“Do I stay or do I go” as composed by The Clash (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BN1WwnEDWAM), I am certain is a question you have often asked of your career. There are 3 lines in the song which stand out for me in reference to the theme of this post, being Career Transition;
This indecision’s bugging me,
Exactly whom I’m supposed to be,
Come on and let me know ….
My most significant career transition has been where after 28 years in the manufacturing management environment, I left corporate, became a talent management business owner, and an executive coach. A career transition talks to an internal shift within you. It means you have reached a point where it is time to let go of an assumption, or self- image. This period of self-reflection could result in redefining who you are and what you do for work. It could result in a transition to an entirely new field, and a new role.
There have been previous occasions, 10 and 4 years ago, where I had reflected on entrepreneurial ventures around coaching, and at another time a cycling online business, and on each occasion as a result of the fear of change, I decided to stay put. I reached a point where I accepted that I would stay in my corporate job till my pension age, and be blissfully secure in the certainty of my next pay check.
Had I known then; how to rational through my thoughts, how to reflect on what I was feeling, and how to construct my path, I would’ve made a different set of choices.
Here are some of the fears that you may face when it comes to career transition,
- Fear of the unknown
- Fear of failure
- Fear of success
- Fear of what others might think
- Fear of not complying with other people’s dreams
- Fear of making a bad career change choice
It therefore stands to reason that without the tools and support needed to deal with these issues, these challenges will feel insurmountable, and you may stay put in your current reality, no matter how painful that may be.
In the book Switch, by Chip and Dan Heath ( https://heathbrothers.com/books/switch/) the question of, ‘Why is it so hard to make lasting changes in our own lives’, is addressed. We all know that change is hard, unsettling, and time-consuming, which is most likely why many give up at the first sign of a setback. But why do we insist on seeing the obstacles rather than the goal?
What if we could through self-reflection unpack our respective fears? Obtain a deeper understanding of that fear, know its triggers, limits, effects, impacts, and uncover its origin. What would be unlocked?
A change process like career transition requires one to align the cognitive, emotional, and somatic components of who we are. Chip and Dan Heath refer to the symbiosis of the Rider (rational thinking) and the Elephant (emotion) in order to navigate lasting change. In my early corporate change management training we referred to, winning the hearts and the minds of the employees. The takeaway from this point is that career transition cannot be viewed only from a rational thinking perspective or from a purely emotional state, it requires both to be addressed.
The key learnings through my transition were,
- Define your current reality. Validate it. What are those pain points? Are they real or imagined? How far reaching is the effect?
- Define your future state. What will your normal day activities comprise of? What is your purpose, or your why as per Simon Sinek (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4ZoJKF_VuA), What do like most? What do you like least? What are your values?
- Build your support base. Professional network, family support, coaching support.
- Use your support base to design your route map.
- Hedge your path.
If you are contemplating a career transition, you are probably in a space where your rational mind and emotional impulse are in conflict. I would invite you to focus on your current reality and future vision as a start. Some key questions I needed to answer for myself were, “If my day no longer looked like this, what would it look like?, and What is success?
Your thoughts, or learnings on this topic would be most appreciated.