Career change

How a health scare, bereavement or grief impacts career change (and how to avoid making rash decisions)

I know I’m not alone in sometimes feeling surrounded by illness, bereavement or grief.  In the last six weeks two close friends have each lost one of their parents.  Another friend is undergoing treatment to blast away cancerous cells and yet another awaits news if her treatment has been successful.

It seems, we, of a certain age, have entered an emotionally turbulent stage of our lives accompanied by illness, bereavement and grief.

Grief 2.jpg

Sometimes I doubt whether any positive could come from such negative experiences…

I met one of these friends for breakfast this week who divulged that while physical and mental trauma has been a very unwelcome visitor in her home for the last year, it hasn’t been all negative.

Eh?

She was referring to a certain clarity she now feels about life that was fogged by worrying about “the small stuff” in the past.

She can see her bigger picture more clearly.  And has begun to make sense of what that might mean for her and her family in the future.  If they are lucky enough to have a future together.

That got me thinking...

How a health scare, illness or grief can impact career change

I’ve noticed that I’m working, more and more often, with mid-lifers wishing to change careers who cite one of their reasons for change coming from a new thought process after experiencing:

a)      the trauma of losing an elderly parent

b)      a personal health scare

c)       a serious illness of a close friend/sibling

While the loss is never the primary reason for their desire for change, it often appears in response to my “Why now?” initial question.

Some sort of life clarity appears to present itself at some point after exposure to a serious health scare (personal or otherwise) or over the course of a grieving process.  I guess it’s no surprise for those of you who have experienced it, but to me it looks and feels like a complete over-haul of priorities and life values.

The sense that “life is short” seems to grow to more than “a feeling” with some people.  It can grow so much that it requires and demands attention and inspires change.   Change in lots of ways, such as:  

·         moving home to be closer to family,

·         moving parents closer to us,

·         creating new family traditions,

·         changing how we eat and drink,

·         changing friends,

·         spending more time with x group of people,

·         spending less time with x group of people,

·         creating a bucket list,

·         scratching off items on an old bucket list,

·         picking up new projects/hobbies to make us feel more alive, or

·         changes in our spending patterns to allow for the new priorities.

For some, they feel a very strong need to re-think their careers.

The new sense that “Life is too short” in some, magnifies the impact of spending 8-10 hours a day doing something that they don’t love - at best - or something that is stressful, exhausting or draining - at worst.

But the loss of our healthy self, our healthy friend or a parent takes time to work through.  That sense-making process is often called grief and it can be debilitating…for a while.


Grief 3.jpg

How bereavement and grief impact our brain:

I found this simple little video helpful.

In summary, grief and loss can:

1.       Increase cortisone release (the stress hormones) which impacts our immune system;

2.       Intensify and lengthen our reaction to fear making emotional control is less effective;

3.       Change our sleep patterns;

4.       Cause memory loss or brain fog.


How long should you wait to instigate a career change if you are grieving a loss?

The answer is, of course, it depends.

It depends on what sort of loss you have experienced, how much time you need to re-build personally, how open you are about talking to others, how complicated your loss was, what sort of support you have around you and how much time you can devote to healing.

Broadly, career change takes time - months and years, not days and weeks.  The type of career change that takes weeks or months is generally a leap of faith or a dramatic escape…I disagree with both, simply because they are rarely successful.

Recommendations:

If you know someone who is considering career change who has also lost someone close to them or has experienced a health scare – here are a few tools and recommendations that might help them through the sense-making stage of their grief process. 

Then, when they are ready, they can crack on with a full, well-thought out career overhaul. One that more perfectly aligns with their values and new priorities.

Books:

While I was training and volunteering as a bereavement supporter, I probably read about 20/25 books on grief.  These two books made a giant impact on my life, but I completely understand that they may not connect with everyone.  

-          Grief Works by Julia Salmon – Experienced grief counsellor tells stories and patterns that I found fascinating and healing. Not at all for early stage loss but useful in the sense-making phases.

-          Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom – small book, very easy to read and inspired me to focus on what I value in my life, rather than what the world appears to value.

Talk therapy: 

-          Personal recommendations are best, but our society doesn’t enjoy discussing death, so this can be harder than you might imagine.

-          www.whatsyourgrief.com is a good introduction to finding some professional help – there’ll will be a similar website in your country.

-          www.CRUSE.org.uk is a wonderful UK charity that offers wait-listed, free, grief support.  They are not qualified grief counsellors but very highly trained volunteers who support grief.  

