Experiments

The fantasy of start-ups after a global career - is it for you?

 Career in global corporates to start-ups…early lessons.

One way to re-design your career is to move into a start-up. But is it right for you?

One way to re-design your career is to move into a start-up. But is it right for you?

Anil was one of the first successful career changers I ever formally interviewed after I launched Midlife Unstuck.

He had spent 20ish years in what could only be described as “a very successful career” by most standards. 

Economics degree.  Summer internships. Investment banking.  MBA from Wharton.  McKinsey.  Fortune 500.  FTSE 100.  London, New York, Paris, Geneva and Stockholm.

He was headed directly towards a country leadership position.  

But…

He wanted “more”.  And figured out that he could find his style of “more” in a start-up.   You can read how he made his move from global corporation role to start up HERE.

I caught up with him again 18 months after he had entered his world of start-ups to see what he had learned about career change along the way. 

Some of you, considering working in start-up might find his takeaways useful….

 Discoveries from my first 18months in a start-up after a 20-year career in global corporations

Anil Saggi

Anil Saggi

Anil Saggi

·        “I thought I’d understood the start-up mentality, having helped shape a start-up within a giant corporation.  But I couldn’t possibly have known until I was on the inside.  I’d researched enough to get chosen for the role but not enough to really know.  That can only be learned by actually doing, by being on the inside and living the start-up ways.

·         Being “all-in” with an early stage business had a much bigger impact on my life than any other role in my career.   It is all-encompassing. There was a huge impact on my partner and my family that I had not fully anticipated.  It infiltrates every moment and deeply changes your mindset.  For instance, I had done lots of travelling during my working life in big corporations but that didn’t compare to the amount of travelling I did in this start-up company, in a bid to make that company successful.  

 ·         Getting used to the high levels of volatility and ambiguity takes time but once it clicks it really clicks.

 ·         The freedom to work in the way that works best for each individual is something that early stage businesses do very well.   It seems more…human.  Large corporations often assume that you are a different person when you are in work as opposed to outside of work - that you require waking from your life’s slumber when you come into work and that you will disappear back into your facebook-scrolling life when you leave!   Early stage businesses get that it’s all one and the same.  That life and work are completely fluid.

 ·         If you are interested in self-development, then a start-up is you.  It challenges almost everything you’ve ever learned from working in major corporates.  There are simply no limits.

 ·         But, if learning fast and holding responsibility for making things fail or succeed isn’t something you enjoy, the stress will hit big time.  Start-ups allow you to learn with someone else’s money to experiment, test and fail.  It’s been absolutely invaluable learning…but not without its own stresses.

 ·         One of the major differences is you are expected to take practical actions to make things happen. I was always an ideas person but never really took the practical steps to make those ideas real.  Now, I have so many ideas for investments and businesses that when I combine those with the practical confidence I feel, I feel the world is my oyster

·         You need to have your eyes wide open financially speaking and decide what you would accept as a “success” if you were to leave 12 or 18mths later e.g. equity.  So many young businesses fail or change investors in the early years, nothing is long-term.  

 ·         Making contacts and expanding networks is always valuable. It’s worth keeping one eye on where you could go after this role.  It usually means out – not up in young businesses.  But the true relationships made along the way will help you create next opportunities.

 ·         You need resilience.  When you exit a start-up, there is no long-term plan and no soft exit.  You just leave.  It’s very direct.  You often retain equity and wish the company well in the future but without you.


More personal observations

 ·         The start-up mind-shift has had an influence in all areas of my life.  For example, I’ve been able to very practically help my wife’s business to find suppliers and help with sales meetings etc that I simply didn’t have the close-to-the-ground skills to help with 2 years ago.

 ·         We underestimate how much we can do in work…and generally in life.  When we are given the freedom and can tap into the necessary focus, great things are possible.  I know people who, in hindsight think they could have been Olympic athletes if they had not spent so much time in the bar, sleeping or on their phone!  I was amazed by how much a small group of individuals can achieve when given an enormous amount of freedom.  

 ·         Career goals should always be evolving – either in reaction to the market or to personal goals.   Leaving your career on auto-pilot doesn’t serve anyone well.

 ·         I feel changed as a business person, but also as a human by my start-up experience. I’m like night and day given how much I’ve learned over the last 18 months.

 ·         I’m a lot less afraid of failure now that I have confidence that I can take an idea and just get on with making it happen.

 ·         After just 18 months start-up experience my whole future career options have been magnified.  Even though the time-frames in start-ups are so much shorter than in any corporate I have worked within, the same cycle plays out.   I’ve got so many more options than I had with my career history 2 years ago. “

If you are wondering what “More” looks for you, you might want to read this article on the Number 1 trigger for career change in our 40s, 50s or 60s which includes a couple of ideas on how you can start figuring it out for yourself.

