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The 5 Minute Career Coach, June 09 -- Career Change From Finish To Start
June 01, 2009

Helping Career Changers Around The World

June 2009


Welcome to the June edition of The 5 Minute Career Coach!

I am a member of an email coaching discussion group and someone recently posted the question 'does your coaching change with the weather?' It provoked some interesting discussion and got me thinking about just how far we allow ourselves to be influenced by external factors.

Career change is usually a slow process. It takes time to do the research and reflection needed, to seek out and implement the changes you want in your life and you are likely to experience quite a few changes in 'weather' as you go through this process.

Now of course your internal energy levels will rise and fall from time to time. I am sure you all experience those changes even within one day, let alone over a period of days, weeks or months.

But how often do you find that you have let external factors affect your energy?

The weather is a perfect example. I, for one, certainly feel lower energy when the weather is grey and cold outside and feel ready for anything when the sun comes out. What is important for me is to be able to spot when this is happening and to make a conscious decision not to let what is going on outside influence me – well, not too strongly at least!

Bottom line, I know that I am in charge of the thoughts and feelings that go through my head. I am not just passively at the mercy of outside factors like weather, the economy, the media or other people’s moans. I can choose to listen to these external messages or not. I can decide if I am going to let them drag me down.

This is an important concept to get hold of for career changers. There are plenty of external factors that can lead you to believe that change is not possible. But remember that you have the choice as to whether you will let these negative external influences be the fuel that clogs up the engine of your career change or whether you will take control of your own engine.

Or as one of the respondents to the question on my coaching discussion group said 'we all have control of our own internal weather'.

Are you taking responsibility for your own 'internal weather' to keep your career change plans moving?

With very best wishes

What’s in this Issue

Quote of the Day

I love some of the quotes and aphorisms that you find in careers and personal development books. So often they seem to encapsulate something I have struggled with in my own life or have seen coaching clients grapple with. I hope the examples I offer can inspire you too.

'Things are not as they are, but as we are.'
Anais Nin

So don’t look outwards to explain or blame when your life or career is not as you want it. Turn the spotlight on yourself and ask ‘what can I do to make the changes I want’? All change begins with you.

Changing Careers From Finish To Start

From finish to start? Isn’t that back to front?

Yes, it is and intentionally so.

When you are trying to change careers you can sometimes find yourself feeling totally stuck and unable to see any way you can make progress. You just can’t work out what step you could take next or any actions you can think of seem insignificant in relation to the distance you have to travel.

Sometimes it helps to break this kind of deadlock if you intentionally turn the situation on its head or look at it from a totally different perspective – in this case from the finish line.

Start at the finish line

So if you are thinking about a career change but feel like you are peering into the mist ahead of you and can’t see how you can move forwards, you might find that it helps to take a dramatic leap and imagine yourself in a place where you have made the changes that you want.

Then from that position of, say, being in the first day of your new job or getting your first client in the business you want to run, look back and identify what was the last step you had to take before this moment. Literally walk yourself backwards along the path you have followed to get where you want to be.

At each step back along the path, ask yourself what had to happen for me to be at this point?

So you might see yourself sitting at home planning out your route to work for your first day in your new job. Before that had to come the moment when you opened the letter offering you the job. The next step back takes you to the interview where you obviously gave some great answers as the job offer came you way and that leads you to think about what planning and preparation you had to do to perform so well. And so on and so on.

Make a direct connection with your goal

This can be a great way of seeing that there is a direct line between where you are now and the place you want to be with your career. That direct line may be made up of many steps, but individually they are all do-able.

As you track your way back, keep checking whether this is a step that you could realistically do tomorrow. In the example above, this could mean tracking back to the point where the action you took was as simple as...

'I picked up the phone and spoke to my friend Mary who I know has a contact working in the media.'
Or 'I went online and started to research courses in beauty therapy.'
Or 'I made a commitment to do without my morning cappuccino and I put that money aside so I would begin to build a financial cushion to cover me while I retrain.'

