New Career, New You: How To Navigate A Career Change

For many of us, work takes up a large portion of our life. Therefore, it’s natural that we tend to adopt our work as part of who we are. We say things like, “I am a lawyer” or use the term “we” when referring to the company we work for. But, what happens if you’re not passionate about what you do? When you’re not happy with how you spend your days? When you realize that maybe you don’t want to be, do, or work for X?

When this happens, things can get tricky. We’re not quite sure of who or where we’d be without our job title.

I know this from personal experience as well as from working with clients going through career transitions.

Here are 3 ways we resist making a change at work – and what we can do about it:

1. You’re not your job

We often wonder: who will I be and what will my life be like if I make a change in my career? Who will I be if I quit my work as a lawyer and follow my passion to become a makeup artist?

When we build a mental narrative of who we are, our job or career can play a large role. Change in our careers will likely mean change to that narrative, which can be stressful. It can be helpful to remind ourselves that what we are going through is completely normal and until we’ve found our groove in what we do next, there’s a period of uncertainty and adjustment that’s just part of trying something new. Life coach expert, and a teacher/mentor of mine, Martha Beck, outlines a cycle of change that everyone goes through when big things in our life are shifting. There are 4 stages, the first stage being when we first lose part of our identity. She recommends trying to relax, trust the process, and stay focused in the present instead of stressing about our hopes and fears for the future.

2. Validate yourself

This happens when we start to think we are important or worthy because of our work achievements, job title or the reputation of the company we work for. We might get a boost of confidence and self-worth from our careers. To contemplate any change could potentially mean losing that validation. And so it’s natural to feel resistance.

To fix this, it’s important to realize that no job title, company, or professional achievement will determine your worth. We often receive messages, from many sources, that our worth is determined by external factors. But it’s critical to realize that’s not true. Remind yourself of your other achievements: you’re a daughter, sister, friend, wife, chess player. Whatever. If you can remind yourself of all the other ways you contribute to the world besides your work, you’ll feel a lot stronger and more ready to follow your heart to whatever job or career it’s calling for.

3. Stop judging yourself

Worrying about the judgments of others and what they might think could be enough to make us pause. We may feel that our job or career influences how others perceive us. And if you make a change, will your friends, family, or peer group judge your decisions, and in turn judge you? You may fear that you could lose esteem in their eyes.

While we all can get caught up in caring about what others think, when our fear of judgment is holding us hostage in a job or career we don’t like, we’ve taken it too far. Your desires and happiness should come first, ahead of your fears. Life is just too short.

Remember that most of the time others are not thinking of us. And if they are, then we need to find new people who will support us in pursuing our dreams. In her book, Braving the Wilderness, Brené Brown talks about having a circle of people (such as anyone you admire) that you feel would support you. To start, they only have to exist in our mind (for me Brené is one of those people). As you continue in your journey, real-life people will begin to emerge and you’ll find your tribe.

Ultimately what I learned from these job/career transition experiences were life lessons – learning to let go of the need for certainty, relying less on external validation, letting go of the judgments of others and following my own path. Although big life changes are often stressful or challenging, they can call attention to potential areas for personal inner growth.

Note: I have completed the Martha Beck life coach training program 

This information is being provided to you for educational and informational purposes only. It is to be used at your own risk based on your own judgment.

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