Have you ever considered under what circumstances did you change your professional and your personal trajectory? You are probably familiar with the following formula included in the management books – until the fear of the unknown is larger than the perceived discomfort associated with the change, we are content with the status quo. It’s only when the discomfort of the current situation becomes unbearable, we take the leap. That’s the theory and it is – in most cases – true.
In the daily observation of clients and friends combined with analysis of my career decisions, I noticed and framed two additional categories and so practice supplemented the theory.
The most common reason – both theoretically and empirically – for change is pain.
♦ I got fired.
♦ I didn’t get the promotion, yet again.
♦ If I stay another day on this job, I will lose mu soul (real quote from a client)
♦ The atmosphere is so toxic, I am starting to get health problems.
♦ I can’t stand my direct manager.
♦ I can’t tolerate my colleagues.
The list is quite long, but I will stop here and let you add your pain reasons – from own experience or from what you’ve observed around.
The most applicable illustration I can think of is my friend Tina who’s had a remarkable career in finance in New York. A career glamorous on the outside, but heart wrenching on the inside. One morning, looking at the exotic prints on her desk filled with smart quotes like – You have one life, be here now, Follow your heart, etc., she decided to, indeed, follow her heart. Quit her glamorous finance job, enrolled in a Photography class in NYU and is now a successful photographer. You can check her work here.
Unlike the change triggered by pain and discomfort, the change triggered by circumstances is smoother and less definite. We can even speculate that not following the signs and change gradually may lead us to the non-negotiable methods of the pain change.
♦ It just occurred to me and I decided to see where it would take me.
♦ It started as a hobby and gradually my friends and their friends stated to want more and more.
♦ It all started as something fun to do in my spare time.
♦ It all started with a talk to my plane neighbor.
In situations like these, like Hansel and Gretel, we follow the crumbs and hope they will lead us to the sugar house, while somehow, we skip getting eaten in the process.
This category illustration comes from my personal experience. Following the signs is how I started doing career consultations and coaching. Friends used to call me to discuss job application documents. We discussed their next career moves over a cup of tea. I did interview preparations over the phone. And I felt joy and satisfaction doing all this. Soon my friends started recommending me to people I didn’t know. When I found out I was pregnant for the second time and figured my life would now definitely be over (combining the two change categories), I decided it’s time for action and did the website describing what is it that I do.
The verb for this kind of change is proactive – decide. I decided that:
♦ I need more freedom.
♦ This was too good of a chance to miss.
♦ I want to follow my heart.
♦ I suddenly realized I’ve got nothing to lose.
This type of change usually comes with a certain degree of self-awareness and after we’ve had a certain number of career experiences. It’s somewhat connected to the first two, because there is usually a level of discomfort related to the current situation, there are signs we have followed to reach the next big step, and the main difference is that this we have control over this change – or at least we have the feeling this is our choice.
The best example I can think of is of a lady with the breadth and depth of human resources experience, who decided she didn’t want a 9 to 5 job anymore, didn’t want to be defined and limited by the corporate environment and started working as a consultant for a portfolio of companies. In this way, she gained the freedom to be the owner of her schedule – which was very important to her and continued to do what she really loved and was good at. Some of the successful businesses and consulting practices have started in a similar manner – with determination and awareness, others – sprung from pain and dissatisfaction, which, of course, doesn’t make them any less successful or meaningful.