Making career decisions in uncertain times

`Tracks

“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.

  1. Mindset

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.

(For further reading on mindset, have a read of these previous blogs, ‘Four rules you need to know for career success’, ‘5 ways to get unstuck to make a career change’,  ‘Showing negative emotion is not the done thing’, ‘Six reasons stopping you getting the job you will love’ and ‘Does looking at past events help you change career?’.)

  1. Imagination

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.

(For further reading have a read of these blogs,Making your dream career a reality’ and ‘The best kept secret to career success’. Imagination is always an important focus at the beginning of my career coaching programmes and there is a section on this in my book, ‘The Tea Model: Slowing down in a fast-paced world to find the career you love’.)

How do I know this can work?

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.

Coronavirus and careers – what happens next?

butterfly release

2020 has brought an unexpected change to all our lives, a change that will be with us for the foreseeable future and remember forever.  The cause was the rapid spread of the coronavirus outbreak which, on 11th March, was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation.

Stress, confusion, and uncertainty started to fill our lives as we faced an uncertain time of illness, loss of income, job insecurity, isolation and change to all aspects of our daily lives.

Schools, shops, restaurants and many businesses closed and working from home systems and methods of online learning were quickly put in place. Parents became teachers, individuals were furloughed, the risk of future redundancy increased for many, some experienced big pay cuts and others were categorised in the newly evolving definition of the ‘Keyworker’.

Home took on a different meaning in our lives becoming our place of work, our children’s school and our place of relaxation.  We couldn’t see friends or family and relied on video calls for contact with the outside world.  We couldn’t go on outings and had to create our own home entertainment.

Whatever your circumstances, we have all been affected by Covid-19 in some shape or form and are all reacting to the unpredictable disruption to our lives in our own way.

Will life go back to the normal we used to know, or have we now got to get used to the inevitable ‘new normal’ that will lead us into 2021 and beyond?

The questions now facing us are profound:

  • How do we develop ways to get through the hard times?
  • When can we start making decisions again about our future?
  • How will the way we spend our time and energy change?
  • Will there be an escalation in working from home?
  • What will our commutes to work look like in the future and will we reconsider long distance travel for meetings?
  • Is this the time to be reinventing our lives and our careers considering options such as a career change?
  • Will people consider portfolio careers as a safer option against aligning themselves to a single employer?

Over the next few months, I will be publishing a series of blogs to help you start piecing together the answers to these questions.  I admit I do not know all the answers, if only I did!  However, what I can provide is help based on my many years of experience in career, confidence and performance coaching combined with what I am currently witnessing in the world of careers.  As we continue to face disruption in our personal and working lives, I hope I will be able to provide you with some consistency, calmness, and support to help reduce anxiety and stress, raise positivity and encourage aspirations, enabling you to discover ways to move forward happily and confidently into your ‘new normal’.

In the meantime, think about the best next step for you to take that will help you adapt to any concerns you currently face, focusing on the things that are in your control now as you start to gradually see and experience the world outside your home again. Start reintroducing feasible aspects of your life that you enjoyed before and can enjoy again, no matter how small.  It may be a walk with a friend or trip beyond your home and surrounding area.  Think of new ways to look after yourself.

Lockdown can be an opportunity for us all to reset, rethink and re-establish our lives as we emerge into the new world of careers.

5 Ways to Get Out of Lockdown Lethargy

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How many times have you heard, read, or been told that you should use this time of lockdown or social distancing to your advantage?  It is time to let your creative juices flow and create an amazing business idea or go full steam ahead with developing a career change idea that you have been mulling over for the last two years.  It would make sense, wouldn’t it?  Many of us suddenly have some spare time on our hands and should be using it to our advantage to create and finish projects.

So why are many of us struggling to do this?  Why do many people find the days drifting?  Why are all those projects you were going to get on with still waiting for completion?  We are finding ourselves doing the bare minimum required to get through the day.

I was talking to someone recently about this and they mentioned the Allostatic Load.  I had not heard of this so immediately researched it and, yes, it all made sense.  It is all about the wear and tear on our bodies over time caused by repeated exposure to stress and we are certainly experiencing a lot of exposure to stress at the moment.  The list is endless: illness, family concerns, demands of being a keyworker, home schooling, furlough, redundancy, working from home, closed businesses and financial concerns. The stress accumulates and we move into fight or flight mode.  No matter what your circumstances, every day you are being exposed to some stress caused by the uncertainty of life at the moment.

In uncertain times, it is important to be kind to yourself and do whatever is needed to make you feel a little better.  Your mind is having to cope with a lot of uncertainty and so it may not have the capacity to be coming up with amazing ideas for the future in your life and your career.

Instead, focus a little on the five areas of well-being.  Although, these can be a challenge to fulfil at the moment given social distancing measures, it may be worth having a think about them again when you feel able and finding small ways to fulfil them:

  1. Be active – going for walks will keep you active and give you some headspace.
  2. Mindfulness – can you allocate a part of the day either during a walk or otherwise to notice what is going on around you? It may be simply looking up at the clouds or the stars. You may prefer to listen to music.
  3. Learning – you may struggle to think about learning at the moment. However, learning can simply involve reading a short article, a book or talking to someone and finding out more about them.
  4. Contribution – Could you take 5 minutes to message someone and ask how they are?
  5. Connections – Social distancing has changed the way we currently connect with people. We are using videos which can be overwhelming.  If the visual is too much, simply write a letter or message to someone.  Perhaps get in touch with a friend who you haven’t spoken to for years.