 

 

THE ONLY THING career changers in their 40 or 50s want (and how to stop your brain undermining your efforts to get it too!)

In a recent article, you saw the second most popular trigger for successful career change at our age.  Now, let’s explore the most popular trigger for career change.

But before we do, did you do the task at the end of the last article?  I suggested you write down the 3 things that you want less of in your future work

Go on, do it now on a piece of paper…we’ll wait for you…

I would be surprised if you found the exercise difficult.   Figuring out what the problems are takes no time.  If you are reading this, you may have been thinking about what you don’t want in your work for some time?

But somehow, very little has changed?

One major cause for that is that by continuing to focus on “the problem of work” you are allowing your brain to remain problem-focused. 

How the brain keeps you stuck

Your brain only does what it thinks you want it to do.  It is not aware that you are open to seeking out a range of possible solutions to your problem when you spend lots of time thinking and talking about the problem of work.  So, it thinks it is helping you by keeping the problem of work front and centre.  Resulting in you staying exactly where you are. 

In your brain, focussing on the problem is like telling yourself that you want to lose weight.  That you want to get rid of those flabby bingo wings or the belly that has more jelly than it used to.   Frankly, that sort of thinking keeps you stuck in the very place that you want to leave!

How to get your brain on-side

You need your brain in solution-focussed mode instead.

What I noticed during my interviews with over 70 successful career changers (so far) is that only when they got really clear on what they wanted instead of their current situation did they get their brains into the right place to be open enough to seek out some alternative solutions. 

They got their brains solutions-focussed rather than problem-focussed.  That seemingly minor shift had a major impact.  

What all successful career changers in their 40s, 50, 60s seem to crave

In short, every single one of these successful mid-life career changers wanted the same thing.  Actually, they didn’t just want it – they craved it. 

THEY ALL CRAVED “MORE”.   

They each had their own very personal type of “more” but broadly, according to my research, their “MORE” fell into the following 4 categories:

Is it time to get really clear on what your very personal ideas about your “More” look like?

Here are some direct quotes from career changers that give an indication of what they wanted in their future work. 

Perhaps some resonate with you?    

MORE…Learning

“I realised I hadn’t learned anything new for such a long time and somehow that somehow became very important.” (Lindsay Cornelissen, Banking industry to wine entrepreneur)

“I woke up to realise that I wanted to learn more. Not more to make me better at my job – more of something totally and utterly different that would allow me to have a bigger impact on the world.”  (Me! Corporate head-hunter to mid-life career change coach)

“I’m happy where I am – for now.  But I worry that I am not challenging myself, just coasting. I worry that I am de-skilling.  I feel valued for the job I do but I’ve done it well and they won’t need me at some point.  I want a great plan to be read to roll out when the time is right. (Client, Legal, 50s)

“I heard this voice telling me to find something different but I had invested so much time and life energy in this industry I wasn’t sure.  But in the end, I knew needed to do something different.” (Elizabeth Draper, Film industry executive to gluten-free baker)

 

MORE…Time with loved ones

“I got frustrated having to ask permission to have a half-day off to watch kids school plays or attend parent meetings.  I just couldn’t hack the five weeks of freedom, time off for good behaviour.  I wanted more freedom.” (David James, Senior finance executive to flexible contractor)

I’d fallen out of love with sales a few years ago around the time when I filed for divorce.  I know that any day I spend with my children is infinitely more enjoyable than any day I spent working in my sales job.  So I decided to re-train to make sure I can spend more time with them.   (Gareth Jenkins, Sales now re-training as a self-employed electrician)

For so many years I left before the kids went to school and I’d return when they were in bed.  Or I would travel the world for 2 weeks at a time.  A major difference is that I see my kids more.  I’m just not grumpy at the weekend anymore.  (Andy Eaton, International FD to owning his own accounting firm)

I just couldn’t accept the long-haul travel and didn’t want to miss out on weekends with the family. (Sally Smy, International buyer to personal stylist)

“I spent much of the school summer holidays this year with my 13-year old daughter diving, paddle boarding, surfing.” (Stephen Wright, Architect's Technician to flexible working with an incredible coastal lifestyle.)

MORE…Appreciation

After 20 years of fee earning, I still loved helping people but realised I wanted to help more on the emotional side.  (Client, Law, 50s)

“I felt under-valued, as if the wind had been taken out of my sails. I felt that my decision to work part-time since the arrival of my first child had been taken advantage of.” (Louise Brogan, NHS IT Manager to Social Media Entrepreneur)

“I feel that no one is looking out for me anymore.  As I’ve become more senior, my sponsors have moved on.  I don’t feel as valuable to the company.” (Client, FMCG, 40s)

“After 20 years of working my socks off for the benefit of others, I reflected and realised that I was being neither valued nor appreciated. (Duncan Haddrell, Senior finance career to distribution business owner)

“I felt like a commodity in the end.” (Kelly-Ann Grimes Hospitality IT COO to owner of franchise PA business.)

