As much as you are yearning for career-change, and as much as the trends actually favor it, just contemplating a shift is a glittering invitation to four emotional stalkers who love nothing better than to play a nasty game of team-tag at your personal expense. When you unmask these bandits -- even a little -- they begin to lose their emotional charge – leaving you free to more fully explore the opportunities to re-invent yourself.
Stalker # 1: The Devil You Know. Just imagine that you’re headed for work. You’re at the station, briefcase and newspaper in hand, waiting in a narrow sea of gray look-alikes to catch the 6:10 train. Or, jailed in your car, radio droning, you crawl along the highway, hypnotized by the swaying bumpers ahead.
You arrive in town, grab your daily coffee, rise silently in a packed elevator and pad to your office, numb before you even start your day. Work done, you reverse direction, back and forth, each day more effort than the one before.
After ten or twenty years, once colorful work has faded. Yet how good it feels to know the ropes! How seductively easy it is to stay stuck in what you know!
To break out of your comfort zone, tap into the most inspiring, personal benefit that your career change can bring you: More intriguing and challenging work? Being your own boss? or, perhaps it’s the luxury of more personal time to pursue additional interests.
Mentally scan your list of friends and acquaintances who are fulfilled in their work. Who has a working life that you would like to have? Who is demonstrating that hard work and life in full bloom are not mutually exclusive realities?
Stalker #2: Clueless in Seattle. If you have a passion for particular work, or specialized expertise that you intend to lever, Fortune is smiling and waving you forward. Count yourself lucky, indeed! The rest of us face the thorny battle of believing that there is work out there for us that is we can embrace with our logic brain and our heart brain. Two different animals, worlds apart! Intellectually, lots of options exist, but how do you make the visceral leap that one of these options is right for you?
This was my #1 dilemma in 1999. Objectively, I knew that I had good skills that I could leverage. But emotionally I was not a believer. Since I didn’t know what THE work was, how could I believe it was possible? I would have given up then and there, if it wasn’t for a friend who suggested that I was trying to accomplish too much, too early. He saw me desperate to “swing from tree to tree” and challenged my need to nail down exactly what I was going to do for work before I even started the change process.
“Figuring out what to do for a living IS the process,” he explained. “The answers unfold slowly, with diligent work.” He encouraged me to explore my talents and work preferences fully and methodically. And to think with my heart. “It’s your heart,” he advised, “that allows you to leap.”
Stalker #3: The Slippery Slope: Money. Our desire for financial security screams at a deafening crescendo and sabotages our willingness to step forward even one inch. Fat paychecks, bonuses, expense accounts, paid vacations and health benefits -- perks to flutter our hearts and, on occasion, puff our egos with a sense of status and independence. The green stuff pays our bills, educates our kids, entertains us and gives us a sense that all is well with the world.
Car? Mortgage? Health insurance? All of these are completely valid issues. But as long as you are still drawing a paycheck, worrying about financial ruin is completely self-defeating. Spend your energy constructively, working the math in a deliberate way and letting the results dictate your path – not your fear.
Once I “got” this wisdom, I scratched out budgets like a miser obsessed. The results weren’t ideal, but they weren’t devastating either. After chopping expenses and eliminating debt, my savings would support me for 11 months. I wanted a minimum of 24 months of cushion to cover a ramp up period to get my coaching business off the ground. Closing the gap meant staying put until next year’s bonus was paid -– 10 months away! This placed my escape squarely at 20 months from start to finish, longer than I had anticipated, but at least I had a solid target in my gun site. My exit had become a question of “when” not “if”.
Stalker #4: The Mush Factor. Lack of confidence is the subtlest form of exit sabotage, but just as lethal as its three stalker-friends. It creeps up, scores, and then evaporates like soft mist. Just when you’re ready to take on the world, it attacks again, melting you into a puddle of doubts about your ability to even come close to career change.
When you feel vulnerable, think about the bounty you’ve gained from your corporate run -– sharp-as-a-tack analytical skills, business acumen, process know-how, leadership, and the solid technical expertise -– law, accounting, finance, organizational and human development, marketing, sales – the list is as long and as rich as Rapunzel’s hair. These attributes fueled your corporate career; they will do no less for you now.
That said, perfect confidence all the time is not realistic either. Emotional wobbles go with the territory. To steady yourself, remember that your journey is one of choice, not force. You control it from beginning to end –- the pace, how it unfolds and when. When the level of uncertainty feels too great, accept it. It will pass. When it does, pick up the reins again. Work with your flow of energy, not against it. Before you know it, you will have conceived a plan and a financial strategy that will feed your confidence -- not suck it dry.
Mastering your fate means rolling up your oxford sleeves and plowing through lots of rocky terrain. It means caging the four stalkers into submission -- once, twice –- as often as it takes to open the space for thoughtful career-change work. In fact, get to know these stalkers well. Even thank them for their guidance -- and remind them that you’re the boss now -- and you’re getting ready to take on the decisions around your future.
Patricia Soldati is a former President & COO of a national finance organization who re-invented her working life in 1999. Now, as a career fulfillment specialist, she guides unhappy corporate professionals into meaningful work -- both inside and outside the corporate walls.
For more about her background and approach or to receive 5 Complimentary Career Change Lessons, visit http://www.purposefulwork.com