The current pandemic has led many people to wonder about changing careers; an not surprisingly so. Here are a few simple principles to consider when deciding on career reinvention, that can guide aspiring career-changers through the process during these hard times.
Have you been lead to believe that a career path is linear and prescribed and should be followed like a set formula; and if you don’t, the likelihood of success is marginal or is at best the luck-of-the-draw.
A non-traditional career path is not always the most comfortable approach, but it is one that can make job candidates more appealing to a smart recruiter or hiring manager. In my experience, intentionally making myself uncomfortable has helped me develop a more holistic skill set. For some, a non-traditional career path can be too challenging to handle. However, I have learned that you do not need to stifle internal anxiety about making big career changes. It is natural, and an opportunity to learn and grow personally and professionally. The key is to use that discomfort productively and ultimately master the situations that seem overwhelming at first.
There are (at least) five lessons I have learned throughout my career in which taking the “easy” route would have been perfectly acceptable, but by taking the road less travelled I gained much bigger rewards.
DON’T OBSESS OVER BIG BRANDS OR LOGOS
Early on, I threw away the notion that big employer brands matter. Choosing to focus on a lesser-known company where the learning opportunities are exponentially higher will almost always bring your the rewards you are looking for. Don’t get me wrong; I believe that working at a big company with a reputable brand can be very good for professionals especially at the beginning of your career.
Big brands have the resources to train people well. If however, you desire a career with velocity and autonomy, a big company is not where you want to spend the entirety of your career. Many people who have grand career aspirations become dependent on navigating internal politics based on their employer’s logo and become less focused on the actual work. Large companies tend to be complex, bureaucratic organizations. While they might be highly competitive and impress your friends and family, you may be unable to progress your career quickly.
For me, moving on from a well-known brand allowed me to manage a large team at a young age; something that would have taken me years to achieve had I been concerned with working my way up the corporate ladder. This is the type of intangible experience that gives a career velocity.
if you are passionate about marketing but realized you want a broader scope as an example; working for a large company can train you well for the workforce. If you know you want more, it is going to show. So make the choice and move to a smaller company that is perhaps less well-known, but where you can challenge yourself with roles and responsibilities that would have taken years to achieve elsewhere.
TACKLE DIFFICULT CONVERSATIONS HEAD-ON
As a woman, it’s vital to force yourself to have uncomfortable conversations with your managers about other priorities in your life, specifically if you have children and family obligations. You must set expectations both at work and at home to achieve enough balance to thrive in each environment. As a younger woman, finding your voice and setting those boundaries with your supervisors and senior managers can be challenging and intimidating. I have witnessed many young women burn out because they pretended that they did not have obligations outside of the office and instead poured the majority of their energy into their work. But that is not reality.
More recently, COVID-19 and the work-from-home culture has made having a family very apparent. You can’t hide the fact that kids are home because they are bursting into your home office, interrupting Zoom calls, and have home-school schedules that require your attention. It has brought about a reckoning. Previously, uncomfortable expectation-setting conversations about family responsibilities were mostly relegated to women, but that is starting to shift. The pandemic has democratized this aspect of work-life balance by making it more ubiquitous and gender-neutral.
FIND AND LEARN FROM ALL TYPES OF LEADERS
The truth is that no one, not even an executive, is good at everything. Some are amazing people managers and fantastic at leading a team. Others are the wicked-smart types, geniuses but genuinely terrible at managing people.
I’ve been lucky. I’ve had the chance to work for, and learn from, the full spectrum of leaders. I spent several years working for a mentor who was a great leader of people and manager of teams. Later I went to work at an organization where my manager wasn’t a particularly great people-leader. Still, they were smart and creative and I gained a lot of important functional experience.
It is important to remember that there is no such thing as a perfect leader, and often we don’t get to choose who we work for. It often comes down to taking the initiative to recognize and learn from the strengths of whoever your leaders are at a given moment and translating both their strengths and weaknesses into skills that you can use in the future.
GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY
Looking back, I have always taken on tasks and responsibilities that were “below my pay grade” as a way to build trust with my team. I will get into the weeds and write email copy, or go to meetings where I’m not expected. Even now, I often do things that others would consider to be their direct responsibility.
Doing the unexpected builds trust, affinity, and goodwill with your teams. It also builds credibility because you show your team members that you are a good practitioner, not just a figurehead devising strategy. It also throws ego out the door. When your team knows that if they need help with something, all they have to do is ask you and we will tackle it together. I believe this approach creates a healthy culture and establishes your role as a leader. Nobody wants to work for someone who delegates responsibility and is incapable of understanding what the real work looks like and what it takes for teams to be productive.
DO NOT LET ANXIETIES OWN YOU
Some people are very risk-averse and they do not like a lot of change inmost aspects of their lives. If your career is the antithesis of your personality and you have found that when managing the anxiety that accompanies uncomfortable situations and challenging decisions you endure throughout your career, you have to move through it and not let it own you.
For some people, the anxiety that accompanies navigating a career can be an unpleasant nagging, but it can be downright debilitating for others. By acknowledging its presence and moving through the discomfort, you learn how to manage it rather than let it manage you. Some people may view it as a weakness. I am proof that you can allow discomfort to exist and turn it into a tool to not only survive but to thrive.
Has 20Plenty turned in to 20Empty for you?
Are you fatigued by a prolonged lockdown and feeling like “Can this be over now?!?” Have you started to relook at your career i.t.o potentially making some changes?
Clinical psychologists have suggested that this pandemic has caused an emotional tsunami for many. “Peoples’ feelings are exacerbated to the extremes at the moment, especially because of the uncertainty of what’s going to happen,” Suntosh Pillay. The toll this pandemic has taken on peoples’ mental health is leaving many in a perpetual state of stress.
While, for some, lockdown has afforded the opportunity to spend much needed time with family, which would not ordinarily have happened; for others lockdown has been a source of anxiety, hopelessness and disconnectedness. Financial stress, anxiety and panic has been cited by South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) as 3 of the major challenges South Africans are facing.
In addition to this, many people are being forced to re-evaluate their careers with many looking for ‘re-skilling’ opportunities to ensure they can adapt to the post lockdown world of work. Many people have found themselves retrenched or forced into unpaid leave and still others fear they could find themselves in the same situation and not have a position to go back to in the new year.
Has this pandemic caused you to consider pivoting or changing careers completely as you begin to prepare for life after lockdown?
Global research indicates that many people are attempting to upskill in the hope they will be able to be re-employed or be in a position to transition into a different sector.
Regrettable only 36% of polled employers has offered their employees support in improving their existing skillsets during this time. We know that without continuous improvements to skill-sets, existing members of staff are likely to become bored and demotivated because they are not being challenged or given the opportunity to grow. This is more important now than ever before. If staff are unfulfilled and unmotivated they will start to think about pursuing a career elsewhere when things settle down.
