Starting over in a new career is personal for me. After 20 years in the film industry, I was aging out of the profession, struggling to find work. Despite a focused effort at seeking job opportunities, and making use of a high-profile network of colleagues and friends, I couldn’t get hired. With my sense of self worth seeping into a puddle, it was the most uncomfortable time of my life. Here’s the good news. Being uncomfortable is an essential component to career change, and the more uncomfortable, the better.
HOW BADLY DO YOU WANT IT?
If you’re considering a career change, which of these scenarios sounds most familiar?
You’ve been at your job for awhile. Years ago, it was a good fit. Now it’s no longer satisfying. It doesn’t align with your passion or reflect your true self. But there are perks beyond a regular paycheck, like a bit of prestige, flexible hours, and if you’re really lucky, you can bring your dog to work.
Your workplace is a toxic environment. You’re not respected or valued enough. Management takes advantage of your innate sense of responsibility. It’s overwhelming and exhausting trying to get through the day. The job is taking a toll, emotionally and physically.
You’ve lost your job, and your identity is tanking. You’re strapped for cash to pay the bills. The stress is keeping you up at night, and your days are pretty lousy too.
If you answered 2 or 3, I’m sorry for your pain. I’ve lived your pain. But there’s a silver lining. Your discomfort makes it more likely you’ll rise to the challenge of starting over and succeeding in a new career. Scenario 1 responders, you can start over too. Ask yourself: on a scale from 1- 10, am I truly ready to disrupt the status quo?
HOW WILLING ARE YOU TO LEARN SOMETHING NEW?
While I was stalling out looking for work, it finally dawned on me that as a job candidate, I had structural flaws. The growing gap in my resume was hard to explain, and because I’d run my own business for years, I didn’t have the typical linear job progression that employers prefer. When I applied for less senior positions, HR was afraid I’d get bored. The rejections were pouring in. And then one day, I caught a break. During lunch with a friend who described a new coaching training he’d enrolled in, I had an epiphany. In a flash, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I’d become a Career Coach to guide people through their own work transitions. That hard-earned revelation would require my becoming a student again and going back to school. To get accredited as a coach, I had to take classes, write papers, do well on oral and written exams, and along the way, be okay about feeling clumsy during the steep learning curve. Being uncomfortable with the status quo made me eager to dive in.
In order to change careers, you’ll need to develop some different skills. And if you’ve been at a job for a long time and have gotten used to feeling confident with your tasks at work, this can be an adjustment. But if you stick with it, surrendering to the toddler phase of learning something new is humbling, character building, mind expanding, resume enhancing and deeply rewarding.
HOW GOOD IS YOUR SUPPORT TEAM?
To maintain the stamina for career change, you’ll need to BELIEVE that it’s possible. If you were born with an unbending sense of optimism, maybe you can power through the change on your own. But you’ll have a better chance for success if there are people in your orbit who support your new endeavor and hold you accountable. Charles Duhigg in his book The Power of Habit, makes a compelling case for the BELIEF in change as a critical ingredient in achieving goals. Community really matters here. Whether that community is one loyal friend who you can frequently turn to or a group of like-minded folks with whom you’re walking down a similar path, encircle yourself with people to keep you buoyed during moments of doubt. Career change is filled with ups, downs, more downs and ups, and then the cycle repeats. Having a reliable cheerleader (or several) will calm the jitters and keep you on track.
HOW TO GET STARTED
These days, I’m grateful to be propelled by a clear purpose, even if it was a long journey to get there. If you’re committed to starting over in a new career, get comfortable with discomfort, whether it’s the uncertain path ahead or the clunkiness of learning a trade. Surround yourself with supportive people who’ll help you believe in your goals. Start today with baby steps. YOU CAN DO THIS!