Setting intentions for your career shift

If we make a statement of intent, and allow our actions to follow that lead, it will turn into reality, often without much effort.

Think of intention setting like planting a seed. It is the conscious decision to approach a desired outcome in a specific way. Our intentions determine how we want to show up in a particular situation, with a particular person or on a particular journey. They serve as a guidepost to who we want to ‘be’, as opposed to what we want to ‘do’.

Let me give you an example:

Let’s assume that my desired outcome is finding meaningful work. My intention is to embrace every step along the journey and to learn and grow from every opportunity that presents itself. When I’m confronted with my own doubts, concerns and uncertainty, having this intention will stretch me to reach to the full extent of my ability and eventually bring me closer to my goal of finding meaningful work.

Why intentions are powerful during a career shift

A lot of people know that they want some sort of change in their career, however often they are unable to express exactly what they are looking for. So if they decide to go and look for it, they embark on a journey without a destination.

It is inevitable that whatever route they choose to take, they will be challenged with emotions like fear, anxiety or doubt, which, without powerful intentions, will set them right back to where they started.

If, however, they start by developing their intention with some initial reflection as to how they want to approach this journey and why, they create a sort of mantra for themselves that they can fall back on when nagging voices come up. This mantra reminds them of their direction.

Clear intentions allow us to make decisions in harmony with what is important to us. They encourage us to react in certain ways, respond to situations, engage in supportive opportunities and generally help us to be more balanced in difficult situations. Powerful intention setting is therefore key to manifest personal and professional goals.

Benefits

Sense, purpose and direction: Intentions show us the way to go. They are based on what is truly important to us and therefore give sense and meaning to our actions and behaviour. 

Increased productivity: Because intentions are purpose-based, this contributes to a positive mindset, which results in increased productivity.

Head space: Setting intentions helps us to focus on what is important to us and steers us away from limiting beliefs and negative brain chatter. We get to deliberately choose how we want to show up. Often, just by bringing this to our awareness, the worries and concerns vanish by themselves.

How to set an intention for your career shift

There is no right or wrong approach to setting an intention. However, intentions are most powerful if they are phrased positively and aligned with our unique personal values.

Start your intention setting with “I intend to…” and fill in the dots with your attitude towards your desired outcome. For example:

  • I intend to be patient and open-minded towards every job opportunity that presents itself
  • I intend to be forgiving to myself
  • I intend to maintain a healthy balance in life despite workload and pressure
  • I intent to open up and be more vulnerable in service of feeling more authentic
  • I intend to seek feedback and criticism for my new learning journey

Photo by Cathryn Lavery on Unsplash

Top tips for your intentional journey

Now that you have started thinking about your intentions for your career change, you are ready to get started. We want to give you some top tips to approach your journey, so that you know how to make your intentions work for you. 

Write a statement with your intention. Thinking about how we want to approach a career change is great, but it becomes even more powerful if we say it out loud and manifest it onto a piece of paper. This doesn’t have to be in form of words – get your creative juices flowing and express your intention in the form of a visual. 

Set the tone for your day – every day. Having a long-term vision in place is great, however our daily behaviour determines at what speed and with how much fun we achieve our desired outcomes. We at Create my Career for example always take a moment before our workshops to set our intention for the day and the group.

Allow for a change in direction. While we love a good vision of where you are heading, it is important to stay flexible and allow your goals to evolve over time. As you approach your journey, you will learn a ton of new things about yourself and it is therefore important to reflect on your intentions and goals from time to time, to ensure you are still on track.

Find a sparring partner. Our intentions become more powerful and we are more likely to stick with them if we have people around us who support us on our journey. Choose your accountability partner carefully and they will remind you and get you back on track in case you derail.

Summary

Our intentions set the course and determine the direction we are headed and ultimately the results we achieve. They are expressed in a clear statement of an outcome we want to achieve.

If we approach a career change without any intentions, we will likely derail and take several unnecessary detours before reaching our goals. If, however, we set our intentions mindfully, they serve as a mantra when things get tricky.

When setting your intention, think about your long-term vision as well as your daily attitude and how you want to show up. Stay flexible and allow for a change of direction if needed. An accountability partner is a great way to get additional support.

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Support your career change through compelling storytelling

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Being able to tell a good story is really important in making a successful career change. The ability to quickly and compellingly tell your story means you will engage people, help them remember you, and ensure that you are making the most of every opportunity that comes your way, whether at a formal networking event, in a casual conversation with friends, or during an interview situation.

Storytelling is one of the oldest forms of human communication. It is the way in which generations of people have passed information on from one person to the next, and our brains are wired to respond to it.