“I had had enough.  I didn’t feel at all respected.  I asked myself the question - If I die tomorrow would I die happy?  No, not while I was in my old role.  If you asked me that question today, I would say yes because I would die feeling truer to myself, feeling valued and definitely feeling respected.” (Jennifer Corcoran, Executive PA to Social Media Trainer)

MORE…fulfilling work

I wanted to do wonderful creative things like I used to.  I wanted to be my own person again.” (Client, Media, 50s)

“I felt creatively stifled as I no longer had a real say in campaign development.” (Charlotte Moore, Social Media Editor to Foodie PR Specialist)

“As a woman in senior leadership I felt shrunk-to-fit, forced to specialise in something that I didn’t love and being edged out of a successful, cut-throat world of advertising.  (Client, Media, 50s)

“I’d grown tired of trying to motivate people to change when they didn’t want to.  I realised later in life, after running lots of change projects, that I am not all that good with people.  I needed to become a specialist.  (Client, 50s, Technology)

Try this

career change 40+

Take a piece of paper and write down a long list of all things that you’d like more of in your future work and all the things that you would have more of if you did more fulfilling, satisfying work every day.

Take a photo of this list, save it as your screen saver or print it out and put it in in your coat pocket, your purse or wallet or laptop case.  Talk about it with friends and family over the next few weeks. If you read it a couple of times every day for the next week or so I promise you a tiny little bit of magic will happen in your brain…Dots will begin to connect.

I’d love to know if you hit upon any ideas.

Join my private community of successful professionals who are interested in designing more joy into their career and tell me what you came up with.  I return every email personally and can’t wait to hear how this mini-experiment goes for you.

Click the image to receive twice monthly articles, strategies and stories to inspire your career change.

Click the image to receive twice monthly articles, strategies and stories to inspire your career change.

I want more

(1 year later) Lessons learned from reclaiming Middle Aged Me

career change 40

A while ago, I encountered someone who will forever be called “Middle Aged Me”.

He was close to broken, drowning in a culture that was eroding him to the core. His honest awareness about his situation and where it was headed blew me away but he hadn’t reached his tipping point yet. He needed a big sign. A giant sign that kicked him into take action.

Sadly the sign came. Happily, he was well enough to react.

Here’re what he learned on his mid-life career change journey. If haven’t read his first article - you might like to start here.

Author:                Anonymous

A quick recap 

This is a follow-up to “Reclaiming Middle Aged Me” which Lucia published in March 2018. 

As a quick reminder, my company had been taken over by new investors and I found myself in a culture which conflicted with my personal values and work practices.  This in turn had a detrimental impact on my health, welfare and overall life in general. 

Nonetheless, it still took me a number of years before I did anything about it. 

Ultimately, a serious health scare forced the issued and I resigned without a job to go to.

When Lucia published my article she depicted me as a drowning man.  It still resonates with me today as it captured the totality of my situation and how I felt at the time.    

A number of months have now passed and this follow-up tells the story of what I have experienced and learned since making that momentous decision to leave.  Some things I had predicted, whereas others came as a surprise. 

Hopefully sharing these experiences will provide some insight into what may be expected after leaving the workplace and possibly help others to formulate their own thinking when contemplating the same.  Everyone may of course react differently, but this is my story.

The initial stages

The most immediate feeling was that of enormous relief.  I had escaped and an overpowering weight was lifted. 

I hate mondays

I no longer had to dread the arrival of Monday which so often surfaced as soon as I woke on a Sunday. 

Despite the relief, I wasn’t able to throw myself into lots of new exciting activities to fill my new found freedom.  It was very clear that my energy levels had been sapped from years of pushing myself too hard in a toxic environment and my body simply needed a rest.  There really was nothing left in the tank and I sat for long periods of time just watching the television or doing absolutely nothing.

To be fair, I thoroughly enjoyed this time of relaxation.  It’s amazing how many re-runs of “The Professionals” and “Tales of the Unexpected” you can get through when you put your mind to it.  I wasn’t allowed to watch these when I was growing up in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s (apparently I was too young), but at least they now serve to demonstrate my true middle aged credentials!  

Days continued to come and go and I also soon learned that the time taken to do things expands with the time available.  Breakfast for example can take up to an hour.

