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Letting Go and Looking Forward – To Change You Must First Change 

People often ask me ‘what do you mean by letting go and what would I need to let go of?’ This great quote from Deepak Chopra sums it up perfectly for me:

In the process of letting go you will lose many things from the past, but you will find yourself.

I spend much time coaching clients to ‘let go’ and ‘look forward’, in order to see things from a different perspective. Why? Because letting go will help open up new opportunities in your career and life. This is especially true when facing key change in your life, such as changing career.  ‘Letting go and looking forward‘  is Step 1 of my highly acclaimed six step Career Navigation Cycle process and Chapter 1 of my new book ‘Winning Through Career Change‘.

We all tend to hang onto things which serve no benefit to us in moving forward, although we may not see it this way at the time.  These can include negative feelings about the job you loved that changed as a result of new owners or new technology; never achieving the promotion you aspired to and felt you deserved and the classic ‘I’m just a generalist’.
When you are looking at changing careers there are many examples of things you will have to let go of which can hold you back from making a successful change. These are mostly because of your mindset and perceptions. Here are some examples of ‘letting go’ that you may also face or struggle with yourself:

Knowing When to Walk Away

Isn’t it interesting that at the end of a brilliant 1:1 coaching session, having followed a process to establish my clients top Values and Needs (Step 2 of my Career Navigation Cycle process) in their career and life and WHY, one of the revelations from my client was ‘the importance of knowing when to walk away from your situation’. The analysis at the end of the Values exercise, helps to isolate very clearly why people have enjoyed certain jobs and not others, which triggered this light bulb moment for them. This data can also be used proactively to ‘audit’ whether a future job opportunity or any self-employed or freelance project is right for you, so powerful stuff!

How clear are you on the right time for you to walk away from your current situation, as you don’t want to be spending the rest of your life thinking ‘what if‘ do you?

What else might you need to let go of? 

Some examples:
Here are some typical examples of letting go, I come across all the time, usually related to years of conditioning, old beliefs, negative thinking and different FEARS:

  • You don’t believe you will ever find fulfilling work
  • You are too young/old to change
  • You don’t believe you can earn enough doing something different?
  • You believe you must have another employed job as security is important to you
  • You feel guilty about turning your back on all the years of training/learning and qualifications you have achieved to get you to where you are now
  • You can’t see past your job title e.g. I’m a xyz
  • You can’t see past your business sector e.g. I have worked in Finance for my entire career so how can I do anything different?
  • You will miss your work colleagues if you walk away
  • You are frightened to leave your comfort zone
  • You have fear of the unknown
  • You have fear of failure

How important is your age when changing careers? 

Interestingly, the Sunday Times did some research on changing careers, in the UK in 2014. I was very proud that my company was chosen as their career change specialist and we had a couple of client case studies featured. What did surprise me were their findings because the research highlighted that the average age people made their first career change was 33-34. The article made me realise that there are a number of trigger points in life when people change careers and the first is often when you are in your early thirties.

This is often the point when many people start to challenge what they are doing, why they are doing it and maybe that there is something more fulfilling they can be doing. It is also usually triggered by a shift in your values, i.e. what is important to you in your career and life and why, as we will explore in more depth in Chapter 2. My experience is that people are now making significant career changes at an ever younger age, e.g. the ‘7 year itch’, kicking in after your first job post-graduation. Therefore it is now highly likely the average age for a first career change is around age 29-30. In today’s fast paced ever changing digital age, predictions are that people will be changing not just jobs more often but changing careers multiple times also. This links to what I will illustrate throughout my latest book Winning Through Career Change i.e. age is no barrier, as you can never be too old or too young to make a winning career change.

Reframe Your Thinking To Respond Differently

My years as a Career Coach have taught me that the nature of my previous work and the skills I acquired are relevant and in demand in pretty much any sector. People often become blinkered, so don’t see the bigger picture of their transferable skills and true marketability (Step 3 and the heart of my Career Navigation Cycle process). Your inherent talents and developed skills mean that there are always new opportunities and possibilities to be explored. Remember just because you have always done something or similar jobs before doesn’t mean you can’t do anything else. You always have a CHOICE and this is a key part of letting go!

I remember speaking at a major careers event for the medical profession. My theme was around challenging yourself to be open to new opportunities outside of the medical profession in light of the changing Health Service agenda. I had a queue of people waiting to see me after the seminar. One was a GP who was looking most concerned. He told me he had only ever been a GP so how could he possibly do anything else? Conscious of the long queue, waiting patiently, I asked a key question to help him on the way; ‘Do you want to continue working with people?’ The look of shock and horror on his face was unbelievable ‘God no, I hate people!’ He was clearly in the wrong job and may not have realised it before, but he started letting go and looking forward with his career transition journey there and then!

The good news is that it is never too late to change career, regardless of what you are doing now or have done previously. What you can and must do is to reframe and take your positive learning and experiences from the past and bring these with you to help you move forward. When you combine these with a positive mindset, you have a winning combination. I’m sure this sounds more encouraging, doesn’t it?

How long does it take to make a successful career change? 

There is no right or wrong answer to this key question, which you may well be asking, except to say it isn’t as vague as the ‘how long is a piece of string’ analogy. I always ask potential new clients what their timescale to achieve their change is. I have had answers ranging from a ridiculous four weeks to more typically six months to a year. Everybody’s situation is different and the most important point is to be realistic. In my experience this means a minimum of 3 months and depending on your situation, anything between 6 months to a year. Your timescale will depend on a number of factors, e.g.

  • How much time you have to devote to your career change
  • How much ‘risk’ you are prepared to take
  • How focused you are
  • How proactive you are
  • Whether you are working at your change alone or with a Career Coach
  • Last but certainly not least, your mindset/belief to make your change happen

This blog contains some snippets from Chapter 1, around letting go and looking forward, of my newly published book Winning through Career Change.  If you or someone you know is considering making a career change, then my latest book, described as ‘the definitive career change book‘ and the second in my ‘Winning Through‘ series was written for you!  To find out more, check out the video of my virtual book launch.  

 Steve Preston is a top Career Coach, Author of the Internationally acclaimed Career and Life Management book ‘Winning Through Redundancy – Six steps to navigate your way to a brighter future’motivational speaker and Managing Director of specialist Consultancy SMP Solutions (Career & People Development) Ltd