Ever wondered why some people take a radically new direction in their careers? Some people are just plain lucky – they get made redundant one day, and stumble into a new career the next finding complete fulfillment in it.
But for most of us, it isn’t like that.
We had a career, a way of life and an identity which was taken away either by circumstances beyond our control, or because we needed to change direction without necessarily knowing why, and without necessarily knowing what that new direction was. If you find yourself in this situation, here are my 6 steps to finding that new direction and making a success of it.
Who Am I?
First, ask yourself, ‘who am I?’ You used to be whatever you were in your last job or career. When you remove that identity, what’s left – who are you? This can be an uncomfortable question if you don’t have a clear sense of yourself. What are your core values and beliefs? What is your guiding spirit?
I left the Army after 26 years service at the end of 2008 because something was missing – the fire had gone out and I needed to rediscover a purpose for my life to replace the vocation I’d had since an adult first asked me, ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’. There was only ever one answer, ‘a soldier’, and when that was no longer the answer, I shed that identity and had no idea who I was.
So I took some time out and did a lot of reflection, which became the start of a journey of self discovery that continues. I’m now comfortable with my values and beliefs, I accept myself as I am, and I’m no longer trying to be anyone else.
Where Am I Going?
Then ask yourself, ‘Where am I going?’ In your former job or career, you had a sense of direction, maybe even a vocation. If you still have that, great! If you don’t have a strong sense of purpose for your life, how do you know what you should be doing?
When I work with clients, and I meet someone who is genuinely passionate about what they do, I know that they are likely to succeed because people with passion and purpose can move mountains. I’ve seen people with negligible business and management skills progress rapidly to become effective CEOs of growing organisations because they were highly motivated and had a sense of mission.
If you haven’t yet discovered your purpose, try out a few new things, volunteer, take a punt at a new activity, and listen inside yourself for feedback.
I undertook a ‘life purpose’ session as part of a guided meditation weekend and it revealed to me that helping others to succeed is my life’s purpose. I had not long started voluntary business mentoring and was finding it very satisfying, but I didn’t have the confidence to go for it until I discovered that helping others to succeed was my purpose in life.
How Am I Going To Get There?
The next question to ask yourself is, ‘How am I going to get there?’ When you know your life’s purpose, you are in a strong position to set yourself personal goals or life goals. We all know about SMART targets, but do we really understand SMART goal setting?
S is for specific and simple
M is for measurable and meaningful
A is for achievable and acting as if it’s a foregone conclusion
R is for realistic and responsible, because you need to take 100% responsibility for making it happen
T is for timed and towards because it needs to be a positive goal to progress towards, not a negative outcome to be avoided
And we need to set personal goals in all areas of our life, not simply our career or we may neglect something that will trip us up when our life gets out of balance. Setting SMART goals is a powerful technique that harnesses the power of our unconscious mind to work 24/7 on our behalf, spotting opportunities and drawing us inevitably and largely subconsciously towards our goals.
When I first reviewed my goals, I realised I had neglected to set a goal for my family. I put that right and I like to think that had something to do with my eldest son gaining an advanced engineering apprenticeship. But avoid milestones and intermediate targets – if they are important, then they are probably your goals.
I set myself a goal for my business of earning £x by the end of the year. In best linear planning fashion, I worked out that in order to achieve that, I should be earning a proportion of that amount each month from the middle of the year. But here’s the thing: truly SMART goals have an amazing ability to manifest themselves in the most unexpected ways and the whole goal might be achieved in December, with nothing earned until then. Setting intermediate targets can therefore blow your goal, so be clear about what your real goal is – and be careful what you wish for because you’ll probably get it!
Take action, lots of action and more action. Keep on taking action, listening inside yourself for feedback and eventually you will find what you are looking for. In my case, finding clients was taking longer than expected, so I got really focused on what action was going to generate leads and pursued those actions, and anything else that might contribute towards them, and it started paying off sooner than I expected.
Give to Gain
When trying something new, go into it with a mindset that you are there to give, not to take. Eventually this will pay off - this seems to be an unwritten ‘law of life’. I started voluntary business mentoring to be of service to others while I figured out what to do with the rest of my life, and I ended up with a new vocation and a new career.
And ‘pay it forward’ – when someone asks you for a helping hand on their journey, help them out and ask in return only that they help someone else out when that moment comes. One day that will come back full circle to you.
Be Open and Trusting
Be open to everything and trust that your goals will be achieved. This requires a leap of faith – make that leap and you will be amazed at how liberating it is. You now have licence to try anything and everything. I thought of myself simply as a business mentor, but by being open to how my career goals might become manifest and ‘following the energy’, I find myself doing work I had no idea I could do, such as coaching directors through career transition, working with colleges to develop enterprise education, and helping innovative engineering companies take new products to market.
These 6 steps helped me through my career transition and I hope they help you through yours - good luck with your journey. If you find this helpful, interesting or maybe even provocative, I’d welcome your feedback and I’d like to hear your story.
© Transition Transformers™ and Ross Nichols 2013
In : career
Tags: "career transition" "career transformation" "successful new career"