This in-turn is likely to mean businesses will need to invest huge sums of money in recruitment – with no guarantee they will be able to find anyone with the right attributes. So investing in continuous skills development with existing employees is the best way forward – and it’s also less costly.
For many this pandemic has been the wake-up call they were waiting for.The study found more than a third of those polled have reconsidered their chosen career since lockdown began.
In fact, one in 10 people are currently attempting to retrain for an entirely different job. However, 54 % of people surveyed fear they are too established in their current career to do something new; despite many feeling that they may not have a job to return to.
Business owners, have indicated that six out of 10 job applicants lack the skills employers are looking for and filling vacancies with workers who have the desired skillsets is one of their biggest challenges – even harder than retaining valued members of staff.
Recruitment is costly on a financial level, and there is a danger it could affect a business’ ability to grow because they can not find the right people for the job.
This is why continuous skills development is so important – it reduces the need for investing in recruitment because fewer members of staff want to leave as they are likely to be more fulfilled and stimulated. Furthermore, businesses can then grow with a workforce who has all the right skills for the business.
What plans do you have for continuous skills development as you prepare for life after lockdown?
There has been a lot of discussion around the impact technology and AI will have for the future of work. Many companies and countries have already adopted and adapted many of their offerings and services to be automated and or offered by some form of AI. South Africa launched its own journey into the Fourth Industrial evolution with the president committing to the country being an early adopter of this new way of being.
Then Covid-19 swept the globe, and the message about our future has become even clearer: what started as a few weeks of working from home has evolved into a catalyst for change regarding how we work and live.
Millions of people have transitioned to working from home globally and many South Africans have found they too have needed to join the fray. In addition, South Africans, like many others around the world, have also begun to stream online content for 8 hours or more each day.
It is safe to say that the traditional definition of office life has been put to rest, and now we are all left to wonder, what will replace it? Many employers have begun to ask whether it is necessary to return to the a pre-Covid world of Work and if not, what does this mean?
However, before we follow that rabbit hole into the future, let’s get some context around the past that is so abruptly changing. Office spaces as we know them have really only existed since the 1930’s, with the birth of the cubicle occurring in the 1980’s. This style of work is not a long standing phenomenon, and even before Covid-19, it was already on its way out of style. Employees were pushing for their freedom, with 80% of US workers reporting they would turn down a job if it didn’t offer flexible working arrangements. This requirement for job flexibility was a huge factor and had a huge impact on decision making especially when families were getting started. Employee demand pushed remote working opportunities to grow 44% since 2015.
So in essence Covid-19 has really only expedited what was already on the horizon anyway.
As a career expert and coach, I have found myself questioning how permanent these changes are? How will this affect employees in the workplace, especially those, whose careers have already taken a battering lately due to economic downturns.
One thing is certain though remote work is here to stay. This transition has already been set in motion with big tech companies like Facebook taking initiatives now by telling staff to work remotely for the remainder of the year, and in some instances, permanently. Google has begun to rotate employees on site for a few days each week while ensuring facilities remain at only 10% occupancy. Twitter has taken a somewhat different approach, where virtually all employees will work from home, permanently.
We have also seen our universities transition to blended learning approaches [some more quickly than others], with only a fraction of the student body and staff on campus at any given time. The rest are all on some form of rotation. Our schools have been forced to reinvent the way they teach while simultaneously attempting to salvage an academic year, and observe social distancing protocols. Rotation scenarios again being implemented across the vast majority of schools, colleges and universities. We have also seen parents getting progressively more involved in the children’s education rather than leaving this vital aspect of their childs’ development to the education sector exclusively.
Our very notion of work is changing – and not just from a geospatial perspective. Workplaces are being reconfigured. Various industries have overhauled their spacing policies to observe social distancing protocols. The trend of less space per person has reversed into more space per person, allowing fewer people per building. We have seen online facilities been utilised with progressive proficiency, even for those who were once overwhelmed and intimidated by the prospect.
While remote work offers a slew of improvements for the workplace, a 25% reduction in employee turnover and 77% of employees reporting increased productivity, to name a few, it also brings unique changes and demands that companies may not be fully aware of, yet.
Between 2005 and 2019, the number of people working remotely across the world grew by a staggering 173 percent.
Working from home is no longer reserved for certain industries and professions – it is becoming the number one workplace benefit people are looking for in a job. A recent survey by executive recruiter Jack Hammer revealed that remote working and flexitime are increasingly being implemented by South African companies as a means of enhancing employee engagement, wellness and productivity.
While there are signs pointing to a big spike in remote working over the next two years, South Africa still lags about four or five years behind the global working-from-home curve? WHY??
South Africa is a country that embraces ubuntu. We like being together. The attributes that make South African culture unique – our laughter, our humanity, our solidarity – may help in part to explain why we have been slower to embrace remote working than our global counterparts.
At the individual level, differences in personality types mean some people are simply better suited to remote working than others. Self-initiation and self-motivation are crucial traits, as are the means and ability to build systems that can support individuals to work effectively from home.
At an organisational level, the challenges are linked with leadership and teams. People feel disconnected from their teams and believe they do not perform as well when they are not physically in the same space. Executives report difficulty in leading effectively when teams and individuals are not physically present. These are two conundrums we are going to have to figure out, because good leadership and agile teams are important aspects of future-ready organisations.
Many South Africans started working from home in March and now almost seven months down the line many continue to work from home. According to the study, more than nine out of 10 (94%) decision-makers responded that they regarded it as essential to allow parents more time with their children. Cisco South Africa country manager, Garsen Naidu, says they were fascinated to learn that working from home did not negatively impact productivity. “We were fascinated to learn that working from home did not significantly impact the output. Employees are still as productive as they were in the office, partly as a result of not spending time getting to the office and settling in. It suggests that an employee’s mental energy remains finite, within the context of traditional roles and tools,”
South African businesses are more willing to embrace remote working. Those that remain reluctant may find themselves pushed that way by necessity.
Additionally, with another 18 months to two years of continued rolling blackouts ahead of us, this may be the very thing that pushes South African businesses to take the leap and catch up with the rest of the world regarding remote working. Meanwhile, reliable internet connectivity plays a vital role as it has implications on stress levels of employees.
“Connectivity emerges as an important factor for success in remote working…, and illustrates that remote working only functions successfully with remote connectivity. Connectivity is the key to the digital office.” The digitalisation of the home office must take into account the personal circumstances of the employee,” says Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx. Terry Bell says he believes that a large number of companies will adopt the practice of remote working after the lockdown because the benefits of working from home for employers are significant. He adds that with fewer cars on the road would mean reduced road fatalities and less pollution. “I certainly do see that working from home is going to become much more common. It’s a lot cheaper for employers because they don’t have to provide office space. From a worker’s point of view, they end up working as individuals, they will then end up being negotiated with as individuals.”
