Have you read Who moved my Cheese? by Dr Spencer Johnson? If you haven’t, read it now! If you have, read it again!
It’s a great book about making changes (and it is not very long). I read it about 15 years ago and have just read it again with a younger generation. It appeals to all ages, that’s the magic. It is a fun and imaginative story about mice, cheese and a maze with a serious message about how you can look for what you want in life to make you happy. The perfect balance for all!
When I was reading it, it made me think about all the changes I have made in my life, particularly in developing my career, as well as ones I am thinking of making in the future. It also made me think about the mixture of emotions that can accompany change such as feeling excited, daunted, worried and happy.
My experience of change may be very different to your experiences of change. However, what we all have in common is that we all experience it. Change is happening all the time in the world, within our own environments, to people around us and within us. It can be simple. It can be complicated.
No matter who you are or how old you are, we all experience change in our lives and cope with it in different ways. Sometimes we know what to do to adapt to or make a change, but sometimes we have no idea where to start and that can be tough. You might know that a change is needed but just can’t see how to make that first step towards making it or perhaps you don’t even know what change you need. You may be experiencing job loss, wanting a career change or perhaps something else has happened in your life that requires you to rethink your career.
Whatever your circumstances, when considering making a change think of it as changing traffic lights.
Think about you first. What do you want? What will make you happy? What part of the change are you alone responsible for? This is the part that you can control.
Relax and enjoy imagining what life will be like if you made the change. This is the part that will make you feel excited and motivated.
Think about who else will be involved or impacted by the change? How will it affect them?
How does the change fit in within the world around you?
Go for it!
Take action and start taking some steps towards the change you want to make.
Seek help as necessary.
Making the first step towards change can be so worth it.
I was asked recently about the typical career path of a career coach and how my career path took me into this line of work. I think those who asked me were a little surprised by my response!
My answer to the first question is that there isn’t one. Career paths and expectations are different for everyone. The risk is that as soon as we define career paths as ‘typical’ we inevitably start to move away from our own paths and what we want to the expectations and requirements of someone else’s path (and who says they are typical!).
My answer to the second question is about to follow. As you will read, my career path is certainly not typical!
I did a music degree.
Following my degree, I studied and trained to be a lawyer and worked as family law solicitor for a few years.
I then decided to take a career break to give myself time to piece together what I wanted to do in my career as I felt there was something else. I really wanted some of my work to eventually include working with children.
During this time, I gained experience working with children as a teaching assistant as well as on other voluntary projects and completed Place2Be’s Foundation Certificate in Counselling Skills for Working with children.
Following my career break, I secured a job working as a Major Gifts Officer for Macmillan Cancer Support.
During my time at Macmillan Cancer Support, I came across the idea of career coaching through various conversations with people and the penny dropped.
I have now been a career and performance coach for over 10 years helping individuals gain confidence to achieve the best careers for them, perform well within their careers and overcome both emotional and practical difficulties. 50% of my work is with lawyers and 50% is with individuals from all professions.
While building my business, I also continued to work with children on a voluntary basis in different ways and study.
A few years ago, My Space 4 Me was created which is a part of my coaching business providing confidence coaching to primary school children to start linking my interests in psychology, counselling, education and children.
…and then in 2020, I set up and co-founded Voices for Life, a very exciting charity to inspire children to be happy and confident through music.
My path has had its ups and downs and it has sometimes been challenging working out next steps but it has been so exciting when things have come together. Some of the steps I have taken may have appeared unexpected to others but they all slot together. My music has come back into my career, my skills as a lawyer helped me to set up my business and the charity and my experience of fundraising is proving to be quite useful too! I am also using my coaching skills which include still working with lawyers.
For this all to happen, I had to create my own expectations and career path which is what I now help adults to do as well as preparing young people and children to be able to do the same.
I love seeing others become excited about what they can achieve as they create visions of what they want and move forward step by step towards these visions. It is so important to manage your own expectations and career path in line with what you want, not the ones you think are typical, and go for it.
As we approach the milestone of it being a year since we first went into lockdown, I reflect in this video on my thoughts about how a shift in thinking this year has prompted many to review what makes them happy and how the re-evaluation of career choices is becoming a large part of this review.