So maybe at the moment you can’t quite see what your next step should be, but by tracking backwards from the end point, you put the small, achievable action step that you could take tomorrow into the context of your bigger career goal. When looked at in this way, suddenly that simple phone call to a friend can be seen as a first step on a bigger journey – an easy step that is well worth taking because it leads you towards your new career.

So as Stephen Covey puts it, 'begin with the end in mind'.

The finish line is a great place to start.

The Career Change Question

Career change is not easy. It often requires a lot of hard and deep thinking about how you have been living your life up to now and how you would like it to be in the future.

As a coach, I know that asking challenging questions can be very powerful in helping clients move forwards. Questions can help you explore where you are and where you are going.

These questions should not be given a quick and glib response, but instead you can just let them wander round your mind for a few days, or even weeks and see what answers unfold for you. They are designed to get you thinking in new ways and hopefully gain insights that may open your mind to new possibilities.

This time I have a question not for you to answer, but one for you to ask your friends and colleagues:

What would you say are my greatest strengths?

I expect that might feel a bit uncomfortable? 'I can’t ask people to tell me what I am good at', I hear you say.

Why not? What is wrong with asking for feedback and encouragement? (There’s another good question!)

So pick 2 - 3 friends and 2 - 3 colleagues and give them this question to consider. Ask them to take a bit of time to think about it and then reply to you in person or by email.

Whether you get your response personally or in writing, resist the temptation to belittle what they offer. Accept what they say with thanks and a smile. Be pleased to hear about the good things that others see in you.

If you get verbal feedback, make sure that you write down what they have said so you can keep it. Print out any email or written responses too and keep them somewhere safe so you can turn to them when you begin to doubt that you have anything to offer a new career.

Remember, we ALL have positive strengths and qualities. Far too often, we fail to acknowledge them in ourselves. So let someone else help you to identify and value what you have to offer.

Why not file the feedback you get in your Career Change Project File so that when you start considering specific lines of work you have quick and easy access to a list of what you will be able to offer.

Recommended Resources

It was not my intention, but I find that I have referred to the work of Stephen Covey both directly and indirectly in this newsletter, so I guess it makes sense that I should make his well known book my recommended resource this month.

Stephen R Covey
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

This is a big read, but well worth the effort.

As the title suggests, this is a book specifically about wider personal change rather than specifically on career change, but the messages are just as relevant to your career as they are to your life as a whole. Although it was first published in 1989, the content is just as valid today as it was then.

The essence of the book is what Covey defines as the seven key principles that underpin an effective approach to life.

Simply put, these are:

1. Be proactive
Here Covey means not just taking the initiative (as opposed to being passive or reactive), but also taking responsibility for your actions in running your life.

2. Begin with the end in mind
Be clear what you want to achieve in your life and use that as a guiding star to prevent you from simply drifting without purpose.

3. Put first things first
This is about having the self discipline to do what needs to be done, including facing up to doing things that are difficult if they are necessary steps along the way.

4. Think win/win
Seek solutions where there is a positive outcome for everyone rather than striving to beat others. Make your life strategy co-operation rather than competition.

5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood
Take time to explore and understand people and problems before rushing to judge or define solutions. Put your own needs and opinions on hold while you build your understanding.

6. Synergise
This is about being open to the possibility that something bigger may emerge when you apply the principles already outlined. Accepting that sometimes, 2 + 2 = 5 or 63 or 9,371!

7. Sharpen the saw
You are the saw. You are the ‘tool’ that you use to run your life, so look after it. Time spent on self care and personal development may seem like an indulgence, but it will pay you great dividends in enabling you to be more effective in what you are trying to achieve.

Covey explains each of his principles in detail using insights and anecdotes to illustrate each one. He goes on to demonstrate how they all work together and how they can be applied in a range of different situations.

It is not difficult to see the relevance of Covey’s seven principles to how you approach career change. Using them as a guide will help smooth the path for you as you make progress towards your new career.

Stephen Covey’s book has been an inspiration to many, and I for one find that I return to it regularly for ideas and encouragement. I can thoroughly recommend it and believe it should be on every career changers bookshelf.

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