You’ve finally decided to change your career. It takes all your energy to stay focused until you leave your current position.
While you’re excited with the prospect of moving forward, there’s a good chance you’re also feeling anxious, and a little bad to be leaving (think loyalty) – unless the decision to move on wasn’t yours.
Either way, taking your leave gracefully is paramount. Why? – For many reasons.
Making a clean break with as little emotional baggage as possible is top of the list.
Leaving with the lingering feeling you’ve angered or frustrated a co-worker or employer never feels good. You’re going to need as much positive and focused energy to be successful in your new career.
Whether you’re leaving of your own volition or not, your self-respect deserves to stay intact. Either way, reflecting on what you gave to the position and company will shed light on the value you’ve brought to the company. It’ll also give you the chance to understand what’s best left behind and what’s most important to take with you (hint: a negative outlook should be left and confidence should go with you).
Trust is the second (and as important) reason to be graceful. Your current employer relied on you to bring your professional skills and effort to the company. A graceful exit is your final commitment.
How exactly do you change careers gracefully? The following do’s and don’ts list seems so obvious! Unfortunately, too few career changers get this right:
- Prepare a story to explain your career change. Making your leave about you and your future prevents others from creating assumptions.
- Give the company your all – no “checking out” in the months preceding your departure. Your current employer is paying you to give 100% so keep your end of the bargain.
- Ask for a reference letter from your supervisor at least a week before you leave the company.
- Don’t commit to staying in touch if you have no plans to follow through. While it’s true that once we leave a company we may be quickly forgotten, it’s still a commitment you’ll be expected to live up to.
- Be thoughtful in your exit interview with your supervisor or HR representative. Giving constructive feedback on the work and company culture is far more productive and gracious than giving negative comments on individuals.
- Leave with your work handed off to your successor or team and your desk/office tidy.
- Don’t take any documents or company owned materials.
- No badmouthing your employer or other staff during and after your exit. Period.
- Thank those who’ve most supported you in your current career – managers, colleagues or direct reports.
- Wait until you’ve left your job to update your LinkedIn and other social media profiles.
A graceful leave shows others you live by your values. You’ll be able to close this chapter feeling confident, inspired and ready to start anew.
Next stop. Check out Charlotte Seager’s great post, 6 Tips on How to Make a Successful Career Change.
In the meantime, gracefully exiting from where you are now will likely pay off in spades as you embark on your new career.
Lately I’ve had a spate of clients who struggle with understanding why their current position isn’t satisfying them anymore. They know something isn’t right but are caught in the “can’t see the forest for the trees”. They may even know something needs to change but through fear, stress or loyalty, they are stuck.
I know the feeling – I’ve been there. I never aspired to work in the public sector, but there I found myself. We had two young children and my husband starting his own business. Pension, benefits and a regular paycheck were my WHY.
It worked brilliantly for a long time – until it didn’t. This didn’t happen overnight. As my children got older I started to question my values and aspirations. My values weren’t lining up with the company’s culture.
In retrospect I can see that my original WHY was no longer working for me. But at the time I was caught up with the stress, the loyalty and no idea for my future.
My story isn’t unique. What I’ve learned is that as we move through life, our context changes and for many of us, we don’t recognize the need to change with it. Simply put, as we change, so too might our WHY.
Let’s take a closer look at what your WHY really means.
Basically your WHY is your motivation. It’s your purpose. For many of us it can be strongly influenced by our external context at a point in time.
I researched articles and studies on how motivation (your WHY) impacts your work and job choices. I’m intrigued by the work of Lisa A. Mainiero and Sherry E. Sullivan, whose research focused on a five-year study examining women and men’s career patterns. Their term Kaleidoscope Career describes:
“…a career created on your own terms, defined not by a corporation but by your own values, life choices, and parameters. Like a kaleidoscope, your career is dynamic and in motion; as your life changes, you can alter your career to adjust to these changes.”