Now, I’ve just said that I wasn’t able to throw myself into lots of new exciting activities.  Well, that wasn’t only because of the lack of energy.  It was also because I didn’t really have any hobbies, passions or leisure pastimes in my old life.  This was quite an enlightening (and in hindsight worrying) revelation. 

I now realised that work had become so all-encompassing and time consuming that my personal life had fallen by the wayside at the expense of the corporate world.  Put simply, there had been no work-life balance for many years.  The lesson here is to take a step back now and make sure there are things in your life outside of work.  Don’t let work become the sole purpose of your existence.

Having discovered that I didn’t have any real hobbies, I then set about trying to find some. 

Many years ago I was a keen football player and also enjoyed running to keep fit.  I ruled out a return to football quite quickly (I’m middle aged remember), but running to regain my fitness definitely appealed.  Over the years, my ratio of cake intake to energy burned had become slightly imbalanced and I definitely needed to lose a few pounds. 

However, another lesson was about to land. 

Namely, do give some thought as to what time of year you leave the workplace.  I didn’t really have much choice due to my health scare, but many people won’t have that catalyst and can plan a bit more effectively.  I’m a big fan of hot weather and the sun (especially when it involves sitting in the garden with a beer), but I left work at the beginning of winter.  It was cold, wet and generally miserable for many months. 

Umberella.jpg

My rekindled desire to run again was put on hold as I looked out of the window on many occasions and the little willpower I had simply evaporated.  I know I could have joined a gym, but running on a treadmill was never something I enjoyed.  Another excuse of course, but keep in mind the mental state I had been reduced to.  Things needed to be easy and “right” for me. 

It also goes without saying that sitting in the garden in the rain with a beer is not quite so appealing. 

One thing I did find very rewarding in the early days was the additional time I was able to spend with my family.  My wife and I had more lunches out in the space of a few weeks than we had done for years! 

I went to every school event on the calendar and also spent a lot of time with my Mum.  She lives a long way away, but I was no longer constrained by weekends and could visit her for several days at a time in the week.  These visits to my Mum highlighted another important lesson.  She’s elderly and I would spend my time with her doing lots of jobs around the house and garden that she wasn’t able to do herself. 

Why am i here.png

This added something incredibly important to my life.  I had a purpose again.

Think about it.  We spend decades in the workplace and then (for any number of reasons) we no longer go to work.  It might be short term or it might be permanent.  Either way, my experience is that I began to question my purpose in life. 

When I was at work, I was a senior finance professional doing a responsible job for a large company.  I had “status” (whatever that is) and the respect of my colleagues.  I was also the “provider” for my family.  People relied on me, both at work and at home. 

My exit from the workplace took these roles (which had been in place for decades) away from me. 

The lesson here is to not underestimate the potential to feel a little lost at times following the decision (and ultimate action) to leave.  Try to have something in mind to focus on and give you a purpose to replace that which is left behind.  Better to be prepared than to have a surprise as it was for me.

This rather helpfully leads me on to another surprise to share, albeit the surprise wasn’t mine alone.  It was also for my wife, who is a “stay at home Mum”.  All of a sudden, her daily environment was impacted by another person (middle aged me) with helpful views on what needed doing, how it should be done, who should do it (and most importantly) how quickly it should be done.  Yes, well, that took a little bit of adjusting to for both of us. 

Nothing more to say, it’s all about “give and take” in the end, but just have it on your radar if you have a similar scenario!     

As time progressed

Over time, my mental and physical strength began to return and I felt ready to explore the “what next?” question.  I spent many hours and days looking at new possibilities for the future. 

One avenue involved a complete break from my financial background by dipping my big toe into the world of writing.  I met with various people already established in this world and discovered a number of important things. 

First, while my writing is OK, it’s not quite up to the standard to be a professional (although I could have trained to achieve this). 

Second, it takes a long time to become established and earn a living. 

Third (and most important for me), you spend most of your time on your own in front of a computer.

This set alarms bells ringing as it correlated with another learning I had already experienced.  It’s something quite fundamental, but it hadn’t appeared on my radar before I left work. 

Very simply (and from a very early stage), I experienced social isolation. 

Despite the fact my work environment had become aggressive and unpleasant; I still had friends and colleagues to talk to every day, to discuss the ways of the world and to generally banter with.  This was now gone and at times I felt lonely.  A writing career was not for me.

At the same time as I was having my Shakespearian potential dispelled, I also started to pursue a long held interest in a particular volunteering position.  It’s something that requires a lot of dedication and the various interview processes are both lengthy and rigorous. 

That goes a long way to explain why I hadn’t been able to pursue it when I was in a corporate environment which seemed to absorb all my time.  I refer back to an earlier comment. 

I should have made time for it.  

