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What I've learnt from two career changes

Considering on a career pivot can be a daunting but hugely rewarding journey. I’m having lots of conversations about career change so thought I'd share my own experience here of having change career paths a couple of times.

Clients regularly come to coaching with a sense of unhappiness at work, or of wanting some sort of change, unable to pin point what the new thing would be. Career change is a big deal, but with the changing world of work, it is becoming much more accessible to many people.

The timeframe from the initial seed of an idea through to a full blossoming career change can take a while - years for some people - and whilst no one's process is the same, here are a few things I learnt from when I have changed tracks.

Changing direction

I've made two significant career shifts in the past, each for very different reasons but with one major common thread - a deep sense that something needed to change.

Both were what I’d call, slow burns. Like many people, I didn’t suddenly decide, overnight, I was going to change and then ta da, quit my job and start a new adventure. There was a long thinking and feeling process that lead towards small steps of action. In both instances, the thoughts and feelings started months (maybe a year or so) before I actually did anything tangible.

This is the bit people don’t see (the thinking feeling bit), but it’s where your process starts. When you first reveal those thoughts and feelings to people in your inner circle, to them it may appear as a shock and they may try to talk you down. But for you, you may have been grappling with a feeling, a sense of something missing, for a long time. Listen to those feelings.

Part 1

My first career pivot came when stars aligned at a point of great change in my personal life – the end of my marriage and selling our house - alongside the opportunity to take redundancy.

At this time, I’d been working in the public sector for just over 5 years and had had some incredible experiences in event management and communications. This was transformational for me - and in my early career I was wide open to trying new things, learning a lot, and hungry for progression.

The changes in our personal lives ripple into our professional lives, and vice versa. We are changed as people by our experiences and situations. And this is why so often, when people experience a shift in one area of life, they are led to reflect, pause and review their lives as a whole. A lot of the time this may be triggered by relationships ending/beginning, health issues, becoming a parent, or loss of a loved one.

This is what happened to me, and so, with seizing the opportunity for voluntary redundancy, I decided to go off on a 14-month travel adventure to rediscover myself. Another experience that would change me as a person, and therefore change my motivations and desires for future work.

Part 2

After a wonderful time traveling, I returned to the UK and started the hunt for a new career path. I spent time searching job sites, exploring potential re-training opportunities or courses. Nothing stuck.

Little did I know, my next career move would unexpectedly arise from a mentor, guide, role model and friend that I made in my role prior to traveling.

This set me on a new path - relocating and seeking new challenges. I never looked back. I spent the next 8 years with that company, achieving more than I ever thought was possible. A company I loved and a role I thrived in - again feeling challenged, progressing and eating up opportunities.

After time, something again started to shift, and I began to get that sense of something missing. That intuition came a knocking, demanding attention.

This sense of wanting something else probably started a year before I did or said anything to anyone else. During this time, I worked with a coach to really try and understand what was going on for me. Together, we didn't just focus on work, we looked at me as a whole person and what life I wanted to create for myself. I gained so many insights from this work - understanding my values, my needs, my strengths, what lit me up and what I found drained me. It helped me piece together what I wanted from a next step.

Where we are today.

Leaving a secure role in a company I loved wasn't easy. But I trusted myself and the work I had done. The changes I'd been able to make from working with a coach were changes I don't believe I would have been able to make alone and this is what inspired my next step - retraining as a coach.

I felt so inspired and drawn to becoming a coach (training with Barefoot Coaching) - and with the work I had done knew I had the skills it required. In the process, I spoke to other coaches who had done it to learn from their experience. I continued to learn and grow.

I also put financial plans in place while I was growing my business to minimise some of the money worry stress.

Over the last four and a half years, I feel so lucky to do what I do but I also know a lot of hard work, growth and reflection went into making it happen. This career change felt like coming home.

Key learnings

Navigating a career change is a personal journey that requires courage, self-reflection, and planning. It is not just about changing jobs; it's about aligning your professional path with your personal life. Here is a summary of what I learnt:

1. Trust your intuition - You know yourself better than anyone else so listen to what your intuition is telling you. It may not have answers right now but allow that sense to come forth and be curious about what it means. Try not to brush it aside or ignore it - it will usually come back even if you do.

2. Listen to your internal compass - Logically, I would have talked myself out of both of these career pivots because ‘it was safer to stay put, I knew what I was doing, they were good jobs, I should be grateful, it was too risky to change etc…..’ but a profound internal pull drove me to look elsewhere.

Use this time to explore your values, identify what is important to you in work, get really familiar with your strengths, what you love to do (and what you don’t). Let yourself be curious about what the lifestyle is you’re trying to create for yourself.

In the space where you’re getting itchy feet, it can feel like you’re in limbo with no sense of direction or control. Take control by working on getting to know yourself so you can then make informed decisions.

Doing this inner work, may help you see that a 360 change is not actually what you want / need. There may be smaller tweaks that you can make which satisfies your ‘itch’.

3. Research - Talk to people whose work interests you, reach out to people in other industries, listen to podcasts who interview people about their careers, read relevant material about careers. If you have an idea of what you may like to do in future, speak to people who do it - build and collate data that helps your decision making in future.

4. Find a partner - in both scenarios, I had either a coach or a therapist who I spoke to about my feelings of change. I needed that safe space to talk through my ideas and concerns without worrying about repercussions. I needed the freedom of the impartial relationship. Chatting through how you feel with someone who will listen, helps you connect pieces of your puzzle and they may be able to offer some helpful insights too.

It doesn’t need to be a coach or therapist. For you it may be a trusted mentor, friend or colleague who you can talk to about your fears, and feelings.

5. Utilise your network - I had no idea that I would make such a significant contact, mentor, confidant and boss in one role that would have such a significant influence on my career. You may have that person or people in your network too.

In career planning, your network is a vital component in your job search toolkit. Review your current network and think about who champions you, who are your greatest cheerleaders? Who do you trust and respect? Who would you love to be your mentor? Be intentional about who you reach out to. And in my experience, people love to help others, so don’t be afraid to ask someone for that coffee and chat.

6. Make a plan and capture your progress - This can help you feel empowered, especially in those moments when you feel like nothing is happening. Career changing - from the initial idea, through to fruition - takes time, so having a clear plan helps you feel more in control.

7. Reality check-in - Financial pressures or concerns are often the reasons why many people feel ‘stuck’ in a role or don’t even begin to explore doing something new. So while being realistic to your own circumstances, remember to check your own assumptions to ensure you’re not putting barriers in your own way.

As you embark on this journey, trust yourself, stay resilient, and be open to the transformative possibilities that lie ahead.

If you are sensing a change on the horizon or want to discuss how coaching could support your journey, book a short chemistry call here.

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