An unusual but brilliant podcast: 

-          https://www.acast.com/griefcast

Award-winning podcast led by a comedian whose father died when she was a teenager. Essentially, it’s funny people talking about their grief stories – past and present.  I laugh and cry in almost every episode and since I mostly listen to podcasts in the car – I look like a lunatic at traffic lights!

It’s a window into how common grief is in our society and its success shows how little our society talks about it but how much we need to.  Julia Salmon (see book recommendation) was interviewed on it and was enlightening. Start there if you want to dip your toe in.

Grief 1.jpg

What could you do to ready yourself for a future career re-think (without making any rash decisions)?

1.       Don’t resign or consider major career change until at least 6 months after a loss, ideally 12 months.  That doesn’t mean you can’t get your thoughts together.

2.       Be gentle with yourself.  This was my most common comment to anyone in a state of loss when I was volunteering with Cruse Bereavement Care.   

  • If you feel like getting straight back to work to get some semblance of normality back into life – Do it!  

  • If you feel like jumping into bed straight after coming home from work – Do it! 

  • If you feel like wearing your Dad’s favourite sweater every day for months – Do it! 

  • If you feel like watching endless re-runs of Homes under the Hammer – Do it! 

  • If you feel like eating 5 crème eggs in a row – Do it!

3.       Talk about the person you have lost with friends, family, colleagues and strangers.  Share memories.  Good times and bad.  Funny stories.  What you miss most.  What you miss least.

4.       If you don’t release your feelings, they find a way to present themselves physically.    If you think your family and friends can’t handle it, book into a professional grief counsellor and talk for as long as you can.

5.       Spoil yourself.  Book a massage. Buy those new shoes.  Have long baths.  Be outside. Walk.  Eat colourful food.

6.       Ask someone at work to tell your colleagues why you have been off work before you return.  It’ll save on those awkward moments when they ask about how lovely your holiday was. 

7.       Exercise – it improves mood, memory, sleep and thought processing.   You’ll need all of these if you are to think through and plan out a career change.

8.       Talk to people at work, if you can.  Keeping your grief in can increase stress.  Without looking very hard, you might find someone who feels the same as you but has no outlet at work.  You might be able to ask that colleague how their grief/illness/health scare impacted their view of their career.

9.       If you are dead set on re-thinking your career now: Grab a piece of paper.  Write down a list of the elements of your work that you definitely want to change in the future

10.   On a different piece of paper write a list of the elements of your work that you’d like to do more of in the future.  Put the piece of paper away somewhere safe, that you can find easily, for when you feel stronger to make some bigger changes.

 You might also like to sign up to the “You’re not too old and it’s not too late” newsletter here for monthly articles to help you think through a possible career change – save them up in your email list to read when you are ready.

 

Disclaimer:

I am not an expert on grief but I am an expert on mid-lifer career change.  Having said that, I spent two years of my spare-time training and working with CRUSE Bereavement Care but don’t anymore because life got too busy.  I am interested in all things important to human happiness and losing a loved one or experiencing a health scare can have a huge impact on human happiness.

 

 

 

 





Is your Career Plan B real...or just a pipe-dream? And where to start, if you haven't got one yet.

Pipe-dream Plan B or Real Plan B - which have you created?

Pipe-dream Plan B or Real Plan B - which have you created?

I resigned almost 4 years ago without a PLAN B.   It took nearly 3 years to form an amazing new career but if I’d understood the importance of a decent Plan B before I’d resigned, I’d have done my thinking while I was still being paid.   

I’d also have saved myself valuable life time, money, the stress of feeling stuck for so long and the wasted energy of travelling down long blind (and sometimes fun) alleys.  

If you’ve read anything else I’ve written, you’ll know of my firm belief that life is simply too short and too precious to waste it doing work you don’t love.  A good Plan B affords us the opportunity to enjoy a career that fits, second time around. 

Who needs a Career Plan B?

If you're over 40 years old, you'll NEED a Career Plan B.  Enough said.  Read this article if you need further convincing.

Who doesn't need a Career Plan B?

Individuals who find their current work deeply fulfilling, satisfying and fun DON'T need a Career Plan B.  I doubt you'd be reading this article if that were your situation. 

Purpose of a Career Plan B:

To provide light at the end of a tunnel - sometimes a dark boring tunnel, sometimes a stressful, painful tunnel and sometimes just a very average long tunnel that we can’t even remember entering.

Not all Career Plan Bs are the same.  

The two major styles of Career Plan B:

·        Pipe-dream Career Plan B

·        Real Career Plan B

Definition of a Pipe-dream Career Plan B:  A career escape route that may not be required but is considered the best alternative route in lieu of other options.

Examples:

  • “I’ll save enough to retire a few years early and travel the world.”

