of the door? That should give you an idea of how engaged you are in your current role and the urgency for finding a new job.

3. Identify your values. Values underpin all of our decisions and actions. They provide drive and motivation. Career-wise, what is most important to you right now? What would you do almost anything to avoid experiencing? Dig deeper until you get to the core of the matter. Identify any conflicting values. So if for you “money” is most important right now, ask:

Q: What makes money important to me?
A: You might answer “so my kids can go to a private school”
Q: What makes that important?
A: “So my kids can get better education”
Q: And what makes that important?
A: “I will feel that I am a good parent”
Q: What does being a “good parent” mean to you?

If the new job offers more money, but less family time, you need to ask yourself how this will fit in with your understanding of being a “good parent”.

“You cannot hit a target if you don’t know what it is” – Tony Robbins

4. Create career progression plan. Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time? Even if you do not have 20/20 vision, a clear outline of your career goal will help you focus your efforts and give you direction. Work backwards from that career goal to identify stepping stones (interim goals) bridging the gap with your current position. Begin with the first of these stepping stones.

5. Address your obstacles. What do you want to achieve and how will you stop yourself? One of my clients rejected a rewarding promotion because it involved leading weekly team meetings. He was unnerved by public speaking. Developing this one skill has opened multiple opportunities for him and allowed him to progress up his chosen career ladder.
Obstacles to progress are either internal or external. You have more control of the internal obstacles. Identify and address them. What would help you progress in your career? How is your skillset or mindset limiting you? What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t – you’re right” – Henry Ford

6. Boost your self-image. No matter what you want to achieve, your self-image will dictate whether you reach it or not. Moreover, how you perceive yourself impacts on how others perceive you. Consider how you have dealt with challenges in the past. What strengths and talents does this demonstrate? How can you make better use of these now?
Learn from role models. Think of someone you admire in the business world. How do they build and maintain their public image? What can you learn from them?
Pinpoint 3 things that are devaluing your personal impact. How can you make them work to your advantage?

7. Open your options. How can you improve your current role? What other positions within your current organisation could you consider? What else is out there – beyond your organisation, your career and your industry? It is easy to become over-focused and blinkered during job search. Often corporate career ladders are narrowly defined, and it takes wider perspective and courage to step off the well-trodden path. Research other options and opportunities. Talk to people in your and other industries. Network outside your usual circuit. Obtain inspiration from your role models – in both your and other fields. Have you considered setting up your own business?

8. Get first hand experience. Particularly, if you are thinking of changing careers, consider test-driving your new career through part-time work or volunteering. Avoid overthinking and getting stuck in “analysis paralysis”. While not always possible or practicable, hands on experience should answer most of your questions, and some questions that you have not even thought about.

9. Pro-activate your search. Unless the current role becomes unbearable, most people accept perpetual background humdrum of job-dissatisfaction, relying on “law of attraction” to bring job opportunities to their attention. No one is coming. Take your career into your hands. Be proactive in your search, actively seek information, create new opportunities and build contacts. Law of attraction works better that way.

10. Challenge yourself. Functioning in our comfort zone does not fully engage our capabilities and talents. We feel bored, uninspired and unmotivated. Activities that stretch us help to build our competence, confidence and motivation – leading to a bigger and more rewarding life experience. Try applying stretch to your career. What else can you achieve? How far will you dare to go?

“You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore” – Christopher Columbus

11. Build motivation. What motivates you? Aside from the alarm and your children/animals, what gets you up in the morning? We feel most engaged by activities that address our needs. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, once the basic needs of food, shelter and security are satisfied; humans look to establish belonging, self-esteem, recognition of others and finally self-actualisation (striving to fulfil one’s potential).
Work out what gives meaning and purpose to your work at this moment. Perhaps it is status, mental stimulation, helping others or being part of a bigger whole. Our needs evolve and change over time. Find ways to integrate your current and evolving needs into every day at work, and ensure that the new role you are considering addresses those needs.

12. Get expert support. We cannot work on our blind spots or manage factors outside of our awareness. There is a whole army of professions whose purpose is to make your career move easier. Recruitment, learning & development and coaching professionals all have specialist skills and knowledge. Find someone with whom you have a strong rapport and who you trust.

Effective coaching will help you at every stage of your career move, from defining your goals and values, opening your options, challenging your long-held assumptions and self-limitations, to helping you maintain motivation and momentum throughout the process.

Finally and most importantly, take action.

“A dream becomes a goal when action is taken towards its achievement” – Bo Bennett

For help choosing and changing your career path, contact Natalia

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