Everyone has an evolving career story: the narrative we tell ourselves, and the people around us, about where we stand on our professional paths, and how we got there. But when you’ve been at your job for a long time, it’s easy to get comfortable in your current narrative — and over time, that comfort can spiral into a routine that feels repetitive and unmotivating.
Getting stuck in one chapter of your story can be stressful, and if you sense that you’re ready for something new, it may be time to “re-story” — a term that psychologists now use to refer to making a pivot when you’ve exhausted your current narrative. Starting that rewrite can be a daunting step. “Making a big career change can be scary,” Alan Benson, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, tells Thrive.
Making a change depends on your individual story, but if you become too complacent, you miss out on the benefits that can come from beginning a new chapter. Here are some tips to help you get started.
Your story: You’ve been at the same job for many years, and you’re ready for something new.
How to re-story: Allow yourself to accept change.
With the rise of online networking, remote work, and side hustles, the workforce looks vastly different than it once did — and when it comes to starting over, that can be a great thing. “Fifty years ago, it was common to graduate from school, land a job at a big company, and work there your entire career,” Benson notes. “Today, the Census Bureau estimates that people have ten jobs by the time they’re forty.” Shifting from job to job has become normal, he explains, so it’s important to let go of preconceived notions you may have about a traditional career path. There’s no shame in changing jobs, especially if it might ease your stress and help you feel sustained meaning in your work.
Your story: You want to pivot to a new field, but it’s not what you went to school for.
How to re-story: Use the evergreen skills you learned to propel you forward.
You may not be an expert in the industry you’re interested in, but Benson notes that your existing knowledge and your toolkit of career experience may well be enough to take the leap. Having a diversified background might actually give you a leg up a new job, he points out. And even if you do ultimately need more education to make the switch, it’s worth confirming that first, rather than letting it hold you back from trying at all.
Your story: You’ve hit your goal, and now you’re struggling to stay motivated.
How to re-story: Take on microsteps to help you make small changes in your workflow.
Sometimes, achieving a goal we’ve worked hard to get to can end up making us lose motivation, because we let go of the positive changes we initially made to reach that goal in the first place. In fact, research tells us that if we see our goals as a destination we’ve already arrived at, we’re unlikely to stay motivated to keep going afterward. If you’ve reached your goal, consider taking on small microsteps to help you make lasting changes. Thinking of your goal attainment as a journey instead of a destination can help you stay motivated long after you hit your target.
Your story: You’re feeling fatigued by your job, but you have no clue what your next step would look like.
How to re-story: Reach out to your support system.
You know you’re itching for a new job, but you’re scared and hesitant about what that new opportunity looks like. When you’re struggling to take that next step, Benson suggests reaching out to a trusted mentor or a loved one for a supportive hand. Whether you’re looking for concrete advice about your next move, or you just need a listening ear, talking through your vision can help with your decision-making, and allow you to gain a clearer sense of direction.
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