Their work found that a complex interplay among issues of authenticity, balance, and challenge are behind why we shift careers through our life course. It’s about taking stock of career decisions and making changes to meet:
1. An individual’s needs for challenge, career advancement, and self-worth juxtaposed against
2. A family’s need for balance, relationships, and caregiving, intersected by
the person’s need to say,
3. “What about me?” “How can I be authentic, true to myself and make genuine decisions for myself in my life?”
While Mainiero and Sullivan found subtle differences between how men and women approached their career shifts, ultimately it’s the shifting context of their lives that impacts their need to change course.
So what does this mean for your career? And even more important – what does it mean for YOU?
If you’re like many of my clients who come to me disenchanted with their current work, it’s time to assess what’s beneath this feeling. It takes a bit of inner work and reflection, coupled with honestly assessing your current life context.
Here are steps to help you discover what exactly is going on and how to move forward:
1. Get clear on how you’re feeling and behaving – are you irritable, bored, stuck or blaming your discomfort on your workplace? These are key signs something’s up.
2. Make a list of your top 10 values. Ask yourself if these align with your work and your workplace. A strong misalignment is a sure sign it’s time to move on.
3. Reflect back on why you started on this career or took your current position. What were your reasons?
4. Consider what’s different in your current life stage and context?
With this data, you can look at your situation from the outside in. Has your original motivation for career or job choice become stale? Is your passion to excel and deliver still ignited?
Next is the critical question – what exactly is your WHY now?
If it’s the same reason it’s always been, then great. This may mean it’s time to shift companies or reach forward to a new level.
But if your WHY has shifted, it’s time to make a plan toward aligning your WHY with a career change. I can’t tell you what that would be. It’s yours to discover. What I can do is suggest next steps.
Google has pages of blogs, how-to’s and articles on mid career changes. I’d highly recommend working with a career coach. They have tools and roadmaps to help you uncover potential opportunities and plan next steps. Talk with family to understand how this will impact your status quo (i.e. financial, location, time etc.) will help solidify your plan.
We’ve all heard the saying, “you only live once”. But that one life shifts and changes over time. What worked well in our twenties and thirties won’t necessarily fulfill us in our late forties and fifties. Being aware of your WHY and assessing that against your current reality means taking responsibility for you, your career and your future. If this article describes you, it’s time to discover your next chapter!
This I do know for sure.
The biggest reactions I see in clients facing change are fear and eroded confidence. We could debate that the notion that lack of confidence fuels the fear, but really, what does it matter? The fact is that change brings out two emotions we’d all rather keep under wraps.
When a major shift is staring you in the face, you can either run for the hills, face it head on or take a step back and assess what it’ll take for you to understand it, know it, accept it and embrace it?
Tons has been written, researched and TedTalk’ed about change. So, bear with me as I give you a slightly different way to approach it.
We can learn a lot from corporate change management practices. These are designed to mitigate the discomfort and maximize success of large transformation initiatives. There are variations in change management models, but what they share is a structured and intentional approach. It starts with knowing the “why” of the change and turning that into a compelling story. It ends with measuring the success of and sustaining the new reality.
- Make the case for change
- Identify resources
- Build champion coalitions
- Scope the change
- Communicate the message
- Assess the cultural landscape
- Prepare for the unexpected
- Face resistance
- Sustain the change
Knowing this planned approach is used for wholesale corporate shifts, what if I say, “In order to manage what’s coming ahead, what if you take this structured and intentional approach to your impending change?” It’s likely you’d say “huh?”
And you’d be right to be quizzical. After all, we so often wait until things happen and then react. Think about the last time major change happened to you and the amount of energy you gave away by facing it without a game plan? And let me guess – the resulting experience brought up fear and a strip off your confidence?
So let’s tackle this by applying what the OD (Organizational Development) experts do for wholesale change in companies. Let’s say you switch positions within the same company. You know it’s coming. Your not convinced it’ll be successful even though senior management is behind your transfer.
