Are you feeling that seven-year career itch? Or maybe it’s hitting you after just three or four years? I’ve done it a couple times, leaving established, well-paying jobs to start something new. I know firsthand how difficult, stressful and anxiety-inducing it can be, especially when you’re not exactly sure what comes next.
During my last system upgrade, I spent about six months waking up with 3am panic attacks, wondering what would become of me. Eventually I realized that just thinking about next steps wasn’t helping. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. When in doubt, or even when in stasis, my number one piece of advice is try something different. I stopped analyzing and started doing.
Take a Class
I can’t express how life-changing it was enrolling in some UBC Continuing Education classes. It felt cathartic to be out of the house, meeting new people and exercising my brain. Even if it’s a class in Portuguese or underwater didgeridoo, unrelated to anything you want to do, it will get you thinking in new ways. For me, it opened up a world of possibilities, if only in my mind, which is where I needed them to exist most.
Reach out to your Network
I made the mistake of reaching out before I knew exactly what I wanted to do. That led to slightly awkward coffee dates where acquaintance threw out random employment suggestions, much like mother trying to entertain a bored child. (“Why don’t you go play outside?”)
What I was hoping they’d say was, “Hey, I have this amazing job that you’ll love and be perfect for!” Didn’t happen.
It’s much more productive to reach out to your network when you have some direction. Don’t have a network? No problem. That’s what LinkedIn and friends of friends of friends are for. Most of my contracts have come from word of mouth.
Announce Your Intention
Related to the above, as any self-respecting Instagram feed will tell you, manifest your goals by speaking them aloud. (Just because it’s a cliché doesn’t mean it isn’t true.) Decide what it is you want to be and start announcing it, even if you feel like a class A imposter at first.
It will only ring false to you. Plus, the more you say it the more you feel an obligation to live up to it.
Harness your Past Experience
When I first started working in social media and public relations, I was dejected because I felt like I was at the bottom of the heap at the age when I should be a veteran in my field.
It took me time to believe that while I was starting out-ish, my previous experience and knowledge counted for a lot. I had 20-years of contact building, creative thinking, story-telling, project management, and writing experience. Granted, if I’d gone back to Med school I would have been back at Biology 101. But most of the time, we have a wealth knowledge and a skill-set that we are bringing to the table. Focus on this and sell the s#*t out of it.
Come Down Off Your High Horse
By the same token, you are kind of starting over. You may have been the all-mighty and powerful Oz at your previous job but the curtain has been pulled back and now, the emperor is wearing no clothes. (Maybe I need a Mastering the Metaphor class?)
I took on, and still do, some junior assignments. One, it’s work. And money is nice. And two, I learn something from every opportunity. That has become my litmus test: Will I learn something from this experience? If the answer is yes, I take it on.
Competent, hard-working people who go above and beyond their job description rise to the top. No question. (As long as they’re not jerks. Then all bets are off.) I see this with interns: those who are eager, who do their own jobs with competence and vigor and also volunteer to assume additional responsibilities, they all rise quickly.
When I take on work that seems a bit above me, I simply get up earlier, work longer and harder to figure it out. I ask questions, I research, I scour the internet for examples and tutorials.
Acknowledge your Mistakes
Every night before I fall asleep I review the day, running through the things I did well and the things I could have done better. It actually stops me from beating myself up over mistakes. I just vow not to do it again.
And when all else fails, I frequently revisit this great article about reinventing yourself by James Altucher, who is infinitely wiser than I am. And, I remember this:
“Every day you reinvent yourself. You’re always in motion. But you decide every day: forward or backward.”