Suffice to say, I was successful in my pursuit of the role and I now have something in my “non-paid” work life which provides personal reward and enjoyment.

In terms of pursuing some paid work activities (it seemed prudent), I took it upon myself to drive around the local area and make notes of all the companies that were close by.  I was adamant that whatever I did next, it wouldn’t involve a long commute like I’d had in the past. 

I researched the companies to see whether the industry was of interest to me and whether I thought my natural skills (or “superpowers” to use Lucia’s terminology) could be utilised by them.  I also deliberately focussed on smaller companies and was able to narrow my initial list of around 50, down to a potential of 10. 

My career has been spent in large multi-nationals with a heavy demand for the type of work I do.  In contrast, smaller companies don’t tend to have my role as a dedicated resource, but they would benefit from a “short blast” of expertise in my area which could then be taken forward by their incumbent finance teams. 

So, the potential to set up my own company was formed in my mind.  In essence, I would act as a “trouble shooter” who parachutes in for a short period of time, assesses their capabilities, recommends a course of action for improvement and then either departs at that point (letting the incumbents implement the recommendations) or stays to help with the implementation. 

I think it might work as a USP, but I won’t get the chance to find out (at least for a while).  I’ll explain.

As I sit here today

Bounce trainers.jpg

I’m healthy again, both mentally and physically

When spring finally arrived I started running properly and have lost much of the weight I’d gained over the years.  There’s still some way to go, largely because (and just to recap), I’m middle aged and it takes longer to shift these days.  It’s a great excuse and one to be fully exploited.  Also, for those who remember my first article, I’ve come off much of the prescribed medication I talked about at the time. 

My new company idea is on hold at the moment because of an exciting development in the last couple of months. 

In my original article I talked about the possibility of returning to do what I do in another company, but in an environment which aligned with my values and work practices.  Well, I kept an eye on the market and I will shortly go back to work in an exciting industry which is located very close to home.  The culture is friendly and welcoming and I’ve been given a free reign to shape the future in my area of finance. 

My bounce is back (not that middle aged accountants are renowned for their bounciness), but I am genuinely excited by what lies ahead.


A final comment

I made the right decision to leave

A year ago I was in a bad way, both mentally and physically. 

Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, I genuinely believe I was close to “going under” or worse.  My mind and body were compromised and at the edge of their tolerance levels.  A serious health scare provided the catalyst for me to leave, but I still needed the willpower and strength to make that final decision. 

My counsel is simple to say, but harder to enact.  Nonetheless, it’s maybe something to contemplate and reflect on. 

It’s only seven words. 

“Jump while you still have the strength.”

 

Daddy playing sillohette daughter.jpg
 

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career change at 40, career change at 50, career change at 60

How to stay in a job you don't like...FOREVER! And the exact steps to do the opposite.

SM How to stay in a job you don't like...forever.png

I’d bet money that you know someone who appears “successful” to the external world but internally they dread Monday mornings, feel unfulfilled while at work and head home most days feeling dissatisfied with their contribution to the world.  

But what should they do? Leap into something else or just point their head down and bum up until they have amassed enough of a retirement fund to go and do something more fun instead - as the 80s kids TV programme suggested. 

What it feels like to be in a job that you hate

Someone I know well wrote an article for me explaining in perfect detail how a job that he used to love turned into a job that had begun to erode his motivation, his energy, his family life and ultimately his health.  Read his anonymous story here.  It certainly packs an anonymous punch.

Not all situations are as drastic as the one above but without action low level unenjoyable work can develop into something more serious.  Check out the stories below of mid-life career changers who took action - but not a moment too late:  

·         Charlotte Moore couldn’t imagine continuing in her corporate Social Media Editing role at Tesco after the creative elements were outsourced to an agency.   She wasn’t offered redundancy even though she had all fingers and toes crossed for that outcome following a restructure.  Read what Charlotte did after hearing the news. 

·         Ben Fielding got stuck with a new boss who had “a cataclysmic impact” on his love of his work.  He took charge of his future in an interesting way which gave him focus, a very specific goal and breathing space whilst still paying the mortgage.  Read Ben’s story here. 

·         Andy Eaton realised two things which prompted his departure from a 20+year career.  He realised that over the previous decade he'd spent 50% of his time away from his family on work trips and that the role of Finance Director had morphed into something he didn’t want to be anymore.  Read how logical and creative thinking combined to lead him to his new career. 

From my coaching experience,  mid-professional career changes are always prompted by a specific trigger experience that prompts deep reflection.  In some people, this deep reflection converts to a need for action. 

Note: this need for action is what differentiates actual career changers from people who would "like to do something about their career"  These people haven’t quite reached a tipping point from which action is required.  They are likely to stay where they are until things get bad enough or until they see a perfect idea that excites them.  (Read this article to see if you've reached your career tipping point yet)

Top 10 triggers for “taking action” towards a mid-profession career change.   

