Let’s be real here. For many of us, career change is a seriously scary thing.
Usually, the first time I meet with a client, they aren’t in a great way.
For some time, they have known that they have outgrown their existing career and yet it has felt far too scary or too stressful to make a career change. So by the time we meet, they are at the end of their tether.
Our first session usually involves letting off some steam and maybe some tears as they finally get the chance to hear themselves think and give themselves permission to share their frustrations and concerns.
Making a career transformation often means leaving all that is familiar behind and stepping into an uncertain and unpredictable world, where there are loads of unknowns…
‘Can I really make a decent living doing something new?’
‘Better the devil you know, at least I am familiar with law/accountancy/retail’
‘Will anyone really take me seriously? Compared to people who have been in this profession forever, how can I convince an interviewer to give me a chance at doing something different?’
I’ve heard all this and more. And I’ve seen dozens of people take on the challenge of finding themselves a more rewarding career. And it isn’t easy. Like any transformation, a career change will take energy, drive, commitment, focus and can be bleeding hard work!
So how do you know that it’s time for a change and that you are ready to take on the challenge of making a career transformation?
Here’s my top ten that is time for a career change.
1. It is making you ill
Warning number one. If the pressure, the working style or the sense of not fitting in is starting to impact your physical health, this is a clear and huge red flag that something needs to change.
No paycheck is worth killing yourself over and recognizing that even your body is on red alert should be a clear signal that action needs to be taken.
Sometimes this can be remedied by simply asking for help, so please, never suffer in silence.
2. You cry or can’t sleep on Sunday nights
This is the emotional red flag. If you are feeling overly stressed, anxious, angry or are finding yourself in tears and dreading going in of a Sunday night, then it is clear that work is not working.
We spend a lot of time at work. You deserve to feel good about it. A simpler and lower paid job without the terror may be needed. Health is priceless.
3. You are slacking off
If a good part of your day is spent in hibernation – in the loos, in useless meetings, wandering around outside, this is probably an indication that you are disengaged.
In many environments, this will not go unnoticed and may have a serious impact on your personal brand. In organisations that don’t even notice you are missing, one can become depressed and alienated by the lack of purpose.
If you have got to the point of turning up late, leaving early and no one seeming to care, it may well be time to think about what a truly fulfilling working day might look and feel like.
4. You feel embarrassed when people ask what you do
If you feel the need to gloss over what you do in the company or someone asking about your work prompts a coughing fit or a blushing inferno, this may be the nudge you need.
Who wants to spend their working life feeling shamed by their profession? If you feel the need to apologise for what you do, this is a sure indicator of a clash between your sense of self and the work you do.
Our work is closely connected to our identity, we see it as a reflection of who we are and what we stand for. Really, it’s time for a career transformation now!
5. You just don’t care anymore
Over and over again, engagement research points to the fact that people want to feel that their work matters. That is important and meaningful to them.
Luckily, we all have unique definitions of what is interesting and meaningful. I love to write and research and perhaps you love to crunch data and draw insights from them.
It may be that your role has changed in ways that mean you are no longer working in your area of interest and skill. Or perhaps you drifted into a new area that doesn’t really suit your passions. Or worst of all, you have just lost your mojo. What used to fill you with wonder now fills you with ‘meh’. You’ve grown out of the ambitions and aspirations of your firm or organization.
I’m of the view that you have to care to do a good job. So if you don’t….
6. That’s Success, really?
We all have our own values that determine who we are and what matters to us. Within these, are our definitions of ethics, the right thing to do and our definitions of a good or successful working life.
Sometimes, we are in the right career, but the culture and definitions of success in your organization just aren’t striking a cord.
This is usually a leadership issue, as leaders set the tone in their organisations.
If you cringe when you hear about the latest initiative, product or target or you get super mad every time you share a customer experience with someone back home, it might be time to move on to pastures new.
7. You just can’t seem to see your future where you are
Perhaps you do enjoy what you do. You have made good progress and mastered a range of transferable skills. You might work with people you truly respect.
The only problem is, for one reason or another, there just doesn’t seem room for you to grow.
Maybe the hierarchy is very flat, maybe the culture is so great that no one ever leaves, maybe there is a recruitment freeze, maybe your boss doesn’t want you wandering off to conduct yet another side project.
So often, my clients have wonderful jobs but they’ve just outgrown what’s available. Sometimes you have to leave the nest to make your next move.
8. You’re doing it for Mom’n’Pop
At dinner parties, your parents puff with pride as they recount your achievements to their friends. Or they are always asking you about how your career is going in a way that feels like they are more invested than you are.
The vast majority of parents just want us to be safe and happy. And they do this the best way that they can. But sometimes we end up living the life they longed for or the life they think we should live, rather than the one we want.
Your parents gave you the enormous gift that is your life. It is part of the rites of passage into adulthood for you to learn to claim that life. This includes letting go of the dreams they have for you and stepping into actioning dreams of your own.
9. Square peg in a round hole
You can’t quite put your finger on it, but somehow, you just don’t fit. Maybe when you pipe up in meetings others look on in confusion, perhaps your colourful work outfits stick out in a sea of grey and black or maybe, like me at the Home Office, your efforts to bring in a different way of thinking about issues that matter to you, is met with a very firm ‘talk to the hand’.
Feeling misunderstood and unwelcome is crippling to the confidence. And the size and scale of a firm mean they are very unlikely to change. And why should they? It’s definitely a case of ‘It’s not you, it’s me.” I’ve watched clients make even a small career change and flourish again, almost overnight.
10. Family and Friends Fatigue
Put simply, everyone around you knows how much you hate your job, your boss, your hours, your working culture. They are starting to skirt the subject of work because they know it may lead to a bit of eye rolling, ranting or heavy sighing. You feel oppressed and trapped and so it’s hard for you to say nothing, but you know you bring a bit of a bore.
If you are vigorously nodding at 4 or more of these factors, you definitely need a career transformation so perhaps we ought to talk.
When did you need a career change? What were the warning signs?