It’s extremely advantageous for employers, and productivity does not fall.
For a young country like South Africa these are important considerations. We have a growing population and we are one of the most rapidly urbanising places on the planet. When we reflect on a horizontal city like Johannesburg, with its sprawling footprint, or Cape Town with its gridlocked roads, and it is easy to see how asking people to travel further is just not realistic; working from home just makes sense.
Remote working should be standard practice post Covid-19. The lack of office space will necessitate it, social distancing will demand it and investments in advanced digital technologies, infrastructure and collaboration tools will facilitate it.
COVID-19, of course, is not the first attack on our jobs. The fourth industrial has already changed the job landscape. As it is, humans and machines are increasingly working together, bolstering efficiency and productivity. The workforce is becoming increasingly more structured by project rather than job function, allowing tasks to be created and dismantled flexibly.
Many companies may opt for a reduction in workdays. Others will rethink their ratio of permanent employees to gig workers. Expect to see leaders pivoting towards business models that create new digital and online forms of value. Until now, the concept of unlocking the digital dividend has been largely elusive.
We often make up excuses to stay in jobs that make us unhappy, but regardless of what we tell ourselves, all of these stories boil down to FEAR. We want to debunk some of the myths we tell ourselves around staying in a bad job.
Do you feel stuck in a job you don’t like? We often make up excuses to stay in jobs that make us unhappy.
Leaving the security of a job, especially during tough economic times, is a frightening thought – but so is continuing to work in a place that leaves you unfulfilled and unsatisfied.
I want to debunk some of the myths we tell ourselves around staying in a bad job.
Myth: Things are tough, so I can’t make a career change right now.
Truth: Sometimes negative events can be a catalyst for positive change.
Whether you are experiencing tough times on a personal or global level, it can be difficult to think of adding a career change on top of those stresses. Sometimes however, tough times can reveal a new purpose or meaningful opportunity.
There are countless stories of people who have turned tragedy into something meaningful. It can be done. You just have to let yourself be open to the idea of change.
Right now we are all experiencing one of the most challenging periods in history. We have seen a downturn in the economy due to COVID-19. While it is true that fewer companies are hiring and there is more competition, the roles are still out there. There are companies that are innovating to adapt to the changing world. There are also companies who have seen an increase in demand during this time.
The key is making yourself stand out by highlighting your passions and skills. It may not be a quick or easy change, but don’t let fear be the thing that stops you from finding something better.
Myth: I’m just lucky to have a job.
Truth: It is possible to be grateful for a job, but still not love it.
As we see unemployment rise and more companies go through layoffs, it is normal to feel gratitude for what we do have. It is also a good thing. There are proven benefits to expressing gratitude and it is something that should be part of your daily routine.
But it is also okay to be grateful for what you have while admitting you long for something better. Accepting what is because you know it could be worse is twisting gratitude into an excuse to hold yourself back. Allow yourself to strive for more. Do you know what you want? Do you have a dream job?
Myth: I can’t afford to leave my job right now.
Truth: You don’t have to leave your job (yet) to start the career transformation process.
How to Handle Common Career Struggles
A career can be a source of great joy and great pain. If you relate more to the latter, chances are you have experienced one of these common career struggles. Fortunately, you do not have to continue suffering.
Do not settle in your career! If you are not happy, it is time for a career transition!
Here are some solutions to some of the obstacles most frequently faced by professionals.
Problem: You hate your job and/or chosen career path.
Solution: If you know you are not happy and have yet to take steps to remedy it, you typically fall into one of two scenarios:
- You are fearful of making a change. There are many stories we tell ourselves that can cause us to stifle our own success. “I’m not good enough.” “What if I fail?” “What if I make a change and it’s worse?” It is critical to recognize what story you are telling yourself so that you can start to isolate those thoughts and address them. Bringing your fears to the forefront of your consciousness is the first step in being able to overcome them. Once you recognize and acknowledge the fears, applying some simple but effective tools can render them powerless in holding you back.
- You do not know what will make you happy. You have recognized you are not happy, but you do not know what will bring you joy. This can be especially difficult when you have spent your entire career in one field. It is time to do some discovery work. Finding your purpose is a key place to start. Once you know your purpose, make a list of your strengths and passions. If you start to see some similarities between the lists, follow that path.
Problem: You are struggling to get to the next level in your career.
Solution: It is time to expand your network. You have got the experience and you need to highlight that to the right people – whether it is a decision maker or someone who can make a referral. They can be at your current company or at a potential new employer. Connecting with the right people can make all the difference. Expanding your network does not mean you have to attend in-person networking events, especially in the age of social distancing. There are great digital tools, such as LinkedIn and Shapr, that allow you to build relationships with other professionals. Find an authentic way to connect with others that is enjoyable to you.
Problem: You are not standing out to potential employers.
Solution: Most recruiters and hiring managers see hundreds of resumes for a single position. That number increases the more desirable the role and company are. Standing out is difficult, but possible. We recommend that every job seeker approach their career as if they were an entrepreneur building a company. Your career is your business. You must determine your product (your skillset), your unique selling proposition (your strengths and passions) and your target market (the companies YOU want to work for). Once you have defined your professional brand, you need to ensure that it is reflected everywhere – your resume, your cover letter, your online presence, and especially how you show up for interviews.
Now it is time to market yourself. You have to do more than just submit your resume to job posts and boards. Connect with the right people and make sure you are visible. Focus on your strengths and passions, especially if you do not have the requested experience.
If you need help defining and marketing your personal brand, we can help. Chat with one of our coaches here
It is time to transition in your career.
Career transitioning does not happen overnight. It is a process that takes time and commitment.
Deciding you want to find something better does not mean you have to quit your job tomorrow. It simply means you are ready to start the process of identifying what kind of career will bring you joy, and what kinds of companies will value who you are. THEN taking the steps to find them and go after them.
What can I do to find a career I love?
Ideal Careers offers several courses, for wherever you are in the process. If you are looking for total Career Transformation OR looking to Transition Into another Career, we offer programs, as well as coaching, to get you started. If you are already in process or looking to ease into career transitioning, we offer a single-modules that focuses on a particular area of making a career change. Book a chat with one of our advisors Its FREE.
Do not let fear hold you back from finding happiness and fulfilment in your career!
Your career plays a major role in your life. Settling and being complacent in this area can leave you feeling unfulfilled. Find the right solution for you at Ideal Careers.co.za
The past week has been an interesting one, filled with both joy and sorrow. As is want to happen the new week arrived in all its magnificence and serendipitously, I found these Four Stories that gave me pause to reflect. These are old familiar stories and you have probably read them before with slightly different people and contexts however the lessons remain the same.
Story #1: All the Difference in The World
Every Sunday morning I take a light jog around a park near my home. There’s a lake located in one corner of the park. Each time I jog by this lake, I see the same elderly woman sitting at the water’s edge with a small metal cage sitting beside her.
