Did you lose your power to shift careers and how can you reclaim it?
In all my years working with career changers, I have seen the same theme play over every time, with infinite variations. I fell into it too, more than once. It goes like this.
You are unhappy with what you do for work, or you quit/were laid off. Being unemployed might feel terrifying or might come as a huge relief. You think you should find something else fast, but you do not want to continue with or get back to doing the same work.
You are not sure what to pursue next.
If you are still unhappily employed (or running your own business), you keep telling yourself you should get out now, find something else, explore your options, take the leap. And yet you still hang on to the same unhealthy situation, postponing the time you will make a move. There is always a reason - especially now! Sometimes you even think to yourself that things are not that bad after all...
Or if you just got out of a bad situation, you alternate between spending hours looking for a new job online - and feeling no open position excites you or is a good fit - and thinking you need some time to work on yourself and figure things out before jumping into something new.
No matter what you are up to, when it comes to changing careers your mind always goes back to the same challenges. Here are three that I see a lot - but there are of course others.
How will you make as much money as you want/need?
What is going to happen if you don't?
You are sure that no one will pay you well enough if you pursue doing what you love. In some cases, you might feel it's wrong to be paid for doing something you enjoy.
These and other thoughts keep you awake. Money feels like the biggest obstacle you will have to face if you want to shift careers. If anyone asked you, you'd say money doesn't matter, and yet, if you are really honest about it, you are constantly worried about your next paycheck, your income, what you can do to make a living, your financial goals.
It's money or your happiness. Argh...
And back to browsing job posts you go. Or back to work, even when you can't stand it anymore.
Feeling "Not Enough"
If I asked you to, you could make me a list of all the skills you lack, all the stuff you don't know how to do, all the experience you don't have.
You find yourself thinking back at specific decisions you made: you should have quit sooner, you should have known that was a red flag during the interview process, you should have not studied [insert your major here], you should have studied [insert hot new major here], you should have saved more, you...this list never ends.
The more you think about it, the more you get stuck, going back and forth on questions such as:
Should I go back to school? What about the cost?
Am I too old? Too inexperienced? Too....?
Are there even jobs I am qualified for?
How crazy is it to think about quitting? It could be so much worse...
There is a kind of stuckness that comes with fear. Sometimes you don't even realize it is fear, you just feel tired, or you feel you don't know what you like. The more caught up in your own inactivity and lack of action, the less you feel anything is possible. This is a vicious circle and unless you start taking actions, you are bound to feel more and more stuck.
You say to yourself or anyone who would listen that you have no idea what you want to do. You can give plenty of reasons as to why working for someone else is the worst idea ever, the economy is bad, starting a business is impossible because you lack capital...instead of feeling your fear, you feel things are out of reach or too hard or overwhelming.
How does it feel? Really. Check in with yourself. How's your energy level? Do you feel a sense of hope and resourcefulness? Or do you feel even more crushed by the weight of all you should do/have/be just by reading this list?
How do such negative feelings impact your ability to shift careers?
See, we all invariably get pulled into one or many of the above thought patterns...and it rarely works out. And even when it does, it often does not last long. That's because as long as we outsource our happiness to something outside of ourselves (whether money, validation, or circumstances outside of our control), we lose touch with what wants to come through us, what we have a deep yearning for, what makes us truly happy, what helps us shift careers.
Just as in all my years working with career changers I saw variations of the same thinking patterns that keep people stuck, I have also observed the shifts that make individuals able to find a job or create a business that fulfills them. As you begin to explore changing careers, I invite you to focus on making a shift from feeling powerless to (re)connecting, to your own resourcefulness.
Here's one way to notice when you are spiraling down and outsourcing your career happiness, so you can refocus and reverse the trend: notice when you start giving your power away.
Notice when you tell yourself that if only you had something else, or someone's approval, your troubles would be over. This pattern can show up as persistent (inner) talk such as:
Will my parents finally approve of me?
Will the company like me enough to hire me?
What should I do?
Everytime you give your power to someone or something outside of you, you end up feeling disempowered. The way to get out of that is to bring your power back where it belongs: inside. That's one of the steps to reclaim your career direction.
Here are some questions to shift your focus from outside to inside, so you can start (re)connecting to your powerful and resourceful Self, and shift careers.
There is a special kind of peace that comes to you when your words, thoughts, and actions are in alignment. When exploring what to do next, focus on finding or creating a career that allows you to be in alignment with your Self.
- Would the job/profession/business you are considering provide fertile soil for your alignment?
- Do you have a practice to tune in and sense when you are getting disconnected from your deepest Self?
- Do you share what you truly care about when you share your work experience or during the interview process?
- How can you vet a boss, team and organization to make sure you would be doing work aligned with your values?
While we all need to avoid toxic workplace environments, what works can be slightly different from individual to individual. Alongside looking for openness, a growth mindset and flexibility, it's good to get to know yourself and what relational dynamics inspire the best in you.
- What quality of relationships would you like to experience with your supervisors, coworkers, the people you manage? Or with your clients, business partners, investors?
- Do you prefer to work as part of a team or alone?
- How much collaboration and interaction work best for you?
- How do people at the company you are considering to join relate to each other?
- What kind of manager has been most helpful in your growth as a professional or as a leader in your own right?
- What kind of leader would you like to be?
- Does the company you are considering joining value the same type of leadership that you appreciate?
Ah money, and we've come full circle. Money can make life a lot easier: from covering basic needs to being able to travel and buy fun things, having money definitely beats struggling financially. But if you have ever made a lot of money while being utterly miserable, you also know that money cannot bring you happiness if you spend most of your time doing work you hate. This really became apparent to me not only when my financial situation dramatically changed, but also as I worked with more and more clients looking to shift careers.
So an important step in shifting from a feeling of disempowerment around your finances to hope and possibility is to focus on a holistic approach to money making: you want to make money and you want to enjoy how you do it. Always remember to put that and there. If you get pulled into binary thinking, feeling stuck between doing what you love and making a good living, ask yourself:
- How can I do what I love and make money?
- How can I negotiate a salary of [insert your desired number]?
- Who values and pays well for what I love to contribute?
In other words move from thinking about the problem to coming up with solutions.
You are not stuck in an endless loop of compromising your career happiness to survive. You don't need to spend years feeling miserable at a job or running a business that leaves you feeling empty inside. You can shift out of this feeling of disempowerment and reclaim your career direction. Once you bring your power back in, you will find you have within you more energy, drive, and joy that seemed possible just a few months ago.
And you will be better equipped to take the action needed to shift careers.