  • A big birthday – either on approach or a year or two afterwards
  • Personal illness
  • Medically-diagnosed (as opposed to self-diagnosed) work-related stress
  • Elderly parental illness or the death of a parent
  • Divorce
  • Redundancy
  • Unplanned exit from a long-term company/role
  • Major changes at home e.g. kids moving to big school or university
  • First ever lower than expected performance appraisal
  • A crappy bonus
  • A missed promotion

For the people I coach, all these experiences have prompted a re-adjustment of their expectations from work.   They express a desire to have "more" of something at work (often satisfaction, fulfilment or fun) and less of something else (the crap bits of working life).

The trigger can initiate a different thought process – if this thought process doesn’t cause some action, the circular thought process can sometimes lead to the ever-decreasing circles of a mid-life career crisis.   But, if this thought process is actioned, attached to a structured method and allowed enough time it will result in a clarity of vision for the remainder of a career. 

Why it appears so hard to change career

If you look around you, you will get the impression that career change at any age is bloody difficult! 

Some suggest that natural human behaviour just gets in the way e.g. the fear of change (Read my article on how career change is experienced in our brains) or unwillingness to make the necessary sacrifices or simply being unprepared for the degree of change that is required to pivot into a career.  

But it is more than that.  Here’s how conventional wisdom about career change suggests you go about it.

 “Career Leaping” - the Conventional Wisdom on how to change career (Plan & Implement) :

  1. Be clear and sure about what it is that you really want to do.
  2. Identify roles or fields in which your passions can be linked with your skills and experience.
  3. Seek out advice from those you know well and those who know your new chosen market well.
  4. Implement resulting action steps.

 Never one for sitting on the fence, when asked my opinion on this mode of career change I usually whisper-shout… “WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!”  Here’s why…

According to the conventional wisdom, successful change is a one-chance saloon.  Apparently, you should only make a career change when you know exactly where you are heading.  WRONG AGAIN. If you follow this advice, you are in danger of staying exactly where you are for a very long time…possibly forever!

 Problems with the “Career Leaping” Conventional (Plan and Implement) Career Change model:

1. Clarity:   

  • Most people I meet are not clear about what they want to do with the rest of their career even though they’ve often spent a long time thinking about it.  They can easily tell me what they want to escape from (mind-numbing corporate politics; feeling shrunk-to-fit; under-challenging work; over-requirement to be away from home; futureless internal career vistas; lack of learning opportunities; over-cautious decision-making or organisational short-termism.)  
  • When I ask what it is they do want from their work – they never have a clear answer

2. Link passion with skills:

  • I don’t trust psychological profiles for career change.  All psychological profiles which are commonly used in career coaching are flawed but can give general insights to those who have lost a connection with themselves or have been stuck in an identity for so long they can’t imagine getting beyond it.  Starting point? Yes, but very broad brush.
  • Re-designing your working identity is a must before any change takes place. It frees up creative energy to change career.  Our working identity can be tied up in status, our income, our life-style, our ego, our parenting and the way we were parented. This takes time, reflection, pulling apart and putting back together over time.  This isn’t included in the Plan & Implement model.
  • “Passion” is my least favourite word to use in career change discussions as it more often than not leads us down a fantasy passion path.  To risk everything on something called "passion" is at best...risky.
Follow your passion.png

3. Seeing advice from people you know and those who know your new chosen industry/field: 

  • People already known to you are invested in you staying in the same spot.   Your partner wants you to be happy but needs to feel secure; your favourite head-hunters are tied to your past in a way that is unhelpful for a career change.  Your colleagues and mentors lack the investment in you as a human to do anything radical with their opinion of you.
  •  The individuals who know you best, are less likely to be able to imagine you with a    completely different working identity and can become more of a hindrance than a help.
  •  You need a new tribe to change career.

4.   Implement resulting actions

  • Banish the idea of linear career. We need to let go of that linear idea of career steps leading to somewhere very specific that we had planned earlier and making pre-judgements on how it will feel when we get there. 
  • Single leaps can be lucky.  But they are more likely to fail or go nowhere.
Plan and Implement v experiment.png

A different method of career change – Experiment, Analyse and Refine

  • Experimentation = Action before knowing the answer. 

Rather than leaping into a new career, I believe the only way to know whether your potential career change is the right one is to conduct a whole range of mini-experiments.   This is the only way to evaluate whether a certain change could be right.   Not quite trial and error…rather experiment, analyse and refine. 