It is all about little steps at the moment.  Manage your expectations and give your mind and body time to process what is going on in the world around us.

Looking after your career in the time of Coronavirus

MAApr20026 - Tessa Armstrong Associates Winners Logo

We have recently entered a really uncertain time in our lives.  It has been a really worrying and emotional time for many, all for many different reasons but with the same underlying cause – Coronavirus.  We have our inspirational NHS workers, carers and other key workers working around the clock to help provide and care for those affected.  There are also those who are quietly at home not knowing what to do and wondering what’s going to happen.

Many of these individuals are wondering what’s going to happen in their working lives.  They may be on furlough, facing possible redundancy when we come out the other side, reassessing their values in life or thinking it is now time to follow their dreams and do something different but unsure how to go about such career changes.

For five days at the beginning of lock down, I gave away my eBook, ‘The Tea Model: Slowing down in a fast-paced world to find the career you love’ for free and had over 700 downloads.  This tells me there are many people worried and anxious about their future careers.

If you are feeling worried or anxious, that’s okay.  You are allowed to feel this way.  Things are tricky at the moment.  All I want to say is once you feel ready, I really hope you can use my career resources and coaching experience to help you move forward:

  1. My website has lots of free career resources and videos for you to browse through at your leisure.
  2. I have written lots of articles on my blog. Make yourself a cup of tea and have a read.
  3. Read some of the Inspirational Career Change Interviews on my website.  These are true stories from individuals who made successful steps towards building satisfying and fulfilling careers.  They have kindly shared their stories to inspire you if you are struggling with your career.  They want to reassure you that you can find a career you love.
  4. If you haven’t already done so, grab a copy of my book ‘The Tea Model: Slowing down in a fast-paced world to find the career you love’.  My book provides a structured process for planning your career.  It includes career coaching exercises to help you discover and pursue a satisfying and fulfilling career.
  5. Contact me for a free career coaching consultation.  We can have an informal chat about how career coaching can help you.

I have 10 years experience of coaching and have won awards for my services, including most recently ‘Recognised Leader in Career Coaching Services UK, 2020’ by CV Magazine.  If you want to hear more, have a read below about what one of my fantastic clients said about career coaching.

‘My career was not moving in a positive direction, and I had been feeling unhappy after two redundancies I experienced in less than one year. And whilst the redundancies were out of my control, they were a further negative impact on advancing my career, so thought that career coaching would help me see things more clearly.

Working with Tessa was far more than I thought it would be. I am still a work in progress, but she helped me see some underlying patterns of thinking that were having a negative impact on my moving forward. She also provided me with a systematic process of looking at career options and how to move forward to achieve them.  I have found a new role with a great company and I am studying in order to bring about the change I want to see in my career. I also feel more confident that I can better handle any bumps in the road…and there are always bumps in the road!

Kate G, April 2019

It’s okay to feel stuck, it’s okay to feel anxious, it’s okay to feel uncertain.  If you have no idea what to do, that’s okay too…..I have been there too (read about my career change journey here).  A little bit of guidance (or a lot of guidance!) may be just the thing you need to help you move forward and start making positive changes as we navigate these uncertain times together.

 

 

 

5 ways to get unstuck to make a career change

careerpathIn my blog last month, I wrote about how 40% of happiness is determined by our actions, attitude and what we do on a daily basis.  A whole 40% you are free to use to make changes to your life, changes that will make you happy and increase your chances of being successful in finding a job you love.

BUT…

What happens if you are struggling to make these changes?

Have you found yourself wanting to make a change that you think will make you happy, but it just never seems to happen?

You promise yourself that you will do something to improve your well-being or introduce a positive change into your life, but struggle to keep the promises you make to yourself.  You want to change a habit but find it impossible to do so and end up postponing the change.

“I will go for a run tomorrow.”  “I will sort my career in the New Year.”  “I will make time for daily mindfulness when I am less busy.”

These promises to ourselves are really hard to keep, aren’t they?  It is much easier to find a reason not to do it.

“Work is too busy”, “the weather was bad”, “I didn’t feel like it”, “I didn’t think I would be able to do it.”

However, all these reasons become our negative habits, the habits that don’t make us happy. They are hard to change because they have become an established part of our life.

It actually takes 20-30 days of introducing a new habit, to break the old one but it is possible to change them, it may just take a little bit of time to do so.

How can you make the changes you want to make?

