You get up on Monday morning with that sinking feeling that another week is in front of you and you have to get back to the grind.“There has to be something better,” you think. It’s not necessarily about wanting more money or a bigger title but rather, a general sense that the work you’re doing It’s not necessarily about wanting more money or a bigger title but rather, a general sense that the work you’re doing matters and is meaningful. Maybe you have a boss who never has a kind word to say or who barely recognizes your existence. Perhaps it’s an annoying co-worker who remarkably shows up at the most inconvenient times to gossip or asks for your help to finish a project that’s fallen behind. Or, maybe it’s plain boredom.
You brush away the thought telling yourself how good you have it yet the nagging sensation doesn’t go away. When you hear of a friend or colleague with a new job, a pang of jealousy starts messing with your self-esteem. And so it goes, from one Monday to the next. “I’d like to make a change,” you think, but you have no idea how to get started. Sound familiar? You’re not alone.
As a coach working with professionals in career transition, my clients have told me time and again that they hate the uncertainty that change brings. My client Joe, a biotech executive, felt paralyzed not knowing which way to turn when he learned his company was being acquired and his position eliminated. Instead of proactively preparing for his transition, Joe remained stuck waiting for the inevitable to happen.
Everyone knows that uncertainty is stressful. But what may not be so obvious is that uncertainty is more stressful than knowing what lies ahead, even when it’s negative has shown that we will go to great lengths to try to stay in control and do everything possible to regain control when we think we’re losing it.
So, if you’ve found yourself feeling that your feet are planted in cement when you consider making a job transition, know that mental gravity is working against you, and you’ll need to fight against it. Here are some steps you can take to build your confidence and get unstuck:.
1. Forget about finding your passion
How many times have you been asked, “what are you passionate about? Find your passion and career you love will follow.” The reality is that the vast majority of us don’t know what our passion is. In their book Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life, authors Burnett and Evans cite evidence that suggests 80% of us have no idea what we’re passionate about. This is because most of us have multiple interests and a passion develops after achieving mastery in something, not before. So, don’t beat yourself up for not having a passion or a clear direction. Expecting yourself to have the one perfect idea creates unnecessary pressure and leads to shutting down possibilities prematurely.
2. Pay attention to what’s working and what’s not instead of looking for a job
A common way to fill the void of uncertainty when considering a career change is to scour the internet for postings and apply for jobs. This is one of the most unhelpful actions you can take. Although it may make you feel that you’re doing something productive, sending in job applications when you’re not sure what you want is a scattershot approach that wastes precious time. Instead, keep a log of when you feel engaged, happy, and enjoying work and what you were doing during those times and the opposite, when you felt bored, frustrated or unhappy. Keep this journal for two to three weeks and you’ll begin to see a pattern emerge of what’s working for you and what’s not.
3. Reflect on peak experiences
When asked what we’re looking for in a job or career, we tend to answer with a job title or description. Joe, my client’s answer was that he was looking for a job like his last one, a VP of research in a biopharma company. The problem was that there are few of these roles in each company and his narrow definition caused him to overlook other possibilities such as consulting or starting his own company. Instead of thinking of your next career step as a title or list of responsibilities, ask yourself what work means to you and how you define good or worthwhile work? If you’re not sure, think back on past experiences that you’re especially proud of. What made those accomplishments so memorable? What role did you play in making it happen? Those memories of peak experiences stick with you for a reason. They are a treasure trove waiting to be mined to unearth the nuggets of meaning.
4. Reframe negative assumptions
Change brings out our inner critic. The critic that you allow to rent space in your head holds you back from not only making but contemplating reasonable changes. So, catch yourself making negative assumptions and reframe them. Here are some examples:
Negative thought — “No one will hire me. I’m too old.”
Reframe– “I have a lot of experience that less experienced employees will value.”
Negative thought — “I shouldn’t have majored in archaeology. I need a Ph.D. to get a job.”
Reframe — “75% of college grads work in a job unrelated to their major.”
These are some strategies to get you started and unstuck. If you have others that have worked for you, I’d love to hear about them. Please leave a comment to share with other readers.
If you are thinking about making a job or career transition and are not sure where to start, I’m offering FREE 15-minute coaching sessions for a limited time to help you get started. If you are interested, comment on this post or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.