The uncertainty of the last 18 months left many of us in a state of limbo, stuck in a job or career that we might otherwise have abandoned. Fear, and a need to pay the mortgage has been a factor but so has a sense of loyalty to our employers during this tough time. There has been a lot of standing still, working hard just to stay afloat.
Findings from AUT's recent Wellness at Work survey suggests that Kiwis are looking to be bolder, and this is certainly my experience from working with clients. Driven by fatigue, burnout and general job dissatisfaction, many are no longer putting off the decisions they were too afraid to make when Covid first hit New Zealand.
Now, with the pandemic set to remain a colossal challenge for some time to come, many are reconsidering what matters to them and reprioritising their lives. For some, this will mean a change in role or company, and for others, a complete career change.
A change in career can be daunting but there is concrete action you can take to ensure you've made the right decision, and navigate your way to success. The first step is to clarify your values. Take some time to do the work and focus on understanding what drives you. Values are our dearly held core beliefs and the things that are really important to us. Once we know our values, we can make decisions that align with these. This makes job hunting or setting up a business, re-training, deciding to go in a new direction or any other next step, that much easier.
Once your values are clear, set yourself goals that align with them - for work, but also for other important aspects of your life such as your relationships, personal development, finances, health, and wellbeing. This will all help make the decision on your next career step that much easier, as your values and the lifestyle you want to live will help guide you to choose a role (or any other career move) that aligns with what's important to you.
Next, you need to consider the possible implications, risks and rewards of your chosen career change. Often bold choices are hard, there are benefits and risks to all decisions, so investing time in exploring all the angles will help you refine your thinking.
Once you have worked out your values and considered the risks, ask for feedback from those you trust the most. It's important to gather feedback but remember to also include a perspective from someone who doesn't have a personal stake, such as a business coach, so you gather a balanced viewpoint. Sometimes our family and friends can have their own biases and perceptions.
Ultimately, go with your gut, particularly if you have spent the time exploring the possible risks and rewards of your choice. If it is important to you, you will find a way to make your career change happen, even if you just get the ball rolling on developing a pathway that will help achieve your goal later on.
Set an action plan to get you to your goal, making sure that you know what success looks like and how you will measure it along the way. This might involve one or two long-term goals, some medium-term milestones, and some short-term actions that will set you on your path. This could include investing in training to fill any knowledge gaps, starting a savings plan so you have a financial cushion ready before you make the big leap into a different direction or starting off with a side hustle before you shift to full time in your new direction.
Before you decide to make the final jump, talk about it with your employer – you never know – they may be open to finding you opportunities that will more closely align with what you are wanting to do or may be willing to discuss other options (such as flexible working, better pay, training in a particular area) that would make a difference. Many managers are open to the discussion and appreciate the honesty and opportunity to act before a valued employee resigns. And you won't know unless you try!
If after all your reflection and soul searching you really want to make a career change, take action now, even if it is just in a small way towards your chosen path, and don't stop - keep moving towards your goal and what you know will help you find fulfilment and the lifestyle you are seeking from your career. This is the important bit!
To help you on your path, reach out to your networks to see if anyone you know might be able to share sound advice or put you in touch with others who might be able to do the same. But be sure any conversations are confidential – just in case others find out before you are ready.
Along the way, you need to find ways to motivate yourself and keep yourself accountable. Write your goals down or share them with a friend, mentor, or business coach. And be sure to celebrate your successes along the way - not only at the finish line.
And finally, use the opportunity of pause that a lockdown presents to review where you are at, clarify where you want to be and start crafting a life and career that's going to truly fulfil and satisfy you. I promise you it will be worth it. Although life might feel uncertain, the truth is that we never know what is just around the corner. So, if not now, when?
- Frances Bearne is the director of Human Focus Consulting and International Certified Coach.