On the day we, in the UK, are ranked as the 18th happiest country, this video and blog seems highly appropriate! This video is all about what success and happiness means to you and what will make you smile at the end of the day and say ‘yes, that was a good day’.
This is the transcript of a podcast Tessa recorded for the International Authority of Coaching and Mentoring with one of her clients about how she works and how coaching benefitted her client, helping her client to feel excited about her career in 2021. Do have a listen to the podcast using the link above or, if easier, have a read of the transcript below.
Tessa, tell me about yourself
As you said I am an accredited career and performance coach, I specialise in all aspects of careers so redundancy, career change, confidence building, and I often help people return to work after a break. I also have personal experience of a career change. I used to be a family law solicitor. I then took a short break and pursued a career change into the charity sector where I worked as a Major Gifts Officer. I then set up my career coaching business which I have been running for over 10 years and still absolutely love doing the work that I do.
In the last year, who has your typical client been?
My clients come to me from all different backgrounds and for lots of different reasons, but I would say the underlying theme at the moment is really searching for fulfilment in their careers. I think over the last year, the pandemic has thrown lots of questions for people and this has made them question their career. Many are coming to me quite unhappy or dissatisfied in their career or current job and considering a career change or seeking help within their current role because of challenges they are experiencing. Obviously, many are coming to me who have also been on furlough for quite a few months and then are being made redundant. There are lots of things going on at the moment for individuals and it’s really my turn to start helping them find that fulfilment again and find those opportunities that will best suit them.
Where do you start?
This year the focus in my coaching has slightly changed. As you know, Covid-19 has not been easy for anyone and there is certainly a much stronger focus in my programmes on wellbeing and helping people overcome many more negative beliefs that have arisen over the last year.
Prior to lock down, my focus initially in a career coaching programme would always be on wellbeing to help increase confidence, productivity, and ability to overcome challenges which then forms a good foundation for leading me to a more detailed focus on careers. I get clients to score the five recognised areas of wellbeing (being active and health, contribution, relationships, learning and relaxation) out of 10 for how satisfied they are with each area. With low scores, we would work together to put some goals in place to help raise these scores.
Since lock down, I have noticed that these scores have become exceptionally low and there have been many more negative beliefs due to the continued restrictions we are all experiencing. A client referred to this as ‘mental overload’ and I think she is right. Many are suffering and so a stronger focus on wellbeing has been needed to maintain a steady rise in those wellbeing scores to ease this mental overload and ensure motivation and good health are maintained.
When people have scored themselves, as a coach where do you take them next?
When they score themselves, we then prioritise the areas that have the lowest scores, work out what is going on for them now in terms of those scores and start putting in place small changes to help raise those scores. For example, someone I am working with at the moment is working such long hours at home and doesn’t even go outside and so a very small change to put in place is a 10-minute walk. These little changes will then make more significant changes later and help these individuals to think about what career they could do in the future because they are feeling better about themselves.
How to you bridge the gap between what’s needed now and what’s needed in the future? Do you set a vision for them to achieve or do you start very much in the moment and see where that takes them?
It’s actually a bit of both. The initial focus is on the present. As I said before about the wellbeing areas, what’s going on for then now and encouraging them to make those small positive changes so that they feel more positive. Alongside that it will also be a matter of helping them with changing any negative beliefs, discussing the triggers for those and going through a belief change process and encouraging a more positive way of thinking. Once I know that is underway and being established and, from the language of my client, they are becoming more positive, we build in the future. Their mind will be in a better place to visualise their future and work out what will be the best for them.
As coaches working with clients, in 2021, what other tips have got to help people thrive this year?
Again I think it’s about the present, then looking to the future. Firstly, it’s being really aware of the impact the pandemic may have had on your clients and be ready to help them address negative thoughts arising from this and genuine concerns about health and family members which are ongoing. I have particularly noticed the affects of remote working and isolation on work relationships. This will have an ongoing impact on individuals. Building rapport has been tricky this year or even getting hold of colleagues or managers to ask a quick question to clarify an issue – that reassurance is not so readily available anymore. This can lead to a questioning of abilities for many individuals. It’s really being aware of all these different things that clients are going through and ensuring you address those.