This past Sunday my curiosity got the best of me, so I stopped jogging and walked over to her. As I got closer, I realized that the metal cage was in fact a small trap. There were three turtles, unharmed, slowly walking around the base of the trap. She had a fourth turtle in her lap that she was carefully scrubbing with a spongy brush.
“Hello,” I said. “I see you here every Sunday morning. If you don’t mind my nosiness, I’d love to know what you’re doing with these turtles.”
She smiled. “I’m cleaning off their shells,” she replied. “Anything on a turtle’s shell, like algae or scum, reduces the turtle’s ability to absorb heat and impedes its ability to swim. It can also corrode and weaken the shell over time.”
“Wow! That’s really nice of you!” I exclaimed.
She went on: “I spend a couple of hours each Sunday morning, relaxing by this lake and helping these little guys out. It’s my own strange way of making a difference.”
“But don’t most freshwater turtles live their whole lives with algae and scum hanging from their shells?” I asked.
“Yep, sadly, they do,” she replied.
I scratched my head. “Well then, don’t you think your time could be better spent? I mean, I think your efforts are kind and all, but there are freshwater turtles living in lakes all around the world. And 99% of these turtles don’t have kind people like you to help them clean off their shells. So, no offense… but how exactly are your localized efforts here truly making a difference?”
The woman giggled aloud. She then looked down at the turtle in her lap, scrubbed off the last piece of algae from its shell, and said, “Sweetie, if this little guy could talk, he’d tell you I just made all the difference in the world.”
The moral: You can change the world – maybe not all at once, but one person, one animal, and one good deed at a time. Wake up every morning and pretend like what you do makes a difference. It does. (Read 29 Gifts.)
Story #2: The Weight of the Glass
Once upon a time a psychology professor walked around on a stage while teaching stress management principles to an auditorium filled with students. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the typical “glass half empty or glass half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, the professor asked, “How heavy is this glass of water I’m holding?”
Students shouted out answers ranging from eight ounces to a couple pounds.
She replied, “From my perspective, the absolute weight of this glass doesn’t matter. It all depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute or two, it’s fairly light. If I hold it for an hour straight, its weight might make my arm ache a little. If I hold it for a day straight, my arm will likely cramp up and feel completely numb and paralyzed, forcing me to drop the glass to the floor. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it feels to me.”
As the class shook their heads in agreement, she continued, “Your stresses and worries in life are very much like this glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and you begin to ache a little. Think about them all day long, and you will feel completely numb and paralyzed – incapable of doing anything else until you drop them.”
The moral: It’s important to remember to let go of your stresses and worries. No matter what happens during the day, as early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don’t carry them through the night and into the next day with you. If you still feel the weight of yesterday’s stress, it’s a strong sign that it’s time to put the glass down. (Angel and I discuss this process of letting go in the Adversity and Self-Love chapters of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
Story #3: Shark Bait
During a research experiment a marine biologist placed a shark into a large holding tank and then released several small bait fish into the tank.
As you would expect, the shark quickly swam around the tank, attacked and ate the smaller fish.
The marine biologist then inserted a strong piece of clear fiberglass into the tank, creating two separate partitions. She then put the shark on one side of the fiberglass and a new set of bait fish on the other.
Again, the shark quickly attacked. This time, however, the shark slammed into the fiberglass divider and bounced off. Undeterred, the shark kept repeating this behavior every few minutes to no avail. Meanwhile, the bait fish swam around unharmed in the second partition. Eventually, about an hour into the experiment, the shark gave up.
This experiment was repeated several dozen times over the next few weeks. Each time, the shark got less aggressive and made fewer attempts to attack the bait fish, until eventually the shark got tired of hitting the fiberglass divider and simply stopped attacking altogether.
The marine biologist then removed the fiberglass divider, but the shark didn’t attack. The shark was trained to believe a barrier existed between it and the bait fish, so the bait fish swam wherever they wished, free from harm.
The moral: Many of us, after experiencing setbacks and failures, emotionally give up and stop trying. Like the shark in the story, we believe that because we were unsuccessful in the past, we will always be unsuccessful. In other words, we continue to see a barrier in our heads, even when no ‘real’ barrier exists between where we are and where we want to go. (Read The Road Less Traveled.)
Story #4: Being and Breathing
One warm evening many years ago…
After spending nearly every waking minute with Angel for eight straight days, I knew that I had to tell her just one thing. So late at night, just before she fell asleep, I whispered it in her ear. She smiled – the kind of smile that makes me smile back –and she said, “When I’m seventy-five and I think about my life and what it was like to be young, I hope that I can remember this very moment.”
A few seconds later she closed her eyes and fell asleep. The room was peaceful – almost silent. All I could hear was the soft purr of her breathing. I stayed awake thinking about the time we’d spent together and all the choices in our lives that made this moment possible. And at some point, I realized that it didn’t matter what we’d done or where we’d gone. Nor did the future hold any significance.
All that mattered was the serenity of the moment.
Just being with her and breathing with her.
The moral: We must not allow the clock, the calendar, and external pressures to rule our lives and blind us to the fact that each individual moment of our lives is a beautiful mystery and a miracle – especially those moments we spend in the presence of a loved one.
How do you think differently today, than you once did? What life experience or realization brought on a significant change in your way of thinking? Please leave a comment below and share your story with us.
So I am not saying that goals are bad things and you should avoid them. If goals work for you then go for it
For a lot of us, a goal can be the tool that sets our direction and inspires us to keep going.
But when I look back at the way my career change actually unfolded, it didn’t happen in a series of big tick-boxes.
It happened in micro-moments of consistent actions.
You could call them systems, or you could call them habits.
Here’s why they worked so well:
Habits have a ‘how’
“Habit is the intersection of knowledge (what to do), skill (how to do), and desire (want to do).” – Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Have you ever thought to yourself: “I could make a career change in no time, if only I knew what steps to take”?
It’s the classic career change conundrum – you know the high-level result you want, but you do not know what each specific little step is or looks like, nor do you know the actions you need that is going to get you there.
So you end up with these gloriously intangible goals, much like the ones I listed out in my book, and then you sit and stare at them, and feel bad that you haven’t got there yet, and beat yourself up for not knowing how.
But you can get your hands on a Habit.
Because if it’s a habit, you know what it is and how to do it.
So we tend to get into the Habit of doing things, rather than just setting a goal.
If there’s only so much you can do, you can at least do a lot of that.
We have already established that you are not the boss of everything.
You can not control results, but you can control your actions.
So shifting your attention away from the lofty, the far-off and the at-least-50%-out-of-your-hands and toward the tangible, the manageable, the consistent and the completely-under-your-control is probably a smart move.
7 Habits of Highly Effective People author Steven Covey has a great way of explaining this.
Picture a circle.
