I was recently interviewed by Des O’Connor for a panel on career change and women business leaders. Together, we discussed some very thoughtful points, especially with regard to the process of career change, and what it takes to make that leap of faith. I’ve been thinking about the things we discussed since then, and wanted to share some more thoughts on the topic of career reinvention, and getting out of your comfort zone.
Stepping Out of Your Career Comfort Zone
I’ve found, in my work, that often people can be can be trapped by their own success. Many of my clients are looking to reinvent their careers, not because they have failed in another field, but because they have succeeded, to varying degrees, but aren’t fulfilled. More often than not, the people seeking out a career change are those who want more out of their daily lives—qualified, capable people, who are good at their jobs. Desiring a change of career is not a sign of weakness. Having the desire to take a chance, make a change, and follow your own goals is a sign of strength and determination.
When we build a successful career, we often convince ourselves that staying in that career is the “right” thing to do. Maybe we are just comfortable in the role, or we feel obligated to the people who depend on our work (or the income it generates). It’s easy to look at our careers on paper, and say “I’m doing the right things. I’ve used my experience and my schooling; I’ve worked hard for the promotions and raises. I can’t throw that all away now!”
We can get hemmed in by our own success and our own mindset. When we get stuck in this way of thinking, we look at our experience and skills as functionally fixed, rather than dynamic. Often, we use this excuse to trick ourselves into avoiding taking the next step, and the uncertainty and stress that comes with a major life change.
Career Change can be Stressful
I won’t try to sugar-coat this; changing careers can be very stressful. It’s not an easy thing to do. In fact, one study listed changing careers in the top 20 most stressful events in the average life span—right next to losing a close friend. The process of changing careers isn’t easy. But the things that will change your life for the better, are rarely easy. We can reduce the stress that comes with this situation by being prepared.
The reality of the working world today is that we are very unlikely to stay with one organisation, or keep working the same job, for our entire career. This may have been the case in past generations, but today’s job marketis a different beast. So when it comes to career change, the first thing we need to do is come to terms with the fact that we are going to go through this process at some point. Rather than hiding from the idea, we should be prepared, and unafraid of the prospect.
The Right Mindset for Change
Once we embrace the idea of career change, we can begin to truly prepare for it. I’ve reinvented my own career, and have helped countless clients and friends through the process as well. I’ve realised that there are some common threads that weave through this process.
One of the things that I help my clients with on a regular basis, is just getting out of their comfort zone—learning to embrace the feeling of being uncomfortable. We can become so used to our careers, that even if we have impressive, high-stress positions, we learn to adapt to that as the norm. The idea of getting outside of that box can be frightening.
Think about a senior executive, who is considering branching out to start her own business. In her C-suite position at her current firm, she has the security that comes with having other executives on your same level of the corporate hierarchy, and perhaps even above her level, who specialise in various areas of expertise.
Beyond that, she also has employees working beneath her who she manages and utilises to reach the teams goals. This person has all of the knowledge it would take to start their own business, but she needs to take a big step out of her comfort zone, in order to do so.
The person in this example may be an industry expert, but could be uncomfortable pitching a business idea to investors; or out of practice when it comes to the hiring process; or nervous about keeping track of human resources and benefits. I love to help people through these sticking points, and build their skills around them. Being able to focus on the places where you need to grow, without negativity, will take your career to new heights.
There are many different aspects that come along with reinventing your career. But once you decide on the direction you want to take, getting out of your comfort zone and tracking down the resources you need to become an expert becomes much easier.
Growth Mindset and Career Change
When we determine our direction and set our sites on a goal, we’re telling ourselves that we are ready to grow. Now we need to tell ourselves that our skills and experiences are ready to grow with us.
By adopting a growth mindset when you approach your career change, you are preparing to make the most of your skills, and build those skills you are still lacking in. You are preparing yourself to succeed, and to fail, but to fail forward.
Growth mindset means looking at all of your experiences, all of your setbacks and all of your successes, as opportunities to learn and grow. When you consider your upcoming challenges as opportunities to learn more about yourself, build your skills, and learn something new about your business or industry, stepping out of your comfort zone doesn’t seem so uncomfortable any more.
Focus on the positive impacts that stepping out of your comfort zone could have. Nearly every time, you will see that the benefits greatly outweigh the potential risks.
So one of the biggest takeaways that I considered after my chat with Des O’Connor, was the importance of stepping out of your comfort zone, and embracing those feelings of uncertainty and doubt. It’s great to be able to say, “I have confidence, I don’t doubt myself,” but in reality, we all have moments where our confidence dries up and we begin to seriously doubt ourselves. It’s in how we react to these moments that we prove our worth.
If you want to learn more about how I help my clients get out of their comfort zone and into action, drop me a line!