It is then about looking to the future. It is really important at this stage to free up their imagination. I always carry out a fantasy exercise with my clients where they have to imagine their typical day in their dream job. We cover all details including what they are wearing for this job! This exercise is so important because the inability to imagine an ideal scenario can be a real block to working out the future. I was taking a client through this exercise a couple of weeks ago and we were halfway through it and she said, ‘This is where my imagination is going to fail me’. I paused the exercise, and we discussed this statement and there were underlying thought patterns ‘I can’t do it’ or ‘I won’t be able to do another job’ or ‘I don’t have the skills’. Through a belief change exercise, she developed a positive way of thinking which in turn freed up her imagination. This was such a breakthrough for her that she cried. The freedom to imagine enabled her to admit for the first time that she did know what she really wanted to do but was too afraid to admit it. Again, it’s the combination of now and the future and giving clients the space to work through any issues and then freeing up their imagination to visualise what 2021 could be like for them.
When you are working with a client and have a set amount of sessions and then they go off to fulfil their dreams, how do you make sure that they spend time looking back and reviewing their progress to make sure they keep on track and keep flourishing?
During the coaching programme, I provide a number of exercises and templates and in the last session, for example, we revisit the wellbeing scores to ensure that they have all been raised slightly or a lot and then they can use that process to enable them to revisit it again in the future and keep track of that. We also, in line with the career side of things, develop a career vision which is set out on an A4 sheet of paper setting out their ambitions, the skills they are going to be using and an action plan so again they have something else to refer to when perhaps they are thinking things aren’t going quite right again. I also make sure clients go away with a thorough action plan to enable them to meet their goal and the career aspiration we have come up with. This is also something they are able to revisit and adapt if necessary.
Is there anything else you would like to add at the moment?
At the moment, it is about being focused on short-term and long-term planning. There are two issues going on at the moment for many people who have been on furlough for many months and have perhaps now been made redundant. There is therefore an element of short-term planning to recover that loss of income and to start earning again as well as the long-term planning of meeting their career aspirations. There is definitely more of a focus on the two and trying to get the two in line with each other.
Tell me about working with Jenny
It’s been a pleasure working with Jenny. She has a fantastic sense of humour and great determination. As you mentioned earlier, she was made redundant due to the pandemic following 7 months of furlough. Together, we recognised current barriers and broke them down to help her overcome them. We worked on building structure and positivity back into her days focusing on the 5 areas of wellbeing to inspire and motivate her. It was very simple and very effective. Her determination enabled her to explore career options for the future. Her willingness to change and work with me helped her in just 4 sessions to develop a concise and inspirational career vision and plan for 2021. She has already started progressing with this and it is very exciting!
Let’s flip over the coin now and speak to Jenny. Tell us more about yourself.
Up until November I was a regional fundraising manager for Help for Heroes and worked for them for a couple of years, although 7 months of that was on furlough so I was not doing anything. Before that I worked in hospitality and events. I was head of events for the British museum and that was my last events role and I was looking to change direction and get a better work-life balance which was why I moved to Help for Heroes. As Tessa said, the sessions I have had with her have really helped me to come up with a vision with what I want to do now given fundraising and events aren’t really in demand in the middle of a pandemic so it is a really good time for me to change direction and think about what else I might want to do.
Please can you give some insight into what tools and techniques she used with you that you found helpful for you at this time in your life.
From the first conversation we had I was at a low point and I don’t think I had realised that was the case. When she took me through the five areas and looking at my wellbeing, I scored quite low in quite a few of the areas. Because I had been stuck in the limbo of furlough, I hadn’t realised that was the case. I am usually quite a positive and determined person and I ended up in a slump without realising I had got there. Finding that was the case was really helpful and spurred me on to try and take in everything I could from the coaching and make some changes. We got to the third session which was a breakthrough. I was fixed on what I had always done and not opening myself to thinking about other possibilities. We went through an exercise where I came up with what careers I could possibly want to do if there were no restrictions. We scored these against the areas of interest and things I enjoyed doing. We came up with a career that fitted every one of my goals, my skills and my interests that I really hadn’t ever considered as an option. That is the plan I am working on at the moment. Without Tessa I would never have found that.
How are you going to keep yourself moving forward and motivated?
As Tessa said, I like structure and I like planning, so we did a lot of work around how I structure my days given I am not working at the moment. I essentially do I what do at work. I write myself a to do list and structure in around my day when I am going to do it. I make sure I am hitting every goal on the action plan I have been working on so I have an action plan, that will take me through to this time next year, of things I want to do to start my own business and where I need to get to. That’s what will keep me on track.