Inside it, cram everything you care about: your declining eyesight, the refugee crisis, climate change, the housing market, whether your kid is having a good day at school, what the recruitment agent is going to say in your meeting tomorrow, how good your hair looks today, the location of your car keys, whether or not you’re happy in your future career… there’s a LOT in this circle.
Covey calls it your Circle of Concern.
Inside your Circle of Concern is another circle.
This one is called your Circle of Influence.
And inside your Circle of Influence are only the concerns you can directly impact or control.
Goals tend to live inside your Circle of Concern and outside your Circle of Influence. They rely on factors that are only partly in your control. And they are focused on outputs (what happens next) rather than inputs (what you actually do).
But your hairstyle? The house you choose to buy? The skills you develop or what you spend your Thursday evenings doing? Whether or not you try that new recipe that’s been rolling around in the back of your head for months?
In these matters, you are the boss.
When you operate within your Circle of Influence, you will make the biggest impact.
And the more time you spend working and playing inside of this circle, the larger it grows.
It’s hard to pick a fight with a mouse
Goals can tend to feel high-stakes and paralysing, habits can be as small as you need them to be. A Stanford psychologist BJ Fogg recommends starting with ‘tiny habits’, actions so small that they are almost laughable. Instead of trying to start a habit of flossing twice a day, for example, he suggests just starting by flossing one tooth.
You can find a lot of good reasons why the goal of quitting your job in 3 months’ time, regardless of what happens between now and then, might not be the best idea. You can argue your way in and out of that for hours.
It is much harder to argue with a habit of putting whatever coins you have in your pockets into a savings jar every day when you get home.
Insignificant though actions like this might sound, they are actually incredibly powerful. The hardest part of anything is just getting started, and once you have started getting into action with a habit, they have the capacity to snowball.
Maybe you want to write a novel. You decide to set up a tiny habit of writing just 300 words a day. You figure, to complete a book at that rate, it will take about 300 days. Except… it turns out that writing 300 words is really easy, and even on your busiest days, you are getting it done. In fact, on a lot of days, you find yourself overshooting the 300 word mark and just continuing to tap away, writing 800, 1,000, 2,000 words in a day.
You can’t argue with small.
Slow consistent progress is permanent Progress
Goals can set you up for a jerky journey with little traction.
You create a goal, circle it for a while, make a big leap forward, and then, once you have achieved it, you have to come up with the next one. If you don’t achieve it, you then have to deal with the emotional fallout. Mapped onto a piece of paper, your forward movement looks like a game of leapfrog with a very nervous teammate.
Habits on the other hand are by their very nature ongoing and consistent. They tell you what to do and when, and are active regardless of output. Small steps, taken consistently, move you forward faster.
“The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game. True long-term thinking is goal-less thinking. It’s not about any single accomplishment. It is about the cycle of endless refinement and continuous improvement. Ultimately, it is your commitment to the process that will determine your progress.” – James Clear, author of Atomic Habits
And good news for your achy willpower muscle: once you have formed them, habits pretty much operate automatically.
In fact, once we have got going with a habit, our brains actually adapt to make it easier to complete. After about 30 days of practice, carrying out a habit becomes easier than not doing so.
As Charles Duhigg wrote in The Power Of Habit:
“Habits are powerful, but delicate. They can emerge outside our consciousness or can be deliberately designed. They often occur without our permission but can be reshaped by fiddling with their parts. They shape our lives far more than we realise – they are so strong, in fact, that they cause our brains to cling to them at the exclusion of all else, including common sense.”
The nature of your life is dependent on the nature of your habits
Philosopher William James described habits in this way:
“All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits – practical, emotional, and intellectual – systematically organised for our weal or woe, and bearing us irresistibly toward our destiny, whatever the latter may be.”
Habits, not goals, shape your daily experience of the world.
The time of day you wake up. The way you brush your teeth. How you get to work, the turns of phrase you use, the way you automatically respond to certain events.
Goals are interruptions to your status quo.
Habits, on the other hand, build, shape and create the form and direction of your life.
And if that is true, then whether or not you shift into fulfilling work is entirely dependent on the habits and consistent behaviours you choose to cultivate.
On other words, choosing and building a powerful set of habits can help you move into fulfilling work inevitable.
Now that sounds pretty good, no?
How to build helpful habits in career change
Create opportunities to be gloriously surprised
All you can control is what you do, not what happens next.
So, as you start designing some new habits and behaviours, let go of any thought of whether or not it will ‘work’ or be ‘worth it’.
Perhaps you consider starting a new habit of going to one new, interesting event per week.
But then the doubts come in: By the way these are also know as Limiting Beliefs
“There probably won’t be anyone interesting there.”
“You don’t WANT to work at the circus – why go to a workshop?”
“You’ve had a tiring week – no point going if it’s just going to be a waste of time.”
Your job is not to make it worth it.
Your job is not to know the outcome.
Your job is just to keep opening the door to the possibility of something fantastic that you didn’t see coming.
You can’t control whether it happens or not.
But one thing is for sure: without an open door, it ain’t coming in.
Choose pleasure, not pride
Intrinsic motivation is far more effective than extrinsic rewards.
In her book Better Than Before, author Gretchen Rubin uses this example:
“If I tell [my daughter] that she can watch an hour of TV if she reads for an hour, I don’t build her habit of reading. I teach her that watching TV is more fun than reading.”
So where possible, set up habits that will feel good to do and give you a sense of accomplishment when completed.
This does not mean it won’t take any effort to get started with them. Setting up a new habit involves some change, and it will take willpower to get the ball rolling.
Perhaps you know that talking to new people often feels a bit awkward to start with.
But once you’ve opened a dialogue, you always enjoy the conversation, and you are thrilled to have made a new friend you can learn from.
It will take some effort to push past the initial hump of always reaching out to people you encounter who do interesting work. But the more you do it, the smoother that initial hump will become, and the more enjoyment (and great conversations, and new insights) will follow.
Following a pleasurable feeling and setting up a system to do more of it, is always going to reap greater rewards than fighting against an unpleasant one. Besides, if you want to find fulfilling work, doing a lot of things that feel unfulfilling is unlikely to get you there.
Follow the hints and the feelings that tell you what you love, what comes naturally, what elicits a sense of flow.
Do more of what works
Often times, habits are pitched as things to be changed, to quit, or to fix.
You are giving up your smoking habit.
You start running every morning (to fix your low fitness levels).
You stop drinking coffee in the mornings.
However, when you are trying to create a habit in order to fix or stop something, it takes more effort, and reminds you of the negative element you are trying to get away from.
Stopping something gives you the sense of having less of something in your life, but it does not necessarily replace it with anything else. You want the good stuff, and more of it.
The most effective habits start with the questions:
“What do I know works well for me?” and then: “How can I do more of it?”
So take a look at the things you have done in the past that have given you more clarity or more progress when it comes to your career change.