By doing a whole range of experiments you open doors that were never open to you before to see if the draught bowls you over.  You edge open doors that were ajar in your mind and then see how it feels with the wind in your face.  You push against some ugly doors to sometimes discover the most beautiful possibilities behind. The limits placed on your experiments provide the only limitations for your future career.   (LINK TO DOORS)

BUT THAT TAKES BRAVERY AND TIME.  

I feel so strongly about this experimentation stage that I have built an extra 3 months into my "The Big Re-think" programme to support individuals through the sheer volume of experiments that need to happen to ensure a successful transition.  Done slowly this experimentation phase could take 3 years but very few of my clients have 3 years to spend – we narrow down the initial experimentation phase to a 3-month period following a 3-month discovery process.  That way the experiments are not random. They are focussed.   They play on the SuperPowers of the individual and they feel exciting.

Single leaps can be lucky.  But they are more likely to bring us back to the same starting point and crucially, they make us feel like a failure.  That’s why you hear stories of people who made a leap and within a short time frame are back in their safe old job.  They were following the Plan and Implement model.

 It’s not perfect - Downsides of the Experiment, Analyse and Refine model of career change

·         A longer, less linear transition process can sometimes leave you feeling that you are not moving fast enough.  But smaller steps combined with quicker analysis after each experiment allows for a richer, more developed and realistic idea of the future work identity to emerge. 

·         The Experiment and Learn technique of career change is challenging and requires resisting the pull of the familiar.

·         It requires tenacity to lift and shift experiments and point them in a different direction, at a different audience or to tweek the experiments.

·         Did I mention that it requires bravery?  But really, how brave is it doing a few little experiments on the side of your real job (that doesn’t fit anymore)?

·         The experiment stage is front loaded – you can’t sit behind a screen and do some lovely, easy research.  You must do stuff.  Make stuff.  Write stuff. Try stuff.

·         You need your brain to be turned on to analyse.

·         You need energy to do the experiments but if you are using your SuperPowers you’ll be surprised by how energising it can be.

·         You very often need someone to have your back, pick up the pieces, re-point to after each experiment, challenge your thought processes until they broaden for themselves, re-frame your imposter syndrome, tone down your perfectionism.

If you don’t test your dreams they remain just that – or even worse, they could end up as pipe dreams.  

Experiments are the only way to test your dreams. Their advantage lies in their small scale, their ability to be squeeze in around your current work and their lack of large-scale risk.

Whilst trigger events are usually pretty horrific when you are going through them, they can become the beginning of a completely new career story - or life story if you want to think bigger.  If you are interested in this idea, it might be worth reading Pamela Slim’s Body of Work. 

Discovering work that fits and understanding why takes time and effort, but it also requires a methodology to discover if you have the skill to make it a reality.  My methodology is called “The Big Re-think” programme.

Planning for the perfect leap is more likely to leave you staying where you are today.   Experimenting and learning, taking action in the form of mini-experiments, analysing the results and refining new experiments very likely to find you in a much better place. 

 How ready are you for action?  

 

 

Comfortable networking for Introverts (2) - How was the lion's den? And a Cinderella moment...

In last week's article (find it here if you missed it), MidlifeUnstuck ran an experiment where one confirmed introvert (me) was made to do everything that the psychology research suggested she should to see if networking could be made comfortable for her.  Then that introvert was thrown into a lion’s den filled with national journalists, PR gurus and 50 or so other business owners.    Why? 

Because I am old enough to know that even if you’ve been lucky enough to design your career to match your superpowers perfectly, there will always be elements that are key to your success which lie firmly outside of your comfort zone.

For example, I know photographers who detest doing accounts but like getting paid.   I know fabulous finance people who hate doing stand-up presentations but do it weekly.  I know brilliant but modest artists who can’t bear showing off their designs.  And, I know of at least one career transformation coach who adores what she does but comes out in spots when any type of “networking event” is mentioned.  

Typically introverts prioritise ANYTHING other than networking – it's our nemesis.   After some intensive research on introverts, I discovered that there are a few key activities necessary for comfortable networking.  These include: detailed preparation on the attendees; choosing a structured event design; alone time before and during the event and; setting expectations around fewer but deeper conversations than extroverts might expect.  

My event (SOULFUL PR LIVE) involved meeting face-to-face with 8 national journalists, with opportunities to ask questions and even pitch the odd idea to them.  It also involved a roomful of business owners, some of whom were confirmed introverts and others who appeared to be in their extroverted comfort zone.  

So, how was the lion’s den?  Did the research work? How comfortable was this introvert?