How do you feel about 2021 now compared to how you felt about it six months ago?
Six months ago was dread for the next year of my life. I was not going anywhere or doing anything, like most of us. I really didn’t have any idea of where I wanted to get to. Working with Tessa has really helped me to structure what I want to do next. As I said, the activity around making an action plan, goal setting and a vision has really helped me understand where it is I want to get to and the path to get there. That is what I am working on at the moment. I feel really positive about 2021. I am excited about what’s in store for me, what’s ahead and what I am able to do.
‘Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.’ (Barack Obama)
There has been a lot of waiting during this pandemic. Waiting for lockdown to end. Waiting for the next announcement from the Government. Waiting for announcements at work.
However, it is not just the pandemic that has caused us to wait. Apparently, the average person in Britain spends almost seven years waiting around. We wait 17 months of our life for food being cooked and, this is my favourite, we wait 4 months of our life for the kettle to boil!
Waiting takes up a huge part of our lives. We are often waiting for certain things to things to happen.
I wonder how much time we spend waiting for something to happen in our careers. Perhaps waiting for an ideal job opportunity or for things to change for the better at work. We often find ourselves waiting for things to improve.
I know there are a lot of people waiting in their careers right now. Covid-19 has not been easy for anyone. Many are waiting to come off furlough or for a forthcoming redundancy. Many are waiting to pursue a career change or to tackle challenging issues in their current role.
How is all this waiting making you feel?
Since the beginning of lockdown, I have witnessed a gradual decrease in general morale, productivity, and confidence levels in individuals over the past few months. The structure of people’s days has started to deteriorate, and many are struggling to stay motivated. The challenges of ongoing restrictions and the constant wait for things to change is tough and is gradually taking its toll on many people.
Let’s help bring back some positivity into your life as we prepare for 2021. If you are struggling, it may be time to change your focus from waiting to doing.
Make some small positive changes to your life. If you are finding your days are starting to drift, set out a simple schedule for each day. If you are spending a lot of time sat at your desk at home, ensure you leave the house for some short walks. Each small positive change will make you feel better and help you look to the future.
Allow yourself the freedom to imagine what 2021 could look like for you. Imagine your ideal job and what this would be like. The inability to imagine an ideal scenario can be a real block to working out the future. Imagining the future can really help to inspire and encourage you to look at different opportunities. Recently, a client of mine had a breakthrough when describing her ideal job. She said the exercise had enabled her to admit for the first time that she did know what she really wanted to do but had been too afraid to admit it. What an amazing discovery!
Carry out both long and short-term planning. This will enable you to prepare short-term goals to prepare for any current loss of income and long-term goals to meet your career aspirations.
Give yourself time to think. Recently, a client referred to the impact of the pandemic as ‘mental overload’ and I think she is right. There has been a lot to process over the last couple of months. Spend time looking after yourself.
There are still lots of things you can change to make you feel better and able to focus on the next steps in your career. Remember, you can take some control back, this is possible.
‘Don’t confuse having a career with having a life.’ (Hilary Clinton)
Do you agree with Hilary Clinton?
Are you constantly balancing work and life?
It is unsurprising that I have never coached someone who doesn’t want to achieve a ‘work-life balance’. It is a well-known fact that a good work-life balance prevents stress and burnout, reduces anxiety, and creates healthy and happy lifestyles.
However, I am sometimes challenged by people about whether a work-life balance is possible and this has occasionally made me wonder whether these individuals are right. Perhaps it is unrealistic. Perhaps this is a term that will fade in popularity when we move on to the next ‘in’ phrase. However, whatever name we associate with it, I do believe it is possible. Over 10 years of coaching individuals who are unhappy in their career has taught me that ‘work-life balance’ does impact lives and I know that when I work with someone on improving their work-life balance, they always become happier and are able to give more thought to making their career more fulfilling.
Unfortunately, Coronavirus and the ongoing changes to our lifestyle and work arrangements has made maintaining a work-life balance tricky for many people. One minute we can see friends and relatives, the next minute we can’t. Many are now facing redundancy or were about to come off furlough, only for it to be extended again. Many went back to work, now to be told to work from home again. Plans have been made and cancelled. Keeping up with changes we have no control over can be mentally exhausting and can impact the control we have over maintaining a good work-life balance leading too stress, fatigue, and a decrease in work performance.
