It happens to almost all of us. One day you realise it’s time to leave your current job. Sometimes you want to, sometimes you are driven by forces beyond your control. When it comes to a career change, getting yourself mentally prepared will help you select a job that helps address your current dissatisfaction and cover your expenses. You can respond more effectively when you better understand the impact of the catalysts of change (you vs them), and your readiness to respond (engine primed vs engine stalled), on your emotional wellbeing.
Responding to the catalysts of change
Change in your career driven by external forces is often beyond your control. This may initially leave you feeling powerless or in a state of disbelief. Your job may be marked for downsizing, your project may fall out of favour with management, or past allegiances may make you a target for future dismissal. Outside of the office, other external factors such as your marital status or health may impact your ability to work the way you have in the past. Change may be required so that you can take care of your child, go to the hospital for specific and timely treatments, or reduce your stress to save yourself from exhaustion.
Sometimes the catalyst for change is internal – such as a lack of fulfilment, boredom, or dislike of people or processes within your organisation. You will feel frustrated, demoralised and demotivated. Do you think it’s time to move on?
Readiness to change – the primed vs the reluctant
How much you want to change jobs, and respond to that desire, will influence how successfully you change your career. You may not want that change to happen, but you must cope with change that is going to occur. Those that are primed for change not only want it, but are looking for the nearest well-lit Exit and a door to something better. Those that are reluctant may be riddled with doubts about their worth and performance. In short, they are scared – right now.
If you get yourself ready for change – and respond to the right catalysts in an optimal fashion, you will gain a sense of control and tame your fear.
What to do when you are primed to respond to external catalysts:
If you face external forces and are primed for change you will need to shift from feeling resentful and out of control towards feeling empowered. This is an opportunity for excitement and optimism as you recharge in a new career. To make a positive change, find your passion and move forward with purpose. Identifying your passion sometimes seem quite complicated. Try asking yourself these three questions:
1. What job would you do for no monetary payment at all?
2. What role do you need to fulfil in life to feel complete? And, importantly for most;
3. What can you do to be paid to do what you want to do?
What to do when you are reluctant to respond to external catalysts:
If you are reluctant to accept change you may engage in mental cycles, bargaining with yourself: “If I just do xxx, then management will see this situation differently”. Whilst there may be some possibility of accommodating change, this is a very stressful way to survive, with no guarantee of success or peace of mind. Denial and resistance in the workplace will not help you succeed. What can you do? Work on accepting what may be inevitable, protecting yourself and your self-esteem. In these situations, people often blame themselves. Be gentle. Take a kind look at yourself and a harsh look at your circumstances. Company decisions do not reflect on you personally.
Help yourself by recognizing and exploring some of the faulty thinking that may occur. Are you taking too much personal responsibility for events that are out of your control? Are you personalising a situation which really isn’t personal? Do you catastrophise – think that this is the end of the world, rather than the end of a job? Getting past the fear of “breaking up” will allow you to get your head back in the game and focus on finding a job where you will be fulfilled and appreciated. Start collecting yourself step-by-step. Each day remind yourself that life begins at the end of your comfort zone, not in the middle of it. Do one thing every day towards building a new tomorrow for yourself. For more information, read our blog – Career change with courage click here
What to do when you are primed and ready to answer internal unrest:
If the force of change is internal, then your thoughts or experiences have left feeling a need to change – whether it’s your responsibilities, management, pay or colleagues. A progressive step may be to conduct a “life audit”. What is working in your life right now, and, more importantly, what isn’t? Are you doing this job because you want to or because you feel you should?
As a counsellor I encounter clients with well-paid, high-powered jobs which they hate but feel obligated to continue. Expand your concept of what constitutes a reward – it takes courage to change a job that pays well in cash, but very little in terms of satisfaction, joy or meaning. Start to think about what you like to do. A complete change of career is possible. If you won’t retire for another 10-15 years, wouldn’t you prefer to do something that you love? If you get stuck, work with a counsellor or executive coach to consider career opportunities. You don’t have to jump ship today, but having a timeline will buoy you through today’s annoyances until you are ready.
What to do when you face internal unrest, but are reluctant to change:
It’s hard to live with the pain created by internal unrest while you are reluctant or resistant to change. This echoes the route to insanity – doing the same thing again and again yet every time expecting a different outcome. This stalemate can lead to feelings of dissatisfaction and depression. In order to survive emotionally, if you determine that you will stay in your a job, you need to make peace with your situation. You may be able to create more balance between the elements of your life you like and those that you don’t. Take up a new sport or hobby. Volunteer in the community. If peace does not come easily avoid escapist traps of self-medication through drugs and alcohol, which will only add to your feelings of depression. If you feel stuck, and are scared, you are not alone. Engage a coach or a counsellor to help you get ready to accept, or to move on.
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Angela Watkins is a psychologist and counsellor at RED DOOR Counselling in Hong Kong. Her current clinical work focuses on adults in the areas of career change, loss of direction, burnout, relationship, depression, OCD, anxiety, perfectionism, the experience of divorce, family challenges, and parenting special needs children.