  • “When the inevitable happens, I’ll sell the house, buy something on the coast and find a little business to run.”

  • “When the time is right, I’ll retrain to become an X.”

None are quantifiable.  None are testable.  None are time-framed.  None are within our control.  None require very specific planning to ensure they happen.  In other words…pipe-dreams.

My definition of a REAL Career Plan B: A different route that creates the best possible alternative to the work you’re currently doing that has the potential to feel fulfilling and satisfying, to bring more fun into your life and to earn enough to sustain a chosen lifestyle.

It’s the best possible alternative because you have spent time making sure you would be doing the work that you LOVE doing through experimentation, analysis and tweaking of your ideas.  You’ve ensured that you understand what it takes to make your Real Career plan successful before you launch into it and are prepared to do what it takes.

Quite a difference, eh?

The best time to design your Real Career Plan B: 

  • When you don’t NEED it.

  • In an ideal world, you’d begin investigating your REAL career Plan B when you are at the height of your career yet totally understand that you may not be doing what you’re doing forever.

  • You’d probably still enjoy parts of your current work but the sheen may have worn off a while ago. You have financial commitments that you’re not prepared to compromise on. This is the perfect time because your brain is in relaxed mode. You’ve got time on your side but you’d really love to have at least one ready-packaged idea that you could investigate and research in the background to make ready to go when the time is right.

  • WARNING! If you’ve been made redundant, fired or are on sick leave due to work stress you really NEED a plan B but annoyingly your brain is in the worst state to create a one. It’s perfectly possible but it will take a little more work on your part to calm the brain stress enough to allow you to re-think your career whilst quashing the “I-NEED-a-new-job-now!” very natural human reaction to your circumstances.

  • Read this article on how the brain sees career change if you’d like to know more. In this situation, you might prefer a staged Plan B. Often individuals who’ve been made redundant, fired or are on sick leave due to work stress choose to find “a job” to get the brain into relaxed mood again in order to permit the right psychological mind-frame to then begin to create a REAL career plan B.

How NOT to find a real career Plan B:

  • Start at the end – become inspired by one idea for a business or new career then throw yourself into that idea 100%, watch it fail (or if you’re extremely lucky it might succeed) and become dejected, negative and sad when the Plan B doesn’t work as well as you'd hoped.

  • Don’t buy a domain name, sign up to a year-long course, employ a website designer or personal branding guru. It’s way too early for these activities but they are signs that you’ve started at the end.

Don't waste time and energy starting your Plan B with an end goal in mind.

Don't waste time and energy starting your Plan B with an end goal in mind.

 How to START designing your Real Career Plan B:

  1. Start at the beginning - with the only thing that will remain the same no matter what type of work you end up doing in the future i.e. YOU!

  2. Figure out your SuperPowers: the activities that you do very naturally; the activities that others value highly; those that don’t drain the life out of you and those that give you deep satisfaction.

  3. Then begin to imagine ways that you could get paid to do much more of those activities in the future.

  4. Then start with very small, sometimes scary experiments (Read about one of my scary early-stage experiments HERE) and analyse the results.

  5. Refine the ideas

Easy peasy - eh?    

Well, of course it’s not that easy for many of us.   Not if we’ve spent the last 15-20 years working within one industry or within one discipline.   Most people I meet in those situations have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHAT THEIR SUPERPOWERS ARE because they have stopped using them as they moved up the ranks, or they have forgotten them or they have simply become disconnected from them.   

If that’s the situation with you, don’t lose heart.   Some of the most successful career transformations I’ve witnessed have been created by individuals who had no idea where to begin to find their SuperPowers – or indeed if they had any at all to begin with!    They just needed to expend a little extra effort early doors dusting down their memory to re-discover them.

I’ve never met anyone who is without SuperPowers. 

It’s impossible to get to our age and not have some very fine and unique SuperPowers – you just can't see them because you're not valuing them the way others do.

 If you’d like to begin your search for your SuperPowers alone – download my SuperPowers Starter questions here.

But if you think the answers are too deeply buried, let me help you...  

Check out my Discover My SuperPowers programme here but essentially, with a few short thinking assignments at home + a half-day session with me, we’ll uncover a totally unique list of 4/5 of SuperPowers.

Then you’ll know exactly where to start in creating your own personal REAL Plan B.  

HOW TO BOOK: CLICK HERE TO BOOK A (FREE) "LIGHT AT THE END OF MY TUNNEL" CONVERSATION.  I'll send you a few pre-call questions to allow me to learn more about your situation upfront and you can make sure we're a good fit before we go and book our half-day session.