How is your work-life balance at the moment?
I know many people have been reassessing their lives and priorities over the last few months during the pandemic. Discarding things that previously made them stressed and bringing new elements in that make them happier. If you have managed to do this, fantastic! However, if you haven’t please don’t worry, it is not easy. I really mean that. It is not easy at the best of times, let alone when there is a pandemic and the rules keep changing. When a client said to me last week that they feel like they have lost control of their work-life balance, I knew they wouldn’t be the only person who currently felt this way.
If you feel this way, why not spend a bit of time doing a little review of your life. Simply follow these points to help you:
1. Consider the following five areas of your life and grade each area on a scale of 1 to 10 as they are for you now; 1 being poor or you are unhappy with what you are doing in this area and 10 being you are fully satisfied or you happy with this area.
Being active/health (e.g. Diet, physical activity, fitness)
(If you would like to go into more detail, work out how many hours you spend on these categories in a typical week. A typical week is approximately 98 hours, allowing for seven days each of fourteen hours.)
2. For scores below 9, spend time thinking about what you can do to improve your score in that category. Think about changes you can make to your life to increase the lowest scores. Remember, you do not need to make big changes. Focus on one category at a time and take small steps towards improving your score.
Remember, once you have started the process of restoring the balance, you will start to feel happier and have more energy to eventually raise all the scores.
Whether or not it is the correct term to use, having a ‘work-life balance’ and keeping it at the forefront of our minds is really important for developing a happy and fulfilling life and career.
“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change”
We are all now starting to look to the future in a post-coronavirus world. Some of you may already be putting plans in place for your careers, others may still consider it too early to make any decisions or are unsure what to do next. How do you prepare to make changes in your career in a post-coronavirus world?
I am finding that career change, flexible working and wellbeing are some of the main areas of change being reviewed by individuals at the moment as they consider the future of their working lives. These are the areas that are often considered when deciding on best-suited career paths.
According to recent research by the Adecco Group UK and Ireland, 29% of the UK’s workforce is considering a significant career change. One of the reasons being that many individuals (nearly one in five) felt they were not being treated well by their employer during the pandemic. There are also many people who, before the time of coronavirus were considering a career change, and still want to pursue this.
Working patterns have changed over the last few months allowing for more flexibility and working from home arrangements. This has prompted thoughts on how our working lives can benefit from this flexibility. Is there more scope for portfolio careers? Can our working lives work around our family and home life in a more beneficial manner?
In recent months, we have also had lots of time to think about our wellbeing. Spending more time at home has enabled us to spend time discovering what really makes us happy and feel good about ourselves. There will be changes many individuals will want to make to their lives now and in the future.
Since March, I have published a series of blogs, articles, and videos to assist you in navigating the impact coronavirus is having on the world of jobs and careers. These are all summarised below – I hope they will be helpful for you as you start to make decisions about what the future holds for your career as we emerge from the affects coronavirus has had on our lives.
My book provides a structured process to help you move forward in your career. I had had over 700 downloads over lockdown so I’m hoping it is currently helping lots of individuals with their careers!
Whatever your circumstances, this may be the right time for change no matter how big or small. If you need some assistance do have a look at my website where you can browse through lots of free career resources.
Have you ever thought of presenting your CV in the form of a cereal box? One person did, have a look here.
As we pass the 100th day of lockdown, I thought I would take a more light-hearted approach to my blog writing and provide you with some fun and creative examples of CV writing that made applicants stand out from the crowd.
CVs, on average, are looked at by recruiters for about 7 seconds. With this in mind, have a look at these examples and see what you think. What was your first impression? Would you give the applicant an interview? As you will see, it’s all about tailoring your job application to the potential employer.
Social Media Executive, Wagamama – A fantastic lockdown example using social media to gain an interview having missed the deadline.
Just over a week ago, a final year university student wanted to apply for a role as a Social Media Executive at Wagamama. Having creatively prepared her CV, she went to upload it and was devastated to discover that applications were closed. Instead, she posted it on LinkedIn for all to see – have a look at it here – she has created it in the style of a Wagamama menu.
Following her post on LinkedIn she was offered an interview despite missing the deadline.
