7 tips to navigate your career changes
If you are at a career crossroads it can feel overwhelming. You might feel excited, but also scared and daunted by all the possibilities or the lack of possibilities. I’m there. I found out my colleague at work (a woman with virtually the same job) makes 47% more money than me, I’ve quit my job, I’ve started my own company.
I’m trying to live a life that embodies my values and priorities at work and at home. I’m trying to create a work-life balance that makes me happy.
I’m not going to lie though and say it’s easy. It’s hard to make a big life change. It’s hard to venture into the unknown. It’s hard to make life-changing decisions, even if you know it’s for the best.
So advice did I get that helped me through the challenges of career changes?
1) Be kind to yourself
Big career decisions are hard. Make sure your put your oxygen mask on first. Yes you have to take care of lots of other people, but you need to take care of yourself. You need to be kind to yourself. Have compassion with yourself.
2) Ease your mental load
For me the hardest part of big career decisions is that they consume some much of my brain energy that I let other things slip. This is a short-lived time in the grand scheme of things, so think about what you can put on hold to ease your mental load.
3) Start with big goals, a vision of the life you would like to create, think about what inspires and excites you
Go back to this over and over again. Know what the end goal is – what does your life look like when you are “successful”. Write it on a sticky note and put it somewhere where you will see it over and over again.
4) Figure our your fears and don’t let them take over
Recognize and acknowledge your fears, don’t hide from them or avoid them. Once you know what they are you can address them, figure out if they are realistic or irrational.
5) Reach out to people to get advice
When I was first thinking about leaving my job, I made a list of every person I could talk to. This worked for me after I got my PhD and I knew it could work for me again. At first I only had a couple of people on the list, but I quickly thought of people I don’t interact with regularly who I could reach out to. I also brought it up with people with whom I often have different interactions. For example, some of the women in my mom group offered incredible career advice. Once I started opening up, lots of people had new ideas and wanted to help. Before I knew it I didn’t feel as alone or isolated.
6) Talk to people who will challenge you and help you think outside of the box
We can get entrenched in our ways of thinking and our ideas of what is possible. This more narrow perspective limits us from fully understanding all of our options. When I was thinking of leaving my job, I had long lists of other organizations. I thought I was thinking outside of the box by including new industries. But then people started to challenge the idea that I had to work for a company at all. What if I started my own company?
7) Don’t rush to say yes to the first opportunity
Once I started reading all about women and leadership, I started seeing all of these situations where intelligent, successful women were saying yes to the first opportunity without fully exploring their options, then later regretted it. Be patient.
Being at a career crossroads is challenging. You are about to enter the unknown and that is scary. Fear holds us back from so many incredible things. This career crossroads is an opportunity to step back and assess your whole life. What do you want your life to look like? Then figure out the careers that will make that possible. It’s the challenging life events that push us to grow in new ways.