Let’s follow the change management best practices above to set you up for change success:
- Making the case for change – get clear on why you’ve been chosen for a new position. What expertise or attitude makes you the choice? Does it make sense? Do you even want the position? If not, ask senior management for more information. At the end of the day, you have to own the why.
- Identifying resources – what do you need to make the shift and be a success? This can be anything from bringing your administrative support along with you, to a closer parking spot (no harm in asking)
- Building champion coalitions – Figure out who in senior management is gunning for this change. Think of them as your new mentor(s) and keep them close for support down the line.
- Scoping the change – Is this a long-term assignment? Does it come with specific deliverables etc.?
- Communicating the message – What is your self-talk telling you? Is it giving you red flags? Do you need to ask for more information? Pay attention and keep asking questions to get to the bottom of any hesitation.
- Assessing the cultural landscape – Does this opportunity align with your vision, values, ethics and beliefs? Will the position be a “good fit”?
- Listening – Avoid making assumptions by paying attention to how this change will play out for others (family, co-workers, executive etc.).
- Preparing for the unexpected – How will you protect yourself against what you don’t know yet?
- Facing resistance – Listen to your own intuition and let it guide you safely forward – even if it means turning the position down.
- Sustaining the change – How will you know when this has been a successful transition? What will that look like?
You’re on the path toward change. You’ve prepared, anticipated and asked the right questions. You’ve turned the unknowns into concrete information. Little is being left to chance. So how is your fear level now? Do you feel ready to step up? If not, go back to the best practices list and look for gaps or niggly bits that still don’t make sense.
For most of us, change isn’t a picnic. But it is part of life and sometimes we don’t have a lot of choice but to move with it. The point here is not to reach 100% buy-in; it’s to do the best preparation possible to set yourself up for success.
And if you need help, reach out to me at eveofchange.
My question is why do you need to ask such a question? Glib perhaps and we could end the blog right there, but let’s talk about this.
I heard this question from a friend in a large corporate company. Apparently it’s stuck with me.
The way this question is posed makes it seem like the asker is looking to someone else (or the universe) for the answer. If that’s the case, then I’d say you probably have less than 10% chance it is this year, or any year.
A while ago I wrote a blog, Your Career, Your Responsibility. If there’s one thing I learned as a senior manager, it’s that no one is going to hand you a promotion or dream job, nor does the company owe you a thing.
So let’s pretend I’m coaching a client and we’ll call her Clare. She asks, “Is this the year for my promotion?” I let the silence hang for a moment and I repeat the question back to her. Only this time I phrase it, “Is this the year of your promotion?” – with an emphasis on “is”.
Taken aback, she spews a laundry list of why it’s her turn, how she deserves this and that so-and-so got promoted last year. I let her rant for a moment. Silence again.
“What will it take YOU to be promoted?”
It was so quiet I heard the light bulb go on in Clare’s head. In that moment she realized if anyone was going to boost her on the career ladder, it could only be her.
Okay, by now you’re likely wondering where is this all going? We’re into the new fiscal by several months and chances are if you work in government or corporate, this is when the yearly planning happens. Performance plans are laid, budgets set and re-organizations planned.
This is also the time for the Clares of the business world to reset their career path. If a promotion is the desired objective, then here are the key things Clare and others must do for themselves:
- Take an environmental scan of the business and industry. Is it growing or stagnant? What are the corporate priorities? Where are the job growth opportunities? Understand the current and five year context.
- Ask for informal chat sessions with a senior leader and/or HR Director within your organization. Take an interviewing approach to mine their perspectives on current needs and culture of the organization. Focus on them, not you. It will give you good insights, and let them know you are committed and invested in the organization.
- Pull out your past performance reviews and any psychometric personality assessments you’ve done. Start doing research on yourself. Take a dispassionate look and ask: What are this person’s strengths? Do these and their skills match their current position? What would they need to do to develop gaps in their leadership? Are there potential new areas of work they could evolve into?