Google – The CV that got this man a job at Google
This man cleverly tailored his CV to replicate a Google search results page and was offered the job! Have a look at it here.
Facebook – The CV that replicates a Facebook profile
This lady didn’t get the job due to a hiring freeze but the director of the company shared her CV because of its brilliance. Have a look at it here.
Although these might seem extreme, consider how well they tailored their CV to the employer. It is so important to stand out from the crowd and link your job application to the job you are applying for. For many jobs, flexibility and using the right tool is key when making applications. Sometimes moving away from the standard 2-page Word document might be just the answer to landing your ideal job.
“Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.” (Joshua J. Marine)
We all go through tough times, don’t we? These times may be due to work challenges or personal struggles. Challenges are a part of life and learning to overcome these challenges and making decisions to enable us to move forward during these times can be hard. We can be left feeling we have lost some control over our lives.
We have inevitably lost a bit more of this control over recent months as the impact of coronavirus has been extremely tough for many people. There is increased uncertainty in our environment and the world around us which, for many, has made decision-making a complex, overwhelming and stressful experience.
During uncertain and complex times, the way we make decisions changes. To avoid stress, we tend to try and simplify the complexity around us by making decisions based on our habits and what others are doing in similar circumstances. Points 1 and 2 below explain how :
In uncertain times, we turn to our comfort zone and become reliant on our habits that sit within this. The implications being that we can avoid the stress of the current uncertainty and delay making any decisions that bring about a change to our lives. Unfortunately, this can increase the development and establishment of unhealthy habits. These are habits that don’t make us happy and are hard to change.
What others are doing
‘I can’t change career because a friend has told me it is too risky. Other people are not changing career now so I must wait too.’
In uncertain times, we tend to make decisions by searching for information that confirms our existing thoughts and beliefs about the world. We also base our decisions on what other people are doing in the same situation. Unfortunately, accepting the views and opinions of others without question will pull us in the direction of making decisions based on what others are doing or saying rather than based on who we are, our values and what we genuinely want. The danger is we miss the stories that show what we really want is possible.
Unfortunately, focusing on comfortable habits and what others are doing can cause you to draw the wrong conclusions and subsequently make decisions that are not right for you. Although, by focusing on these areas, we are trying to gain control and reduce the uncertainty we are facing, we can instead cause ourselves further stress in doing so.
The next step…..
You, of course, want to make the right decisions. You want to make decisions that move you forward and make you happy in your career and the way to do this is to become really aware of how the situation is affecting your decisions. Self-awareness is key. Let me show you how through the following four steps:
Be aware of thoughts
‘I can’t change career.’
Be aware of how the current situation is making you think and feel. What is going through your mind? Negative beliefs can make you feel miserable and stop you achieving what you want to achieve. Keep monitoring your thoughts – make a note of them to enhance your awareness.
‘I must wait until things become certain before I make decisions regarding my career.’
Become aware of any habits you have developed or become reliant on that keep you within your comfort zone. What are they? How to they make you behave? What will be the consequences of these habits?
Challenge your beliefs
‘I don’t have to wait to change career. (I may be waiting a long time if I wait for certainty.)’
You are likely to have already built up the evidence to support your existing thoughts and beliefs through what others are doing. Now find the evidence that disproves these thoughts. Who do you know who has changed career? What information can you find about careers post coronavirus? Who is advertising job vacancies?
Develop new habits
‘I can change career!’
It’s time to develop new habits that help you move forward and ultimately be happy. It can take 20-30 days of introducing a new habit, to break the old one but the important point here is that it is possible to change them, it may just take a little time to do so. Be patient and take one step at a time, breaking any activity you want to achieve into small steps and start building change into your routine that will help you make the changes you want to make in your career.
A lot of our happiness is determined by our actions, attitudes and what we do on a daily basis and the four steps I have described are steps you can take that will help you to make decisions regarding you career that make you happy and increase your chances of being successful.
Changes to our existing habits will help us to adapt to hard times, be happy and help us move forward in our careers.
“It’s a whole new track. It’s not going back. It’s just all different and it’s different forever…It’s creating my next track…I’m figuring out what I want to do. What do I care about? It takes time to process your life and figure out what it all means…”(Michelle Obama)
This was Michelle Obama’s response when asked how she felt about getting back on track to the life she had before she became First Lady of the United States. A response that is extremely relevant to all of us today as we attempt to look beyond coronavirus and make decisions about our future. We are all starting to create our next track. The question is, how do we do this? How do we start taking control and making decisions about our future careers when everything appears so uncertain?