When have you found new insights to explore, and how did you find them?
What was different about that conversation that led to a new opportunity, from the other conversations that fizzled out?
Sure, you know that for extroverts, going to networking events works brilliantly. But you are way better in 1-1 environments. So how do you have more 1-1 interactions with people in your day-to-day?
Look for what works, and then focus on building a habit that has you do more of it.
If in doubt, change your environment
Stanford behaviour scientist BJ Fogg says he has learnt that only three things will change your life in the long term.
Option A. Have an epiphany
Option B. Change your environment (what surrounds you)
Option C. Take baby steps
Epiphanies are hard to come by, and they are out of your control.
Baby steps are the mouse-sized micro-habits you can build with very little effort over time.
And if you are not sure what baby steps to take, create the habit of taking them into new environments. If you are struggling for ideas on your future career, or struggling to find the right steps to take, remember one of the simplest principles of systems theory:
New inputs = new outputs.
If you want new ideas, new insights, new possibilities, build the habit of filling your environment with new experiences.
Widen your social circle by adding new people with new perspectives into your social circle.
Take yourself into new places and surroundings.
Giving yourself new experiences.
Build habits that change what surrounds you, and you will watch your perspective on the world, and the opportunities you can see, change along with it.
One thing at a time, and one thing only
Set yourself up for success.
Overcommitting to a whole bunch of new habits has the same impact as setting yourself a scary goal. It feels overwhelming, paralysing, and invites fear of failure and procrastination.
Get into the habit of just one small, consistent new behaviour.
Get curious about it.
A tiny drip of water, over time, can crack open a whole boulder.
Do not underestimate the power of one thing done consistently over time.
“The best thing I ever did was to commit to one small action each day (less than five minutes). Sometimes this lead to further leaps, other times that was all I did. This might have been making a list, sending an email, commenting on a post, a bit of research, etc. When I combined that with trying to make the small action something that was slightly out of my comfort zone as well, good things started to happen.” – Amy G.
New habits are often difficult to get going because they require Two things #1 that you change your behaviours, #2. that you remember to do them.
According to Zen Habits writer Leo Babauta, the often-overlooked key to building a new habit is to tie it to a trigger – an event that will remind you (eventually automatically) to carry out your habit:
“Habits become automatic after we have created a bond between the trigger and the habit. The stronger the bond, the more ingrained the habit.”
Babauta recommends finding an action or event that is already ingrained into your routines in life.
For example, if you need to remember to take a daily medication, keeping the box on top of your toothbrush will help you tie the action of taking your pill to your already-automatic (we would hope) routine of brushing your teeth.
If you want to build a habit of staying in touch with old friends, use an already-ingrained habit (opening your email client for the first time in the morning, checking social media on your commute) to act as a trigger to send one checking-in message to someone you haven’t been in touch with for a while.
Need to start injecting your weekly routine with something fresh and new, to inspire new ideas and broaden your experience of the world? Every time you see a vaguely interesting event coming up in your local area, put it into your calendar.
Consistent triggers make new habits feel natural, faster.
Work with the way you work
A habit is an expectation you have set for yourself (or, sometimes, that someone else / society expects of you).
Gretchen Rubin suggests there are four primary ways, or ‘tendencies’ with which people respond to those expectations.
Knowing your ‘tendency’ (Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel), you can pre-empt the ways in which you might get stuck building or maintaining your habits, and set up systems and approaches that help you get things done.
You might, for example, need to rely on accountability more than others, and tell multiple people about the habits you are trying to build.
Reminding yourself of the greater good you are trying to achieve might be the primary kick you need.
Or perhaps deadlines are the only thing that will get you out of analysis paralysis and moving forward.
Take the Four Tendencies Test here, and use the results to craft your approach to habits in the way that works for you.
Finding fulfilling work is a revelatory process
It is what makes it magical. It is what makes it nerve-wracking, too.
If only a career you love was the output of a nice, neat algebraic formula, setting goals and project-managing, the whole thing would be smart and simple.
But it’s not.
It’s messy, and full of surprises, and it requires you to be in a space of not-knowing for far longer than most human beings are comfortable with.
What will anchor you, keep you grounded and making forward progress, are habits and systems.
Consistent, forward nudges that you actually do, that keep you feeling proud and motivated, and that opens the door, over and over again, to the possibility of being gloriously surprised, to the unexpected and the new.
What habit could you start cultivating in your own career change? Let me know in the comments below.
This is Part 1 of 2
Goal-setting seems like a smart thing to do in a career change. However, this might actually be exactly what is keeping you stuck. Renata explains why big targets can be a false friend. Here is what she recommends doing to start making progress towards that Ideal Career instead.
Let me tell you a short story
A little while ago I was doing a cupboard purge something I had not done in a while.
I found a black hard cover notebook. I immediately recognise this old faithful companion that contain hundreds of lines of my handwriting and doodles, in different colours of ink and pencil.
Journal entries, to-do lists, thoughts I had jotted down. Pages and pages of confused, frustrated outpourings about my work, my life, my future. I took a moment to read those words and I was transported back to that year in a deeply visceral way that I haven’t felt for a long time. The desperate awkwardness of feeling like a fundamental misfit in a career and a life that was not for mine. The sense of being caged in and stuck, trapped by the very life choices I myself had made in the years before. The dark emptiness ahead of me when I tried to imagine what else I could do.
As I flipped through the pages of that old book one page in particular hit me hard.
It was a list of goals.
Big, ambitious, hopeful goals. The only kind I had, back then.
And then next to them, in a different pen, clearly written later in a fit of irritation, a series of scrawled, pointy, sarcastic flippant questions…
- “Have three reasonable career options I’m truly excited about.” LOVELY. HOW, EXACTLY?
- “Start a side line income to make extra cash” WHICH YOU’LL DO IN WHAT SPARE TIME?
- “Have ($6000) saved by June.” WHAT FOR, GENIUS?
- “Hand in my notice by September” YEAH, RIGHT!!
Reading the contents of that page was like watching a snippet of the perpetual state of the inside of my head – the never-ending back-and-forth of a hopeful, fierce optimist and an angry, hurt cynic.
I made a lot of lists like that.
I remember how painful and pointless those felt, once their initial balm wore off.
Unrealistic, hollow-feeling goals, created mostly because I didn’t know what else to do.
They sounded nice, but I rarely did much about them.
It wasn’t a question of what I wanted on a grand scale.
It was the specifics I had no clue about. I still did not know the steps to take to get there.
Goals are not very helpful in the day-to-day logistics of a career change.
YES goals can feel productive, and make yo feel good in the beginning. Perhaps these goals even feel good the day after you write them down.
But beyond that initial feel-good sensation you have initially it can actually have the opposite effect on you making any meaningful change.
Fulfilment isn’t SMART
Anyone who has ever done any goal-setting has come into contact with the idea of SMART goals at some point:
We are told Goals must be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-based.
