3 ways to embrace career identity changes
For many of us, our careers define more than we give it credit for.
Our identity – how we feel about ourselves, the labels we give ourselves, how we gauge our success, our academic investments, the achievement of our goals and aspiration – much of this is wrapped up in our careers.
Whilst it may be stating the obvious – it is worth reflecting that we spend a disproportionate amount of time in our careers. Apart from earning money, it’s a place for our growth, intellectual stimulation, friendship, growth challenges and provides measurable “success” barometers which society and many of us judge our lives by.
When circumstances change, and especially when it’s unexpected – it can bring a fundamental shift in our career circumstances. We awaken to the uncomfortable realisation of how much we have invested of our self, and the many different layers of identity that are wrapped around our careers.
We live in a time where change is the ever constant (aren’t you sick of that phrase?!). It surprises me how many people still say “just give it time and it will settle”.
Here’s the thing – it’s not going to settle.
We are living in the 4th Industrial Revolution and this rate of change is the new standard and as you have no doubt gathered – job security is no longer a verb.
With the changing nature of work and workplaces – career paths are not as clearly defined as they were a few years ago.
Furthermore, you may find that what fulfilled you in the past – now leaves you less excited or challenged.
You want to learn new things. In ways that may be difficult to articulate to others – you feel often alone having this view about your career.
To help you manage and work through your career identity crisis, use the 3 powerful tips to reshape your career identity:
1. Your career identity doesn’t equal all of you
By the very nature of our career being a source to fill our basic needs – i.e. an income which gives the mechanism to house and feed our families – it feels like an extreme threat when our careers are rocked by unexpected change.
Many of us link our self worth to what our careers bring – job title, perceived status, scale of income, benefits etc.
When change happens in your career – it helps to remember this is only one of the boxes in your life.
Remember there are many other aspects that make up the awesome you – the knowledge you’ve gained, your strong networks and connections, your strength of relationship with your family and the hobbies that add interesting colour to you.
Your career is only ONE of the many way through which you express your talents, strengths and skills.
From this place, your mind will be more open to other possibilities and liberation that comes from considering where else you could express your talents.
2. Think “play-explore” versus “try-fail”
A critical aspect of career change is recognising it’s a process, and giving ourselves permission to “play-explore” vs thinking “this is the next job I want and if I don’t make it, I’ve failed.”
Your approach for play-explore” when going through change will support you as you draw on transferable skills, adapt to new skills and capabilities whilst keeping an open mind to the identity shifts that come with new terrain.
When exploring a new role or identity, use the following questions when talking to your network to help shape up the answers as you ‘play-explore’:
- What experience / skills are required for Career X?
- What does Career X mean for you and what would you expect to be delivered over 2 years in the role?
- What does a ‘day to day’ look like for you?
- How have you grown as a person? What do you enjoy about yourself more as a result?
- If you were looking to hire for Career X – what would you be looking for?
3. The power of ‘AND’
We respond to change differently. For some it’s a time to thrive and push into new levels, whereas others will retreat into comfort zones and prefer to move at a slower pace that suits them.
As you work through identity changes, it’s not a time to compare yourself to others and judge your reaction by other’s response. Remember – what makes you thrive, can make another turn into a gibbering over anxious wreck – and vise versa.
Change requires us to hold the space compassionately for ourselves. It’s not only about the outward changes that impact our identity and circumstances. There is the inner process of who we want to BE and how we may want to change what we DO.
It’s natural for your lizard brain to keep looping around survival orientated questions such as:
- Who am I to think I can do this?
- What does that make the past xx years that I’ve invested in the old career mean – was it a waste?
- Do I have the energy to restart? Do I actually WANT to restart?
- Who am I choosing to be and what am I choosing the time to help define what my life stands for?
Moving through career identity changes isn’t as simple as ‘follow this 6-step blueprint formula’.
The journey of BEing versus DOing takes time and is different for each of us.
To stay connected to your own essence, your truth and identify the building blocks for the life we want to create is to embrace curiosity, openeness along with the powerful word “AND”
This could look like “I’m exploring what career and life balance looks for me. It’s messy, uncomfortable AND I’m taking it in small steps”
“I’ve noticed that I’m really attached to having a certain ranking of job title. I’m curious why that’s so important to me AND I’m being gentle with myself as I work through this”
I’d love to hear what insights this article opened up for you.
If you’re considering changing up your career and want to get clear what ‘next’ looks like for you, book a free Discovery call with me here.