- Mind map all the information gathered so far. Grab an empty sheet of paper and get scribbling. See what comes up – a straight path upward, a lateral detour to get new insights and experience, or a run for the elevator?
- Decision time. Is there likely to be openings in your current organization that match your path? If so, then stay close to home and jump on job postings when they’re published. If opportunities are stagnant, the decision to look farther afield is obvious. So get networking and suss out where the lights in the cracks are. This means reaching out to friends, former colleagues and even cold calling people in organizations that just may be expanding.
- Don’t just dust off the old resume – re-craft it! Nothing smells like an old running shoe than a resume written for your current job. Let’s face it, with the onset of social media, how we write about who we are and what special talents we have has changed. Google resume writing and click only on blogs written since 2016. Follow the recipe.
- Like the running shoe says – just do it! The bottom line is (in case you haven’t figured this out yet) you are responsible for your next career move. Promotions don’t come to those who wait; promotions come to those who go after them. So what’s stopping you?
There you have my seven steps to getting your promotion. But wait, there’s one more. Be really honest with yourself; do you have what it takes for the next step? Not sure? Then go back to step two for feedback from those who see your current performance, and ask for what you need to develop to move ahead. Listen carefully and act upon what they tell you.
The paradox is that just because you want the promotion, doesn’t mean you’re ready for it. But if you know you are, it’s up to you to make it happen!
Have you ever found yourself desperate to find and move to a new position or career? Or you’ve been let go (outplaced) and need to find your next corporate home? The pressure is on. You start applying for everything under the sun. You’re sure the “right fit” is just around the corner.
Whoa! What you might really need is a time out. And I don’t mean taking a holiday or battening the hatches.
I can’t tell you the number of clients who’ve found themselves in this spot. And, more importantly, they share one thing in common. In their frantic quest, what they don’t realize is they’re doing more harm than good to themselves.
Let me explain. Ever heard the expression, “I can smell a rat a mile away?” Well, there are two things prospective employers can smell right away in a candidate: low confidence and desperation. Yup, walk into an interview with either odor and you may as well walk right back out the door.
Heck, the best piece of advice I got when I lost my job was, “Don’t even think about applying for positions, let alone search the want ads for at least a few months. You aren’t the best version of yourself right now, so wait until you can bring your best to an interview.”
Here’s the truth: nobody wants to hire someone who has a current dip in their confidence, no matter what the reason. Nor do they want to work with someone desperate. Not that there’s anything bad about being earnest, but desperation tends to make others suspicious.
Moving from one job to another means cleaning up your last job – be it emotional, spiritual or a whole lot of paper to be shredded – and moving forward with clarity, positivity and an open heart. You just can’t take your baggage with you.
So what does it take to realize you are in one or both emotional states and what do you need to do to get past them and job-hunt ready? Remember those clients I mentioned? I’ll tell you exactly what they did.
First, they listened to me asking them to listen to themselves. They discovered their self-talk was less than compassionate and kind.
I asked how they thought they’d appear to prospective employers? For most, it doesn’t take long to get an “aha” – meaning they may not be putting forward the best version of themself.
Net we reacquaint them with their strengths, talents and gifts. We all need to be reminded of how we make the world a better place. Then we move into readjusting their expectations of time. Getting the next job isn’t going to happen right away.
This whole process is done within the construct of coaching (check out my Essential C process). The clients do the work; they have everything they need to figure it all out. I just help steer them to a place where they can clean up and put away any outstanding issues while reminding them they’re capable, experienced and have much to offer.
I know this sounds easy but it takes courage and a lot of self-reflection to move from here to there. Especially since for most of us, identity and self-worth are tied with our work.
I use a metaphor with my clients. It goes like this: when we’re feeling low and all consumed (as we are when our confidence is low and desperation high) we look downward. I’ll ask the client to look up and over the fence toward the horizon. Practicing this throughout the day opens up their chest, breathing and vantage point. It moves them from being an isolated island to being part of something bigger. It’s called perspective.
