Are you going through career transition?
If yes, I am sure going through a very delicate time of your life. Chances are you are 40, possibly 50+, and a number of different circumstances have driven you out of your job, the job for the company you have worked for quite some time.
Maybe it was that you were made redundant o maybe you couldn’t quite cope with corporate life anymore or your specific company culture; or maybe it was a difficult boss or that you burned out a bit and needed to recharge your batteries.
Whatever the reason, you are in career transition now and you must take care of yourself, as you are on your own, or at least if feels as such.
Also, you might be aware that while some career transitions are very short, others are a bit longer, so you might be dealing with a slice of your life ranging from 6 months for a “more of the same” transition, to 2 or 3 years if you are taking on a very different professional activity.
Here below is a check list with 10 things to consider to transform this potentially difficult time into a useful and enjoyable one.
Make sure you are not a train wreck.
Some people get out of their companies and they fall into depression and anxiety, or maybe they stress and burnout are the reasons that led them to quit in the first place. The reality is that you are not alone, but very few people will talk about this because it is a big taboo. Mental health is one of the biggest challenges of high performing executives and if you have fallen into depression and anxiety, you are not the first and will not be the last. So, if you feel that something is not right in your head and that your energy levels are down the drain, please consult a physician that can assess how you are doing and what support you might need. I strongly suggest you do this right away as it would save you some precious time preventing you from sliding into a stalemate.
Wake up early and build new habits.
If you are not working, good news is that you can sleep a little bit longer, or maybe much longer. Now, whilst this is enjoyable for a few days, you want to avoid sleeping till late in the morning every day. After all it is true that you are not working for a corporation, but you have a new job, that is figuring out what you want to do with your professional life. That in itself is a big job and deserves the best of you. So, it is important that you establish new habits, and good ones. My suggestion is you still wake up early, say 6.30 AM, ahead of your children, cook breakfast (how many times in the last 10 years did you have the luxury of having breakfast with your family during the week?), then quickly shower, shave and dress up. Don’t stay in your pyjamas! This is about telling your brain that you are active and working, not a lazy potato couch. Also on shaving, I know sometimes it feels relaxing not to do it in the morning, but, unless you have decided to grow a serious beard, the habit of shaving will again tell your mind that you are alive and kicking.
Create your working space
If you have a home office, make sure you spend there your “working” time, rather than in the kitchen; this will prevent you from snacking all the time and putting on unnecessary weight. If you don’t have a space at home, go to a cafe the likes of Starbuck, Nero, Costa, BTP, with free wi-fi and a big crowd of people that like you either work flexibly or are students. It will feel as you are going to work.
Do some serious physical exercise
Now, I hope you are in great shape, but if you are like most managers who work at multinationals, you probably can improve your exercising routine, can’t you? Also, consider that, well in your 40/50ies, you are now in the danger zone for health problems. So, what better way to manage your cholesterol levels and borderline blood pressure than doing some serious exercise? I said serious exercise, so be brutally honest with yourself. The 30 minutes run you do once a week is not serious exercise. You have a fantastic opportunity to transform your body, with running, cycling, and other wonderful sports that you will have higher changes to factor in your new routine. Have you ever dreamt of cycling like Chris Froome? Well you have the change to do it now. It is written in a myriad of books. Intense exercising will make you healthier, more relaxed, in better mood and more importantly, more creative. You need creativity to navigate through the open ocean waters of career transition (the narrow reassuring river you have already left behind!).
Spend time figuring out what to do, but don’t run
When it is about deciding what to do next professionally, I recommend you don’t run too fast. You are now off the market and can enjoy some reflection time. Our default behaviour is to try and get back to work immediately, because that is what we have been told to do since we graduated. After all, and particularly in some cultures, not having job is something to hide, something to be ashamed of. Well, we are free to hold these thoughts and feel bad about it, or we can decide not think that way and to act in a different way, maximising the wonderful opportunity that we have in front of us to think about what we really what to do with our life. If more of the same is the answer so be it, but let’s not do that as an automatic, unchallenged behaviour. You might want to work with a coach to help identify new possibilities. This is the time to ask yourself some powerful questions like: “what do I really enjoy doing?”.
Build your brand
You have come a long way professionally. You have been promoted several times. You are good at what you are doing, aren’t you?
You have a great opportunity to let the world know about you and what you are good at doing by creating some meaningful content. These days, companies and head-hunters check your social media presence and expect that you are active on the scene. So you can blog or create videos in the area where you are a subject matter expert and distribute them via social networks.
Alternatively you can participate and contribute to workshops and conferences. You can also offer your advice as a consultant of projects that you feel passionate about and build your credibility in specific area of interest to you. Even if these activities are done free of charge, they are a good investment in your network and might reap significant rewards in the future.
Finally, make sure your social media presence is up to date and well presented. Try to polish your LinkedIn profile, SEO optimised, with all the endorsements and recommendations.
Activate old and new networks
Some people are better at networking than others. The truth is networking is important during career transition and not only because some old colleagues of yours might offer you a job or give you a promising lead, but also because you might come across new opportunities that you have never considered, maybe to change industry, or function, or start working as an entrepreneur.
There are different types of networks you will want to activate:
Head-hunters are the ones that come to mind first. This is fine, if you are already clear about what to do next. If not, hold on for a second before going after them because you want to be clear, concise and persuasive with your pitch, clarifying exactly what you are aiming for. One thing to remember when you are working with head-hunters on an opportunity, it that processes sometime have weird patterns of unfolding. Sometimes they start fast, and then the stop for weeks and come back suddenly with an acceleration. When you are campaigning, there will be weeks were no one replies to your emails or return your phone calls, and other, when you least expect it, when your phone will be ringing all the time. Just be mindful that you cannot control this process and this is just fine, just trust the process and keep refining your pitch.
Former colleagues and friends: getting back in touch with them will be refreshing, energising and a source of insights into other companies and the job market.
New network via social networks: LinkedIn and other social networks offer a fantastic opportunity to network with people that are outside your existing network. You never know where then next opportunity is and you will be surprised to learn that a lot of comes from the so called new or weak links.
Learn new skills
Transition provides a great opportunity to learn new things. These can be things you have always wanted to do but never found the time to do, like for example playing guitar or taking theatre classes, or they could be more work related in your sector. In fact, some people, while growing their careers, often slip unconsciously into a state of unconscious incompetence. This happens when they get out of touch with the details of their business. In some cases of examples, several top marketers in multinationals, have missed the wave of digital marketing and need to catch up with those new skills. In some cases, some people decide to go back to school, taking more extended training courses like MBAs or PhDs in areas they have a passion for.
Take care of your family
When you are transitioning, people in your family will be worried about the uncertainty you are going through. You should be aware of this and try to have a balancing stance, reassuring your partners when, for example, their mood is a bit heavier and pessimistic. Also, remember that you have a wonderful opportunity to do with your family things you possibly have never done before with them or done with a different level of “presence”. As I said above, having breakfast together is a wonderful thing, like it is supporting your children doing their homework and playing with them more. This is a real luxury in today’s world and something to really take advantage of during your transition.
Take care of your spiritual life.
I know this is a very personal choice, but navigating through uncertainty is not always easy. There will be times where you will feel low and clueless. In those difficult time, holding on to some spiritual practise can be of great help. You do not have to become a religious person if you have never had faith, but some practices like mindfulness and other forms of meditation can help you become more aware of your thoughts and emotions and get out of your dips faster.
That is all for the moment.
Good luck with your transition and I would like to end this article with a famous sentence from Steve Jobs: “Stay hungry, stay foolish!”