The track of uncertainty
Before the time of Covid-19, we were all moving along our own track, considering, and making decisions and creating a life for ourselves. There were often bumps and cracks on the track and sometimes we were faced with difficult decisions about our careers, the kind of decisions that can only be made with certainty if we could successfully predict the future, a luxury none of us have!
Covid-19 then happened, and this uncertainty was reinforced as we were all sent on a lockdown diversion from our existing track. This wasn’t any old diversion; this was a life changing diversion and nothing like anything we had experienced before. The diversion took us in a completely different direction which required us to live our lives differently. We had little control over this track and its destination, filling our lives with what felt like a new level of uncertainty as we experienced feelings of insecurity, anxiety and stress over a number of weeks as the country tried to control the virus.
As things slowly improve, we are gradually being given back some control. Undoubtedly this has its benefits, but it also means the time is fast approaching for us to face making decisions again about our daily lives and careers. It is time to create our new track by navigating the impact coronavirus has already had on our lives and will continue to do so in the future.
The challenges of creating a new track in an uncertain world
Making decisions and creating a new track is easier said than done, isn’t it? I know many people are reluctant to make decisions at the moment, waiting for when life becomes more certain. However, we know that even before the time of coronavirus, we could not accurately predict the future. We could not have predicted in March 2019 that we would be subjected to a lockdown in March 2020. If we wait for a time when things become certain, we will be waiting a long time.
To help stop the waiting game, we first need to tackle one of the initial challenges which can stop us from making decisions and that is lack of confidence. A lack of confidence can have a huge impact on our ability to make decisions. How do you now overcome this to enable you to forward and create your new track?
The creation of your new track
There are two areas to focus on here: mindset and imagination.
Lockdown has triggered negative thoughts for everyone. These thoughts will impact how we feel and how we behave. If you are experiencing negative thoughts at the moment, it is okay. You may still be feeling anxious which is totally understandable given what our minds have been exposed to and had to process during the pandemic. You may have been experiencing a lack of confidence prior to lockdown and this has not gone away. You may have been wanting to pursue a career change prior to lockdown and now feel it’s not possible.
There will always be things, some of greater impact than others, that happen in our lives that make us feel this way. What is important is that you notice how you are thinking, feeling, and reacting and consider whether your reaction will help you move forward constructively. Remember, negative thoughts have the power to stop you achieving what you want to achieve. When you are ready, start believing you can make decisions and move on to point 2 to help you to start working out what you want to achieve in your career.
Using our imagination can helpfully guide us with our decision making. Imagining our ideal future forms a positive basis for our decisions, opening ourselves up to opportunities. Yes, we can’t account for future obstacles that fall in our way, but these obstacles will continue to shape our future. A vision provides a starting point for your future plans and enables you to build in flexibility where required to allow for unforeseen events.
I can speak from personal experience with my own career change journey. I left my job as a solicitor in 2008, having decided to take a career break. I had been wondering what else the world of work had to offer me but knew if I carried on working as a solicitor I wouldn’t discover other possible opportunities. I didn’t know exactly what the next part of my career path was going to be, and I could not accurately predict my future. However, I had saved enough money to get me through a set period of time and if nothing happened in that time, I would return to law. As it happened, opportunities started to open up to me when I left and to cut a long story short, I have now been running my career coaching business for 10 years. You can find out more about this in my blog ‘Tessa’s Career Change Journey’.
I know I was not experiencing a world pandemic during this time, but the key principles are the same. It wasn’t the perfect journey and many of the decisions I made were based on uncertainty. However, the initial steps were all about mindset (believing I could do it) and using my imagination. I created a long-term vision of what I would love my career to look like and I am still enjoying slotting all the pieces together.
The uncertainty of today is inescapable, we can never say for certain what will happen in the future. We don’t know the answers to all the questions and we don’t know what the future world of careers is going to look like. What is important is how we deal with this uncertainty so that we continue to move forward and be open to opportunities. It doesn’t matter if you have to change or adapt your plans along the way. What is important is that you are creating a track and starting to move forward with the flexibility to adapt and change if necessary.