From Paralysis to Action
The biggest challenge faced by many individuals who desperately believe they need to do something different with their careers is moving from recognition to action. For too many, getting up out of their chairs and getting into action in search of “next” leaves them feeling overwhelmed.
When we’re overwhelmed, we either lash out or go to ground and do nothing. It’s the latter—doing nothing—I see most often with prospective career changers. Instead of going to ground, here’s a simple set of actions anyone can adapt and apply to get started on their career transformation journey.
A client of mine had long toyed with the idea of turning his love of cooking into a business. While hobbies are often lousy businesses—they have to be marketable, and many are not—I was impressed with his thoughts on how he might learn and earn at the same time in a kind of agile, entrepreneurial approach. However, the millions of details involved in getting started, ranging from licensing, securing a commercial kitchen, starting out catering back-yard and company events and so forth left him feeling overwhelmed and stuck in neutral.
After understanding his situation, we devised a series of short sprints including reaching out to a food industry consultant, setting up a meeting with the local commercial kitchen, and sitting down with local village administrators responsible for licensing. His goal was to ask questions, identify additional resources, and gain clues to getting started. Once he completed this step, the next stage of defining his idea starting point and confirming the licensing issues surrounding equipment, food preparation, and food selling became clear.
He’s now busier than he ever expected and thinking about how to expand. All it took was getting up off the metaphorical couch and moving. The investigation leads to insights that help us define actions.
This successful consultant had traveled the globe working with some of the world’s largest firms on lofty restructuring and strategic projects, but she was sick of the grind, the flying, and the lack of building anything sustainable with her work. She longed for a slower life where she could build meaningful relationships and stay in one time-zone for more than a day. And while the desire was there, it remained more of a fantasy for the occasional quiet moments while she rode the merry-go-round of corporate consulting. One day, she had enough and reached out for help.
Drawing upon some vacation time that likely would have gone unused, we devised an exploration plan that included visiting a number of the types of local businesses on her fantasy start-up list, as well as the regional economic development specialist.
Through a mere coincidence, she was introduced to an individual selling a small manufacturing firm. One thing led to another, and she was able to get a good consultant’s view of this struggling firm and decided it had potential in the right hands. It did.
While no one can predict you’ll strike gold in a short time, the act of getting out of your head, out of your chair, away from screens and into circulation is the best way to uncover opportunities and grow smarter in the process.
This client was interested in turning his comfort in front of an audience and his gift of gab into something that involved speaking. Working together, we designed a series of speaking experiments, including a local chamber event and an alumni dinner from his college. Those were fun, but the path forward wasn’t clear.
Along the way, I learned his backstory which included ample time spent facilitating meetings, more by default than design. Facilitation is always in demand, and it’s an activity that challenges all of your faculties, including your speaking abilities. We shifted our focus for experimenting, and he volunteered to facilitate the planning portion of his team’s annual offsite. It went well, and the next steps involved gaining some additional practice opportunities and exploring professional training and certification. He’s now a successful, independent facilitator who coincidentally is regularly engaged by his former employer to help with strategic meetings.
Your Story and Circumstances are Different, But Action is Key
We all take different paths to career stops during our life’s journey. You might fall easily into your next role or, it might be an outcome of an extensive process of investigating, exploring, and experimenting. Regardless of circumstances, one thing is sure: sitting around thinking about escaping or wishing something would come your way are guaranteed to get you nowhere.
The author Steven Pressfield captures the essence of that insidious force in all of us that keeps us from moving forward with our dreams or goals. He calls it resistance, and his fabulous, quick, compelling read, The War of Art, is the best resource I’ve encountered for tuning into strategies to overcome this force keeping you glued to doing nothing. Read it until you feel that kick-in-the-rear you need to start moving. And then, keep moving. Resistance hates movement.
Thinking Time is Good at the Right Time
At some point in the career reinvention process, you will need to hit the pause button and think about what you’ve learned, what it means, and how you might leverage the insights to begin moving once more. I love thinking time—at the right time.
The Bottom-Line for Now:
If you’ve reached the point where the idea of career reinvention is almost as important as breathing, it’s time to start moving. Someone or many someones out there hold clues to the answer to your question of “What’s next?” You won’t find them sitting there thinking about it. Now, put one foot in front of the other and keep going.
Check out my growing library of career reinvention articles.
No one reinvents alone. If you are interested in coaching, drop me a note and we’ll explore what it looks like to work together.