A recent Forbes article talks about ‘The Great Resignation’ (#TheBigShift) where experts are predicting that many people will shake up their careers as we emerge from the pandemic and economies improve.
If the last 18 months have taught us anything, it has shone the light on what’s important. As we take stock of where we are, what we want and who we want to become, it may well be a time of reinvention.
My career has been one of purposeful change and reinvention. I’ve left jobs without a certain future though I was sole provider for the family. I seized new opportunities for the unique experience they offered, such as working for a global organization, learning a new industry, or doing something completely different like recruitment. I’ve worked my way to earn a seat on a few Senior Leadership teams. And I’ve ventured out on my own as an entrepreneur three times now. My third, and most recent venture Fluency Leadership with my friend and colleague Colin Macrae, was launched bang smack in the middle of this pandemic!
People can mistakenly look at my career of change, advancement and reinvention as a well-planned, intentional march forward toward a certain destination. And nothing could be further from the truth.
It hasn’t been aimless. The through-line of my work has always been about helping people and organizations unlock potential and improve, but the path forward was always uncertain, unclear and fear-filled. When I reflected on my decision to be a solopreneur I was plagued with self-doubt. Could I do it? How would I do it? Was the risk of losing a steady paycheque too big? What if I failed? What if I couldn’t get clients? What if it wasn’t a good time and what if my family were left destitute? The ‘what ifs’ were endless, exhausting and pointless.
I made it through, had my ups and downs and overall, did well. And while the journey from idea to new reality always felt daunting, I always made it to the other side and was better for it.
If you are thinking about a career change or reinvention and are hesitant, unclear or nervous, here’s three lessons I’ve learned along the way and one valuable resource to guide you.
1. Don’t wait for certainty
We only have to look to the past year to know there’s no such thing as certainty. We want the comfort of certainty, but we can’t predict the future. Making decisions about our future requires clarity not certainty. And finding clarity isn’t easy. It takes work and action. It requires us to courageously step into the unknown to find the path. We can’t move forward by staying in our comfort zone and waiting for clarity to happen. There is no growth or change in the comfort zone.
What is one action you can take to get more clarity?
2. Navigate the Ambiguity
We don’t fear change, we fear ambiguity. I call ambiguity the fog, and every change requires us to walk through it. It’s a tough place to be. You can’t see what is in front of you. It’s wobbly, uncertain and uncomfortable. Your fears live in that fog; the what-ifs, should-haves, self-limiting beliefs and thoughts about failure and rejection.
Ambiguity is the danger zone. It stands between where we are now and the change we want to make. It’s where the journey begins, and the work of getting to clarity starts. And we have two choices: We can feel our way through the fog and fears, and ask ourselves the important questions like, “What do I want? What do I know to be true? And how can I get there?” Or we can retreat to the comfort zone – the status quo.
How ready are you for the change you want to make?
3. Pay attention to the whispers
All my career changes started with restlessness. A persistent whisper, an invisible nudge telling me that there was something else I needed to do. Somewhere else I needed to be. Where? What? I had no idea, but as the restlessness grew so did my motivation to explore it. Each move brought me closer to my purpose.
If you are where you are supposed to be, feeling energized, learning, growing and contributing then it’s probably not the time for change or reinvention. But if you are languishing in your status quo, second-guessing yourself, feeling stuck, under-whelmed under-utilized and under-valued, then it’s time for action and clarity. And the only way to get to clarity and make a change is to step into the fog and embrace it. When we ignore our intuition and play it safe, scared or small, we risk regretting our decisions, feeling unfilled or worse, having the change decision made for us.
What’s important to you? What do you want?
4. Design your life
My business partner Colin is a voracious advocate of Designing your Life, a book by Dave Evans and Bill Burnett…so much so that he’s also a certified Designing Your Life Coach. If you are thinking about career change and reinvention, this book provides insights on how you can apply design-based thinking to build your way forward and design a more purposeful, joyful and well-lived life. It’s practical, full of wayfinding tools and it’s what Colin used to shift gears and reinvent his own career, not once but twice. He sets up the framework and dives into the principles of design-based thinking in a blog titled “Can you design your life in these uncertain times?”
Courage is fear walking
A friend of mine shared a Susan David quote she came across that said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, courage is fear walking.” From my experience, that resonates. If we are waiting for fear to dissipate before making change, we simply won’t progress.
Ambiguity and change are two sides of the same coin. You can’t have one without the other. If we want change in our lives, we must embrace our fears and the fog.
And here’s the good news. Eventually the fog always lifts and when it does, we become clear and closer to our true purpose.
So, what’s nudging you?
What’s the change you want to make?
What are you willing to risk for a more purposeful life?
A coach can serve as an excellent thinking partner as you take this journey. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how to get a coach.