This is Fair enough however finding fulfilling work is not quite so neat.
Setting SMART goals is an organisational task – finding the logical pieces, breaking them into chunks, and putting them together in a way that leads you forward, step by step.
Finding fulfilling work however feels more like trying to jump off a jellyfish into an ocean you are not convinced actually exists.
You do not really know where you are going, so being specific i.t.o goals setting is laughable.
You are not sure how exactly to measure fulfilment (beyond ‘Makes me want to poke myself in the eye / Doesn’t make me want to poke myself in the eye’), so that’s a shaky one too.
You do not even completely believe it’s possible, so how can it be achievable or realistic?
And time-based… if ONLY a deadline could fix this mess.
So sitting down to write some goals for your career change… eerr if it feels ridiculous, that’s probably because it is, a little.
Extrinsic motivation is not effective
Imagine you have set yourself a goal to lose 10 kilos.
You start going to the gym every day, because someone told you that gym exercise gets faster weight-loss results than anything else.
You hate the gym. You hate the smell of the changing rooms, you hate the perky gym bunny types who take up all the machines, you hate the music they play, and you hate running towards your own reflection in a mirror for half an hour and traveling precisely nowhere.
You start taking a salad and a Thermos of cabbage soup to work every day. You hate salad. You hate cabbage soup. You are starting to hate your life.
But you would love to loose those 10 kilos.
So you put up with it. You eat the soup, holding your nose and visualising your life once you’ve hit your goal. You endure the gym, wishing you could just hit your goal and never have to go back there again.
What are the chances of you hitting your 10-kilo target – and, more importantly, maintaining it afterward? I would say Pretty low, no?
Goals that do not inspire you or give you that “hell yeah” feeling or rely on extrinsic motivation such as an external, tangible result or outcome you need to achieve will not be achieved.
These goals feel heavy, looming over you menacingly until you have hit them. The process of working toward them often doesn’t feel enjoyable and takes a lot of effort despite the rewards at the end.
So you’re less likely to take the steps you need to take to achieve them.
Extrinsic motivation has repeatedly been shown to be less effective than Intrinsic motivation, which is driven by enjoying the activity itself.
Extrinsic motivation: “If I walk five miles today, I can have that piece of chocolate cake.”
Intrinsic motivation: “I love dancing – I’m going to dance in the kitchen just because it feels great.”
Extrinsic motivation: “If I spend the next month learning about the political system in Uzbekistan I’ll look really smart at the university dinner party.”
Intrinsic motivation: “How DOES the inside of my remote control work? This is fascinating…”
In other words, given the choice between rewards or enjoyment, you are far more likely to do things you enjoy.
So, ironically, you are more likely to lose 10 kilos by throwing the scales in the bin and going dancing every weekend than you are by trying to haul yourself to the gym every day if going to the gym is not your thing.
In your career change, you are more likely to find fulfilling work (albeit counter-intuitively) by doing things you enjoy than you are by setting yourself a goal to change career.
Pressure encourages procrastination
There is a fair amount of pressure involved in goal-setting.
Either you hit your goal, or you don’t.
There is no room for the grey area on the way.
And if you don’t hit it, you’ve ‘failed’. Unpleasant. Scary. Dunce hat. Ugh.
Procrastination is based in fear. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of change: all fears that grow from an attachment to a specific outcome… otherwise known as ‘a goal’.
In career change, this often looks like vacillation, over-thinking, endlessly weighing up options, researching things to death…
What if you get it wrong? What if you don’t hit your target? What if it never happens?
High stakes creates high tension – and the higher the tension, the less likely you are to act.
So if you have set yourself a goal and you are getting stuck in procrastination-whirlpools, this might be why.
You are not the boss of everything
Unfortunate, but true.
No matter how hard you try, or how much effort you put in to achieving a goal, sometimes the world just gets in the way. Life happens.
Maybe you twist an ankle and can’t train for the marathon.
Maybe the taxman slings you an unexpected curveball and your savings goal hits the deck.
Maybe your company withdraws its plans to offer a round of voluntary redundancies next month, like you were expecting.
Maybe your kid gets sick and you spend your week curled up on the bathroom floor mopping brows and blowing noses and you don’t get your LinkedIn profile up to date like you said you would.
These moments hurt. Partly because they throw a spanner in the works and we have to deal with the possibility of failure.
Partly because it forces you to realise that you can’t control results.
You can ONLY control what you do, but not what happens next.
- You can create a perfectly written LinkedIn profile, but you can’t control whether or not people will read it.
- You can reach out to someone you admire, but you can’t control whether or not they will respond.
- You can go to an event you have never been to before, but you can’t control whether or not it will spark a new career idea.
Trying to consistently hit your goals when you are only responsible for part of the process is a pretty heavy expectation.
Don’t just set goals, build habits.
Looking back at my notebook, I’m pretty proud to say that I have achieved pretty much all l the goals I set back then and am working on achieving the new ones I have set.
I found a way to visit amazing places met some truly amazing people and do work I am completely in love with.
That wouldn’t have happened without giving myself the space to dream ridiculously big and commit to consistently doing things I had no idea how to do BUT learnt that it was possible and I could them.
Read part 2 next
Staying mentally healthy as the country begins going back into workplaces.
Life as we knew it has changed and our reality is very different today than it was 100+ days ago. Many of us were in various stages of lockdown for extended periods of time. and even as many of the initial restrictions were lifted , many have still remained and will remain for the foreseeable future.
As we begin to emerge from what felt like hibernation for many, we are all to aware that life is very different and things will never go back to the way they were.
As we start to return to work, and our children return to school there is a lot to think about. Lockdown has affected us all in different ways, and it is normal to feel uncertain about what the future holds.
Many people feel confused, worried and apprehensive about going back to the workplace and even more feel anxious about sending children back to school. Amid this worry there is also the harsh realisation that indefinite lockdown is not sustainable and life still needs to carry on.
Organisations are considering a range of adjustments to the way work is done, to comply with government recommendations. These adjustments will depend on your job, and your individual circumstances.
Everyone’s situation is unique. However, as you return to work, there are some general principles that will give you the best chance of getting back to work and staying mentally healthy over the coming months.
Talk and connect
It is important to keep in touch with colleagues and your line manager. You don’t need to talk about work, but a quick check-in will help you feel connected. We have all been impacted by the coronavirus in different ways. You may have been bereaved, felt overwhelmed or isolated, or been unwell. If you share this with others they will be better able to help you in the months ahead.
Plan and prepare
Think about your job and your situation. Does anything need to change to help you do your job well? If you haven’t been told what to expect, ask what provisions have been made to create a safe work environment. It can be helpful to think through what will happen on the first day back:
- How will you get to work?
- Will anything be different as you enter the building?
- Who will be there?
- Will you need to do things differently to get your job done?