  1. Believe you can do it – saying ‘I can’t do it’ will make you feel miserable and you will end up not doing it. Believe in yourself and believe you can do it. This will make you feel happier and give you the motivation to achieve it.
  1. Smile – I want you to frown right now for 10 seconds. Now smile for 10 seconds. Which facial expression made you feel better? Smiling will always help you feel happy and achieve.
  1. One step at a time – break the activity you want to achieve into small steps. If you want to start running each week, don’t start with a 5k run.  Shorter runs will give you a sense of achievement and motivate you to increase the distance slightly each time you go out.
  1. Proximity – If you want to go running after work today, lay out your running clothes on your bed and put your trainers by the door. Make achieving your new habit easy for yourself.  If you have to search for your trainers, you may find excuses not to find them!
  1. Tell someone – commit to your new habit by telling someone. You will have to do it now, otherwise you will have to own up to them!

How can this apply to my career change?

If you want to make a career change, the 5 steps mentioned above will help you so you now have a choice…

You can either:

  1. Keep believing you can’t do it, frown about it, try and discover that one amazing career for yourself in one big enormous leap, leave my book ‘The Tea Model: Slowing down in a fast-paced world to find the career you love’on the bookshelf (!) and not tell anyone you are going to do anything about it.

OR, YOU CAN:

  1. Believe you can do it, smile about it, start taking small steps towards making that change, place ‘The Tea Model: Slowing down in a fast-paced world to find the career you love’ on the coffee table in front of where you sit (!) and tell someone what you are doing about making a change in your career.

I would suggest choosing number 2 – start making small steps towards your career change (or any change you wish to make) now and you will surprise yourself!  Oh yes, and remember to smile!

(Perhaps my Career Change and Career Advancement programme will help you too!)

Tessa Armstrong’s Career Change Journey

Tessa

I want to let you all know that I have been there too!

Many people ask me about my career and what led me to running my career coaching business and so my blog this month is all about my own career change journey.

I want to let you know that I have been there too!  I have spent time wondering about and imagining a career I would really enjoy and I have spent time planning and developing this career.  It is these experiences that have enabled me to build a career coaching programme with a lot of understanding behind it of what people go through in their careers and how they can create a fulfilling career.

From the beginning…

Many of you may not know this, but I actually did a music degree at Birmingham University.  I chose music because it is a subject I am very passionate about.  Whilst studying music, I started to think about my next steps and made the decision for music to become more of a hobby than to provide me with an income. At this point, I started looking into law.  I was particularly interested in family law as I wanted to be able to help people resolve issues in their personal lives.

A few years later I did indeed qualify as a solicitor in family law.  It was an amazing experience, representing individuals from a range of backgrounds.  It was also hard work and you had to learn fast.  I will never forget walking into the office one day as a newly qualified and being told I was going to have to go and do a court hearing (alone!).

However, something still wasn’t quite right.  After a few years, I was still really wondering what else was out there in the world of work. It fascinated me and I knew I had other passions I wanted to explore.  I decided to take a career break to allow me time to make these explorations.  My plan was to do some voluntary work within the charity sector as well as build more experience of working with children (two areas I am really passionate about). As it happened, within a few weeks of leaving my job, I was offered a job as a teaching assistant for a very good teacher friend of mine which I did at the same time as doing the Place2Be Certificate in Counselling Skills for Working with children. When these came to an end, I managed to secure a major gift fundraising role at Macmillan Cancer Support.  I had carried out a lot of research through networking in the charity sector and had previously done some voluntary work abroad and so I already knew a lot about the roles available.

My time at Macmillan was extremely inspiring, working for an organisation which delivers such a fantastic service and with people who are so passionate about the cause.  It was also fascinating to work in a place where there are lots of different jobs available within one organisation.  Although I missed parts of my role as a family law solicitor, at this point I knew my career was going to take a slightly different direction.

What led me to career coaching?

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After making the move from law into a different sector, lots of people started to ask me for career advice and I realised I was really enjoying the process of speaking to them about their own careers.   Deep down I’d always wanted to work for myself and so looked into how I could make a career out of giving careers support helping those who are struggling going into work each day.  I discovered career coaching and you all know what happened next!

I have now been running my business for 10 years.  I coach many solicitors as well as many individuals from other backgrounds and professions.

 

What about my passions for children and charities?

…and I haven’t forgotten about my other passions…children and the charity sector…

logoTMjpgMy passion for helping children has continued in a voluntary capacity leading me over the last couple of years to designing my primary school confidence coaching programme (My space 4 me) as well as a secondary school careers programme.

As you will no doubt realise, none of this happened overnight.  It took time, thinking, experimenting, talking, getting things right and getting things wrong!

My Book

Book Tessa Armstrong IAPC&MEverything you read in my book (The Tea Model), I have done personally as well as used this programme to coach 100’s of individuals. I have made goals, assessed my skills. I have developed a career vision, overcome that tricky negative mindset. I have explored different options through paid and voluntary work, networked to help me find the answers as well as battled with that work-life balance (which is always a work in progress for everyone!).

I want you to know that carving your own way through the world of careers may take time, but it is possible, and it will be worth it as I can honestly say I love what I do.   If you are not enjoying your job, please do use the people around you who have been on a similar journey like me.  There are always times in our lives when we need a bit of extra support and that is okay!

It is possible to find a fulfilling and satisfying job for you.

www.tessaarmstrong.co.uk