Career change – what do you do when the next step isn’t obvious?

Have I mentioned I love my job? But what I do now is not what I studied for. And it’s not what I did in the first 13 years of my career. I didn’t NOT love my previous job as a Business Analyst. In fact, I was always very grateful to have fallen into a job I was good at. One that fitted my personality and strengths like a glove. I was good at it. But having children often changes everything. And with 3 young children, I eventually got to a point where a career change started to feel like a necessity. I wanted something that allowed me more freedom and flexibility so I could be more present for my children and didn’t have to rely so heavily on childcare. And so my journey began.

I recently posted Paula’s story, who made the brave move to start her own business during her first maternity leave. But what do you do when setting up on your own isn’t the obvious next step? What do you do if that’s not an option for you? What do you do if you know you want something else but aren’t sure what that is yet? I asked Sarah Archer, a career coach and founder of Career Tree, so grab a nice cup of tea and let’s find out what your next move might look like.

Career change - what do you do when the next step isn't clear? Mind your Mamma

Career change: start with self-exploration

An ex-HR Director, Sarah now works as a career coach, helping people who are looking for a career change to figure out what their next step might be. So what might this journey look like, I asked Sarah.

If you’re looking to change your career, the first step is to get to know yourself better“, Sarah says. “My Career Energiser programme guides clients through the process of understanding their talents and strengths. It’s not just about what you’re good at though,” Sarah told me, “it’s also about what your values are. Understanding this is really important because that’s what drives your decisions. It’s what makes you get out of bed and motivates you to go to work. It’s also helpful to notice what you’re interested in. I encourage people to ask themselves what they like and enjoy spending their time doing, both at work and in their spare time. Ask yourself when you find yourself ‘in flow’ – when you look back and feel like you don’t know where the time has gone.”

Having gone through this phase myself in a rather convoluted way, I’m can totally vouch for the importance of this step. It’s fundamental, especially if you’re going to re-invent your career and do something completely different to what you’ve been doing. There are skillsets and personal strengths you’ll always be able to rely on in your new career, but understanding why you’re looking for a change in the first place will be the driving force that sees you through the difficult times. For me, it’s reminding myself that I want the freedom and flexibility to be present for my children. And that’s what really drives most of my decisions.

Related posts: What are your core values and why do they matter?

Changing careers and starting your own business in your 30’s – the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Career change: what’s your vision? career change for mums - tips from a career coach

“The second big step that we shouldn’t underestimate is understanding your vision. You have to ask yourself questions like:

  • What do I want my life to look like in the next 3 to 5 years?
  • How much income do I want to generate?
  • What will I be using this income for?
  • What does a successful career mean to you?

It’s important not to skip this step because the answers to these questions will drive the decisions that allow you to really grow and thrive.”

I don’t think I’ve done this formally enough when it comes to my professional life, so it’s definitely something I’ll be looking into.

Related post: How to create a vision board that works in 7 easy steps.

Career change: start to generate options

At this point, you may want to start to generate some options. Sarah told me that on average people go through 5 different careers in their lifetime. If you’re reading this and feeling ‘stuck’ in your current job and career, doesn’t this make you feel like the world is your oyster? As I was saying to Sarah during our interview, I’m in my late thirties, and according to the HMRC I have another 30 years of work ahead of me before I can even qualify for state pension! So what is it going to be?! Am I going to limit myself to doing the same thing for the next 30 years?

“Changing careers, becoming self-employed and running my own business”, says Sarah, “can also open up lots of different opportunities for you. I know it did for me. For example, I was invited to write a book – “Developing Your Inner Coach”. It’s not something I had even dreamt of doing, but I was glad to be offered the opportunity and be in a position to accept it!”

“When I work with my clients, once we’ve narrowed it down to 2 or 3 options, I encourage them to research them in detail. It’s not just about finding out what they need to do to re-train, for example, if that’s applicable. It’s also about giving people permission to explore something before committing, and to really understand whether this could be for them. I always emphasise the fact that people should really tune into what their gut response and intuition is telling them about the various options they’re considering. Yes, one option may be a good fit in terms of what someone could be doing, but how does the thought of actually doing it make them feel?”

Career change: commit and start taking action

Did you know that the average time it takes for someone to change careers is 2 years? With that in mind, if you’re in a job you no longer enjoy, know that you can change! If you’re more than 2 years away from retirement, you can get the wheels in motion. Think about it. Yes, you may need to re-train and go through a transition phase, but you could be spending the rest of your working life doing something you’re passionate about and that fits in perfectly with your values and your strengths. And if, like me, you’ve already left your ‘traditional’ 9-5 behind looking for something else, well, knowing that the average career change takes about 2 years should be reassuring. Especially during those times when you feel like you’re ‘never going to get there’ (whatever there means to you).

Sarah says: “This is the phase where we pick an option and start working on it. We make a decision, commit to it, and start creating a plan. What my clients find really valuable is also to have someone there to act as a sounding board when fear, self-doubt and the inner critic start to get in a way a little bit. It’s helpful for clients to have someone who can keep them motivated, accountable and on the path and plan they’ve chosen.”

In hindsight, had I planned my career change a little better and worked with someone like Sarah, it probably would have been a much more linear process for me. But, when I left my job I was stressed and felt unable to balance it all, so I’m happy to accept that that was the right step for me at the time.

Career change: dealing with frustration

Last but not least, I asked Sarah if she could share some tips on dealing with the frustration and lack of patience that you may experience during the process. We all know changes are hard to make, and it’s easy to get discouraged and disheartened at times. Especially if you’re not seeing results as quickly as you’d like to. Being realistic (it will take time) and having a clear plan will obviously help, but we all know that sometimes we can forget it all and feel impatient, right?Career change: what if the next step isn't obvious? Working with a coach. Mind your Mamma

Sarah shared the following tips with us:

  • “Try not to compare yourself with others. We’re all on different paths and have different personal and family circumstances. As long as you’re following your plan, try to trust the process and know you’re where you need to be at this point in time.
  • Acknowledge how far you’ve come. You’re making progress – focus on that!” I totally agree with this, and I’ve made a personal commitment this year to record my wins weekly on a Friday, as small as they might be. By the end of the year, I’ll have a long list to look at!
  • Give yourself an appraisal. Have review points. If you’re working with a coach, your next call or meeting with them is a good time to do it. Otherwise, take yourself somewhere nice and have a review of how things are going. Are you on track? If not, what could you be doing differently? What could help you get back on track? Do you need any support?” I love this tip. It’s something I’ve been thinking of doing but haven’t yet.

So, are you ready for your next career move? 

The bottom line is that a lot of us ‘fall into a career’. Like me, maybe you didn’t have a clear idea of what you wanted to do when you grew up. Or maybe you did, but when you got that first job after uni you couldn’t believe your luck. So you started, you stayed, and you climbed the career ladder. You reached such a good position and salary that because of the financial responsibilities that come with ‘growing up’ and starting a family, you feel it’s too late to start again.

For me, the decision to leave my corporate job came from the fact that I had reached a plateau at work – I felt I wasn’t progressing due to being part-time. And equally, I couldn’t keep up with my responsibilities as a mum in a way that was in line with my own values. As crazy as the ride has been since September 2016, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve learnt a great deal about myself and about what I want for my future. I’m definitely still learning, and I’m not where I want to be yet, but what I take away from it all is that you don’t have to hate your job. As with most things in life, you have a choice.

So what is it going to be?

I hope you’ll join me in thanking Sarah Archer for all her fantastic advice. And if you’d like to connect with her, you can find Sarah on her website, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.

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