The detailed preparation meant that I had very low anxiety levels the night before and unexpectedly slept well.   I strolled to my dawn train with time to spare avoiding the coffee shop in case I threw coffee over myself - sadly not as rare an occurrence as you might imagine.  I’d planned to arrive at the smaller, pre-event breakfast meeting with plenty of time to freshen up before others arrived.  A vision of Zen.  Crucially, I’d have a chance to get to know people individually as they arrived as opposed to walking into a formed group.  I had lived and breathed the advice from the research and was raring to go.

On the day

In actuality, my google maps had such a melt-down that I couldn’t work out where I was - perhaps something to do with an accidental paddle in my handbag with a bottle of Evian the previous day?  

I had allocated one hour to do a 25 minute stroll from the tube station so hadn’t bothered to pick up any cash for emergency taxis etc.  An hour and a half later, I arrived late having been guided by 5 separate, kind individuals pointing me towards Shoreditch.  Who says London's not a friendly place? I’d grown a big frizzy hair bomb, developed a fashionable “dewy sheen” on my face and was wearing converse trainers rather than my beautiful, coral, confidence-giving shoes (see photo).  All this without even a hint of caffeine and zero breakfast.   Comfort levels – close to zero.

coral shoes

The 8/9 breakfasting ladies in a trendy café near the venue were presented with this big-haired, perspiring vision of panic.  They responded with smiles and sympathy.   After a few solitary moments in a darkened, cool loo and a gentle yet persuasive chat with myself in the mirror, I felt ready to start again.   This time it was a whole different ballgame. 

I had lots of fascinating one-to-one human interactions - the essence of totally comfortable networking for introverts.  These were not banal interactions.  They included:

  • fawning over wonderful hand-made pendants;
  • discussions about pigs who had passed away but had been central to marketing and life;
  • comparing the parenting styles of in-laws and;
  • viewing stunning photos of ethically-sourced children’s clothes. 

Essentially, I felt like I was accessing behind-the-scenes stories that allowed this small group to connect in a way that would have been impossible on-line. On to the main event. 

Walking into a room full of strangers, I forced myself to appreciate that I was also a stranger and made an effort to say “hello” and smile – just as my 6 year old had reminded me the previous night.  I grabbed another shot of caffeine and choose a table with only one person on it thinking she might be receptive to a new friend.  She was and we hit it off.  She turned out to be one of the speakers and was open, funny and wise.  More behind-the-scenes story telling.  Comfort levels – sky high.    

The pre-lunch personal meetings with the journalists was without a doubt a little “itchy” for the outed introvert in the room.  Whilst I made eye contact and attempted to make them feel comfortable, this session was much less structured and therefore trickier to navigate.  By the time I understood the lay of the land, I’d probably only asked one question and certainly didn’t feel comfortable enough to openly pitch an idea.  

However, I watched in awe as more experienced business-owners batted pitches back and forth with these journalists with such ease.  I’m not sure I made the most of that particular session but– at least I hadn’t imploded in front of them.   Comfort levels – middle of the road.

Lunchtime brought another difficulty…who to talk to over lunch?   Aaagh.  Thankfully I met one of my top-5-people-I-must-meet-today list (Thank you to the research).   She had previously also publicly outed herself as an introvert and secretly admitted to me that she had just allowed herself 6 minutes solitude in the loo.  I was crippled with envy.  Note to self...build that into my next event.

Thankfully, the afternoon involved watching a couple presentations which gave me time to just listen without pressure.  The event came to a close.  I exited like Cinderella at the end of her ball.  I speed-walked to the loo, swapped my coral shoes for my converse trainers, then almost sprinted towards the exit leaving my lanyard and name badge strewn somewhere behind me.   I breathed a sigh of relief but also joy.  I had spent a whole day in conditions that extreme introverts might consider a nightmare.  But, it had been exceedingly more comfortable than any other networking event I had ever attended. 

I’d learned so much, made real human connections (which is the highest quality of networking… isn’t it?), shared some inspiring stories, discovered belly laughs amongst deep and meaningful conversations and built early foundations for new friendships. 

Do I want to do this every day of the week?  Hell no! Could I build this into a regular part of by business growth plan? Undoubtedly.

My conclusions are that comfortable networking requires more intensive planning for introverts than extraverts and that an event with the right degree of structure to satisfy the one-to-one interaction-loving introverts whilst still considering the social butterflying extroverts is the perfect mix. Thankfully at Soulful PR Live 2017, this was the case.    

Would I do anything different next time?  I might wear comfy shoes the whole day and stash some cash in my pocket…just in case Cinderella needed an escape carriage.

If you’d like to hear more about designing your career around your personality profile and unique strengths, please email me on lucia@midlifeunstuck.com to arrange a time to speak.   If you are not quite ready or feel up to re-designing your own career by yourself, please sign up to my newsletter here for weekly articles for hints, tips, transformation stories to inspire you.