Follow me on:


on Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Part of exploring your career possibilities, passions and interests is creating fertile soil for the growth of major “a-ha” moments or career breakthroughs. These moments of awareness allow us to see new directions for our career that we didn’t or couldn’t conceive of before, and can either ready us for or lead us to our next career destination.
By tackling the areas and suggested actions below – especially the ones you have overlooked or neglected - you can have a breakthrough in your career exploration.
Play – We tend to take our careers ultra-seriously. In fact, when we’re working on a career transition, we often berate ourselves for not taking it seriously enough. Paradoxically, that tends to impede our ability to tap into the creative process required for a career breakthrough. You want to feel light and open to possibility, without the pressing sense that it has to lead to a career. It’s that need to have “The Answer” which blocks people from the spontaneous “a-ha” moments that would otherwise guide them to a next step.
Action: Schedule regular time to “play” in activities, thoughts and areas that interest and excite you without trying to connect it to a full-time career. Start this week by taking an hour to list the things that interest you. Pick one activity you could do from that list that you don’t normally do - for instance, if you said “food”, take an evening cooking class.
Going To Your Edge – When changing careers you may need to challenge your beliefs about yourself and your world because both may be holding you back from pursuing a particular career direction. Ask yourself if you’re willing to change. This might mean challenging the notion that you need more education or your belief that non-traditional jobs don’t make money. Or it might mean learning something new that you’ve been resisting due to your own fears, like learning accounting or better people management. This area requires the maturity to reach past your comfort zone and to look at yourself honestly.
Action: Take some time over the next couple of weeks to see if you can identify one limiting thought that’s connected to your career. This thought will have the words “can’t”, “won’t”, “never”, “always” or “should” attached to it, as in, “I can’t own my own business yet because I’m not experienced”. Tell yourself that, while it may be true, you are going to decide for a week that it is not true and explore what limitations on your career are instantly removed.
Quiet Mind Reflection – The two previous areas are about new stimulation and testing the limits of your personal boundaries. Once you engage in these activities, Quiet Mind Reflection is required to help you process what you’ve learned, and make room for the “output”. As your subconscious works on the new information it’s been given, it needs space to find its way “out” again appearing as the “a-ha” moment to your conscious mind. If you careen from one “to do list” item to the next, you give your mind no time or space to chew on what is coming in. Making time for quiet mind reflection is essential to the process of career exploration.
Action: Put aside time, ideally every day, but at least one or two days a week, for reflection only. You might want to journal at this time (with no aim but to write what’s on your mind at that moment) or just go for a walk without purpose. If you have trouble scheduling that kind of time, perhaps try a gentle yoga class. Be open to thinking about whatever comes to mind, without forcing an answer or feeling like you’re wasting your time if nothing comes of your personal reflection.
Boundary Setting – Transitions require extra psychic energy. You’re thinking of yourself in new ways, stimulating your creative process and making quiet time to process what you’ve taken in – all on top of your regular life responsibilities. Boundaries create a safe enclave from which to explore without expectation from yourself, or others. Imagine that you are currently baking your new career in an oven. If you or the people around you keep opening the oven and poking it with a fork, the poor thing will not only never get cooked all the way through, it will come out full of holes.
Action: Look at your calendar and give yourself a reasonable amount of time to be in an exploration stage (at least 3 to 6 months). Then let key people who might be affected by your open-ended process (your spouse, partner, family) know that you are entering this process and your timeline. Tell them that during this time you will not be making any final decisions, just exploring. Ask for their support in ways that feel good to you.
Self-Trust – Do you trust yourself enough to choose a new direction? Could you trust yourself to make a good choice? Sometimes when we’ve been burned by past choices, particularly around our career, we have trouble believing that we will know the right direction when we see it, especially when we feel there’s too much at stake to get it wrong. Without realizing it, this trust issue blocks our ability to follow up on ideas and possibilities.
Action: Take small steps to build up your self-trust for the big decisions. Start by noticing the moments you do trust yourself. Ask yourself: “How did I know it was the right decision?” or “What does it feel like when I make a decision I’m comfortable with?”
Community Building – The people around you help reflect who you are. If you are trying to make a career change, you need to have communities of people who represent your different passions and interests, so you can experience belonging and support in those areas. They might have things to share from their personal career journey or just be a virtual support network. Your personal communities don’t have to know each other – they’re simply individual people, groups or associations that you know of and that match your interests and goals. For instance, you might have a “management” community, a “website technology” community, a “creative” community, and a “career exploration” community.
Action: Make a list of some of your different interests. If you have some ideas for new career directions, (such as “teacher” or “event planner”) add those in. Now think of people you know that either have or have had that role or interest. They can be close friends, work colleagues, acquaintances, etc. They can also be people you don’t know, like an online blogger or someone you’ve read about who inspires you. Use this list to identify where you need more support to explore your passions and interests.
These are a few areas and actions that you could take right now to kick start (or re-energize!) your personal career exploration. Don’t try them all at once. Do the one that you’re most drawn to first, and integrate the others down the line. Remember, it’s not about getting the great “a-ha” as fast as possible. It’s about being ready and open to see new possibilities, and to trust yourself enough to choose the one that feels right to you.
copyright Karen Schaffer 2006

« back to articles

Leave a comment