Major career crossroads occur at the following times: redundancy or the option on voluntary redundancy or early retirement; a ‘landmark’ birthday, especially 30, 40 and 50; planning to or having children; working in ‘young’ industries such as advertising and the acting profession; a bereavement or end of a relationship and your boss leaving.

With some industries disappearing altogether, others shrinking as jobs go abroad or technology replaces human labour, it is better to be on the front foot and plan your next career move than on the back foot and have change forced upon you. In any company, there will be a proportion of people sitting in jobs that they hate, waiting to be made redundant.

‘To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly’

Henri Bergson

I often find that people who resist necessary change which will help them to grow either get made redundant or they become ill, with their body ‘going on strike’ expressing their inner resistance physically.

Which of the reasons below for being at a career crossroads can you identify with, either from the past or at present?

  • Company acquisition/merger/restructures leading to redundancy or a change in culture
  • Your career progression is blocked
  • You want to set up your own business
  • You like self employment, but your business model isn’t working for you e.g. turnover gained vs. effort and hours put in and stress
  • You seek a lifestyle change e.g. move to the country or less stressful job
  • Self employment isn’t what you thought it would be and you want to return to full time employment
  • You seek more financial security rather than having unpredictable income so that you can get a mortgage
  • Having children means that you want part time/flexible hours instead of full time work
  • Becoming a new mother has made you reassess your priorities and your old job just doesn’t fit you any more
  • Post maternity leave; you return to work, but things have moved on and you are not sure of your role or that your new role is you
  • New responsibility and promotions are being given to other people and youngsters are snapping at your heels on the way up, so you are unsure of what the future holds for you with your current employer
  • You are seeking more meaning and purpose in your work
  • You feel bored, unstimulated or undervalued
  • You realise that you chose your career for your parents or teachers and not for yourself
  • You’ve evolved as a person and your career just doesn’t feel right any more
  • Your company is relocating and you don’t want to move and uproot yourself/your family
  • You’d like to take a career break and go travelling, but are afraid of how this might affect your long term career prospects
  • As you move up the ladder, you do less and less of the things that you enjoy and more tasks that you don’t like, e.g. managing people or marketing your business to get clients, instead of the work you love

Standing at a career crossroads can feel quite daunting – change is unpredictable and fear natural and common. You worry about making the wrong decision, leaving something that is safe and secure and regretting it and making a mistake. The longer you have been in a career or company and the more that security and stability are important to you, the more daunting change can feel.

It is vital to plan and research your career move thoroughly to minimise the risk and ensure that what you move to is better than what you have moved from.

‘The best way to predict the future is to invent it’ Alan Kay

Many people find it very hard marketing themselves because they are so close to themselves that they can’t see what they have to offer, and are not sure how to promote their skills and experience to prospective employers.

Investing time in increasing your self-awareness and knowledge so you know yourself inside out, is time well spent. Researching the market to identify what makes you different and how you can help businesses address key problems and challenges is essential.

Enlisting the help of a career coach through your career transition helps the journey to be easier, Thinking through what’s important to you, what motivates you, how you want your career to fit your life and any pros, cons and time and financial implications of decisions and choices is key. This will increase your clarity and focus.

Creating a clear goal, step-by-step plan with simple actions that you can easily take each week as you create the change, minimise the pain and maximise the gain of career change.

Self-belief and confidence is infectious and if you are clear, you will come across authentically and with conviction which will increase the likelihood of success.

10 simple tips to help you at a career crossroads

Here are 10 simple tips to help you next time you are at a career crossroads.

  1. Be clear that you’re not just bored with other aspects of your life and are focusing your frustration on your work. Things can get better at work, especially if you make them happen and change your perception.
  2. Speak with someone who has successfully made a career transition recently and ask their advice
  3. Write a list of your contacts and keep in touch with them to help them as well as to help yourself
  4. Know your achievements and skills inside out
  5. Plan time regularly in your diary to create your career change
  6. Try before you buy – think about how you can try out your planned new career before making the leap
  7. Ensure that you have a good support system in place to help you through the change e.g. a savings cushion, someone to champion you and help you through any knockbacks along the way
  8. Research thoroughly using the web, LinkedIn, your industry associations etc.
  9. Remember that you always have choice and there is never only one right road at the crossroads
  10. Buy self-help career change books – there are more and more available as career change escalates or get a career coach to help you through the practicality and emotions of your career transition

Standing at a career crossroads can be scary and exciting at the same time. What’s your next step?

Rachel Brushfield is The Talent Liberator and founder of Energise – The Talent Liberation company, established 1997 and based in Charlbury, Oxfordshire. Rachel is an experienced career strategist and coach with a marketing background who helps professionals and executives to achieve an uplifting breakthrough at major career crossroads. Career fulfilment and portfolio careers are specialisms. Rachel is co-founder of the network PWHub for senior women employed in Oxfordshire companies.

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