- Are you on a rotation schedule?
Have a return-to-work conversation with your line manager
If you have not received a return-to-work briefing from your line manager ask for one.
This is a chance to identify your work priorities and raise any concerns or questions that you have. If you have something important you want to talk about, make a note of it for when you have a briefing or perhaps drop your manager and email with your concerns. This is an unprecedented time for all of us and we are all trying to figure things out as we go along. NO one person has all the answers so raise your concerns and ask your questions – chances are you are not the only one who has the same concern.
Try not to panic and slip into a paranoid space
Take things one step at a time
The way we all work is likely to keep changing in the coming weeks and months so we will need to keep adjusting. Don’t expect everything to quickly return to normal. The life you knew and were familiar with prior to lockdown is gone and will very likely never return. We have a long journey ahead. We may never be able to go back to our old ways of working so this could give us an opportunity to do things very differently, and even better. Look out for yourself, look out for others and take one day at a time.
Monitor and review how you are getting on
It is important to have regular check-ins with yourself (How am I coping? Could I do more to help stay mentally healthy?) and check-ins with your team members and manager (How are we working? Is there anything we could do differently to work better together?). This way you can address issues as they come up and start to plan and prepare for the journey through COVID-19 together.
Be mindful of those who may have been directedly affected or infected by this virus. Be supportive and check-in if a team member has had to deal with the illness or loss of a family member due to COVID-19. many of those in essential services have has to deal with unimaginable conditions from and emotional and psychological perspective. Many of them have brought these traumas home and family have had to deal as best they could. so be gentle and be kind with those who are struggling you may not know what they have has to deal with on the home front.
Everyone is finding their own path and things might not always go to plan. It is important to be kind to yourself and to be kind to others as we all find our way. Returning to work is not always easy, but having support can make a huge difference. If you are finding it difficult, ask a trusted colleague or friend to help you work through the questions and identify some concrete actions that you, or they, can take to help you.
I have Coached Over 200 Career Transitions — Here is A Routine That Helps People Bounce Back Faster
Losing your job takes a serious toll on your confidence and stirs up all kinds of unpleasant emotions.
Realistically though, it is likely that we’re going to face some kind of job loss or significant job change at one point or another in our careers. Sometimes this change reaches far beyond the scope of our individual control and comes as a surprise to us. The best we can do is be prepared to manage this adversity and take some time to focus on ourselves. I’ve worked through over 200 career transitions over the years – including a couple of my own (most have been my clients’). Self-care is critical to successfully getting through this time. Here are five ways I practiced self-care after I was laid off — and I think you should try this routine, too
Losing your job can often be a big shock to your system. Sometimes we know our organization is going through significant changes, but sometimes the change comes as a complete surprise. Whatever the case, when the change impacts you personally, it can really hurt and take a toll on your confidence.
Depending on who we are and how we react to things, we might become emotional as we react to the news. The best advice I can give here is to take a breath. If your employer is presenting you with a severance package, make sure you DO NOT sign anything in the heat of the moment. Take some time to review the severance package offer after you get over the initial shock factor that will inevitably happen.
Reach out to a friend or colleague that you trust and get their input. Lean on your support system and let your feelings out in this safe environment. You don’t want to be embarrassed by emotional, irrational behavior in front of your former employer. Save the insanity for close family and friends (lucky them).
For me, the pause was critical because getting laid off was a very emotional experience. Taking time to breathe allowed me to have a rational and professional discussion with my employer about severance.
I resolved the outstanding issues with my employer, A.S.A.P.
After the ‘pause’, it might still take you a few days to get your emotions back in check. Once you can get through thinking and discussing your new situation without bursting into tears or fuming in anger, set your sites on closing the loop on outstanding items with your employer.
For your own mental health, you’ve got to get the details resolved as quickly as possible. Having the details of a severance looming over you for days, weeks or months is simply exhausting. You owe it to yourself to get closure so you can move on.
In most cases, your employer should appreciate that this is an emotional situation and provide an appropriate deadline (a week or so) for you to get back to them on their offer of severance. If they don’t give you some time to get your act together, count your blessings that you no longer work for them.
So, you have done your due diligence in terms of reviewing the details and terms of the severance offer, now you need to respond to them. I always suggest having this conversation via email so everything is documented. Avoid the phone if you can it can muddy the waters. You also don’t know what might set off potential emotional outbursts. Make sure you get all of the details from your employer such as how and when the severance will be paid, what happens to your benefits, what happens to any sort of other company programs and any additional amounts owing. Get all the information that you can to minimize any need for follow up contact. You likely won’t want to talk to them again.
I didn’t try to find out why I was laid off.
I have heard people say time and time again that they need to understand why they have lost their job in order to move on. They want to know what they have done wrong, or how the employer decided that they should be the employee to exit.
The fact is, a lot of time, the reason that an employer provides a severance package for you is so that they don’t have to share this information with you. Quite frankly, it might even be none of your business, and part of some broader organizational plan.
For me, adopting an ‘I don’t need to know’ attitude was the key to self-care when I was laid off. What value is there in knowing the organization’s point of view, anyways? Would it really change the current situation? Probably not. If anything it would only serve to inflate your anger and frustration levels. So take time to make peace with the reality that you are out the door and see it as an opportunity rather than a set back.
I got into a routine.
I allowed myself some time to mourn the loss of my job. This is an important step many people seem to forget to do or chose not to do. Loosing a job is much like loosing a loved and the lose needs to be mourned. For me, this was the end of the longest-term relationship I had ever had. Grieving was important, but I set myself a deadline to be sad. I cried and moped, but only for a week. At the end of the week, I started into a routine.
It was summer and I wanted to take advantage of the time away from work and focus on the positives of being away from work. I got up every single morning and planned an outing with my little guy. Every day we were up and dressed. You’d be surprised how therapeutic getting up and going outside can be.
Getting into a new routine is critical to your career transition success. Part of establishing this routine was knowing what I would say when people asked ‘How’s work?’ I actually practiced my response so I could answer confidently without stumbling or feeling insecure.
I set an unemployment deadline.
While I only allowed myself a week to be sad about losing my job we all know the grieving process has no hard and fast deadline. The reality is that, sometimes, we have to work through the emotions of things , and that can take a while. While I wasn’t sitting at home and moping, I was still going through all the feelings of job loss. I wanted some time and space between that job and my next one. Since I was laid off in the summer, I set myself a deadline of autumn (fall) to get on a structured job hunt. Setting parameters and clear goals for myself were really key parts of my self-care and managing my overall mental health.
Job loss is hard. Period. There is no magic formula to work through the grieving process and there are no standard timelines. When it comes to self-care and job loss, you’ve got to take a moment to reflect what will work for you. Focus on those things that give you comfort, structure and a sense of purpose. It’s inside those things that you will find a transition process that is uniquely yours. On the other side of that transition is your future career success.