One day, I woke up and had no emails, no voice-mails, no conference calls, no projects, and no employees. After two decades of giving everything I had to climb the ladder, build my network and the companies I was working for, and carefully craft (and earn) my professional reputation, I was about to start something completely new. I was anxious, apprehensive, and filled with self-doubt.
However, I was also excited about the possibilities of what the future held and the opportunity to spend the next half of my career doing something different and finally giving in to my alter ego, who wanted to be an entrepreneur and tap into her many dormant talents.
While significant life transitions can be risky and sources of surging negative emotions, they can also be powerful motivators and inspire self-confidence. You can take control and counter-balance the anxiety with great enthusiasm and forward momentum towards your goals. Here are four steps you can take to purposefully and gracefully pivot your career:
- Plan for the change. Whether you ultimately leave your current role on your own timeline or not, you should plan for the day it occurs. What’s your exit strategy? What’s the timeframe you are giving yourself to make the change? How will you keep your network current? Will you need transition time to decompress mentally or to capitalize on the break to do personal things you didn’t previously have time for? Be clear on your “why” for making the change and allow that to be your guiding light.
- Prepare to take action. What do you need to do to prepare for the shifts in your career and professional identity? Do you need to save money to start your own business? Do you need new certifications or skills? Do you need a new wardrobe? Are there considerations for your home life that you need to take into account (i.e., pet sitting, child care, home office space)? Spend time journaling about the steps you need to take to make your career shift. Some things may take several months to complete, so be patient and thoughtful about what you need to do.
- Push the go button! Once the day finally arrives for you to move onto your next adventure, embrace your new identity in full and spend each day mindfully encouraging yourself-update that self-talk soundtrack. Reach out to your network so they can support your journey in some way or another (you never know when you will need a particular contact down the road) and be fearless in your pursuit of growth in your new role.
- Reflect and rejoice. Change can be difficult, and it can take a while for the payoff of your decision to become apparent. Be deliberate about celebrating moral victories along the way. Maybe you get a compliment about a task you took on in the first month of your new role, or you stood up your website sooner than you had anticipated- these are cause for celebration! Be good to yourself and honor those moments when you feel most proud, regardless of the size or scale of the accomplishment.
While building a career takes a lot of hard work, we should not be beholden to the titles, compensation, or accolades if we have a dream that isn’t being fulfilled or we are not happy or committed to the role that we are filling. Sometimes, the hardest thing to do is recognize our self-worth and have the confidence to choose a different path when faced with the fork in the road or a dead end.