I know the client is ready to put all their hard work into action when I see them look up at me and I hear “I can do this”.
They can move ahead realistically and with sureness. Having an open attitude improves their chances of finding the “right fit” position.
To recap, if you find yourself lacking in confidence and over the brim with desperation, here are 7 steps to move you from the sour odor of despair to the scent of a front runner:
1. Check if your self-talk is negative, self-sabotaging or unrealistic.
2. Think about how a prospective employer would view you should you interview with them today. Who and what would they see?
3. Talk with a trusted friend or family member about how you view your situation. Or hire a coach to guide and be your champion.
4. Think back to a time you were in a job you enjoyed. What made you successful? Write down the skills, attitude, and service you brought to that position (only the positive ones). Read the list every single day.
5. Take an athlete’s mindset. Set a realistic time frame – like several months – before you start applying for positions. Use the time to train to be successful again.
6. Practice lifting your head and noticing things around you everyday. Whether at home alone or in a crowd of people, notice what is going on way over there.
7. When you hear your own voice say, “I’m good. I’ve got this”, you’re ready to go and create your future.
So go ahead and put on your best scent – you’ve got this!
How to turn failure into growth
Not long ago, I was chatting with a colleague about what it’s like to lose a job. With a big smile and chuckle she said “everyone should get fired at least once in their life.” I laughed back, realizing she’s absolutely right!
Sure, getting fired is lousy and can be devastating. Not having control to make the decision to leave or stay in your job can be a hard pill to swallow. Whether it was due to restructuring or it wasn’t the right fit. But (yes there’s a big But), it can provide an enormous opportunity if you let it.
Here are 5 ways to get the best out of getting fired:
1. Learn from your experience – What will you take with you and what can you discard? This takes deep reflection on understanding what worked well in your job and what didn’t. Is it your perception on your performance, your relationship with your superior, colleagues or your staff? Or could it be your work habits or skill set and if they was used to potential? And what are your values? Did they line up with the organization you were in?
2. Learn not to give all of yourself away –Many of us go through our days knowing things may not be perfect but fall into the trap of, “if I just work harder.” Do you tend to give work your absolute and leave nothing on the table other parts of your life? Remind yourself that you are not your work – it’s just one aspect of your abundant life. This is an opportunity to evaluate how you spend your time and energy, including how you prioritize family, friends, interests and even yourself.
3. Take time to discover exactly what you’re meant to do with your life – Deeply reflect on what brings you passion and rediscover the gifts you bring to the world. It may not come instantly, so notice when you’re happiest. What little things that bring you joy? Ask yourself what situations, events or jobs have given you meaning and opportunities to express your passion?
4. Take back the control to make your own decisions – The decision to leave your job wasn’t yours. Now you have the chance to choose your next step. It may be researching and choosing companies that you want to work with. It could be deciding to start your own business or perhaps taking time-out. The important thing is that you get to decide. Redefining your goals and direction goes a long way in building your confidence and starting you on your right path.
5. Learn what’s important to you and what isn’t – When we’re in a job that’s taking up our energy the tendency is to focus entirely on that. Now’s the time to reassess your values. These guideposts are critical in helping you figure out your next step. If being of service takes precedence over making money, your next venture should align with that value. If you value optimum time with family, a job that requires your availability 24/7 may not be best. It’s all about getting the right fit, so ensure you have clarity on what’s essential for you.
These are opportunities to take back your power, be in charge and make your own decisions. The best advice I got when I was let go from my job was to take time to sort through all my feelings and thoughts so I could be open to change and new opportunities. Be compassionate with yourself as healing needs to happen before you can move forward.
The challenge of failure is truly where we gain our greatest advantage.
Getting fired is no picnic, but it does provide a huge opportunity for personal and professional growth. And yes, everyone should go through it once in their career.
Let us know in the comments below how you turned this adversity into success.