Hearing a story taps into our emotions as well as our analytical capability. We quickly start to relate the story to our own situation and life experience, bringing meaning and depth to what we are hearing. A good story is remembered because it brings to life emotions, and engages the different senses – sight, sound, touch, smell and even taste – making a much deeper imprint on the brain than simple facts and figures can.

 

Think of a networking event, who do you find it more interesting to talk to, and who are you more likely to remember? the person who clearly articulates their ambition, what they are trying to achieve and who is brave about asking for help; or the person who cannot quite formulate an answer to the question of why they are here and what they are looking for.

Preparing your story in advance will put you in the best possible position to share it eloquently and easily when you meet others, allowing your natural enthusiasm for your topic to come across clearly, rather than getting lost in a long rambling tale about how you have stopped enjoying your job and are desperate to get out! Also remember that when you are networking, each individual is often trying to get around as many people as possible in a short space of time. Being able to tell your story crisply and concisely will make you stand out from the crowd.

So, how do you go about creating that perfect story?

A simple way to do this is to create your own short story sketch. Once you have your story sketch, this can be a consistent source of reference to help you share your plans and hopes for your career change.

A story sketch has a few elements to it that will help you to create a structured story that you can then easily share with others. Using a structured approach will also help you to think through what it is that you really want to get across, and also to define what you need from different people.

You may not know all the answers to these questions just yet, but thinking through them will help you, and other answers may come to you at a later date. Remember, a story can evolve and grow – not necessarily in length, but in depth and structure – so as you move further along your career change journey you can deepen different parts as more of the story comes to life for you.

Story sketch

The key elements of your story are:

Why – what is the reason you want to make this career change, where is the push coming from, what is the dissatisfaction that is driving you, or ideally, the higher purpose that you want to achieve through making this change

The Roadmap – where are you on your journey to shift career, and what do you anticipate are the steps that you still need to take in order to achieve your goals?

What does it mean for you – outline the transformation you anticipate as a result of this career change, what it will be like when you are in your new or reshaped career, how will your life will be different, how will your behaviour be different, how will you be thinking differently

What do you want from the person you are talking to – This is critical. It’s important to know what you are asking for, which may vary depending on who you are talking to: It might be a reference; an opportunity to job shadow someone; an introduction to a key contact that you think could help or advise you; some advice or input on something you are working on.

What you can do for the person you are talking to – knowing what you can offer the person in return for their help is also essential. It may be a skillset you have identified that they need; an offer to introduce them to someone in return; or a recommendation around an article that may be of interest to them. If you can offer them something too, this builds your relationship and means they are more likely to think of you the next time they, or someone they know, needs something.

Finally, once you have drafted out the answers to the points above, focus on your Elevator Pitch – if you literally have one minute to share your story, what will you say?

Now that you have created your story sketch, you have all the elements you need to share your story with others. Have fun with it!

 

Allison Lindsay, October 2017

Mindfulness in Career Change

josh-adamski-116665Mindfulness – a simple yet effective form of meditation that enables you to gain control of unruly thoughts and behaviours.

Is it really as straightforward as that? This type of description of mindfulness is very much in vogue at the moment, however I believe this is actually quite a limiting definition for a practice that can really open up and support your career change journey.

It has become very popular to think of mindfulness as simply a form of meditation, or being in the present moment, however if you look back to its Buddhist roots (without getting into any dogma or religious thinking) you will see that mindfulness is actually about paying attention to what is happening inside and around you. When you see that sign on the Tube saying ‘Mind the gap’ or the low roof with the notice ‘Mind your head’, you are not being invited to go into a quick meditation, you are being asked to pay attention, to observe what is happening, and to take notice of potential risks (or opportunities) in your environment that could have an impact on you.

Paying attention is about noticing and being with something without trying to change it. It is a neutral state, without judgement. It is also about taking the time to really explore the thing you are paying attention to – whether that is feelings, a state of mind, or something going on around us. Essentially, we need to get curious! Often when we are feeling something that is a bit uncomfortable, our first instinct is to stop feeling it, distracting ourselves with an activity, or rushing to find an answer or a solution to whatever is creating that feeling. Yet if we take the time to just sit with it for a while, without judging or criticising it, we frequently find that insights come. We can use those insights to help us make decisions.

If we take this wider and more useful definition of mindfulness, essentially focusing on what it really means to pay attention, what are the key benefits that you can take advantage of when going through career change? I’d like to focus on three in particular:

 

Stress reduction

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Often when we are going through a career change, it’s really easy to feel overwhelmed by what is happening, or by all the decisions you have to make and the tasks you have to complete to move you along your journey. Just thinking about this can put us in a spin, making it even harder to think clearly and this in itself can raise stress levels. Mindfulness has been shown to be incredibly useful as a stress reliever, as the very act of being calm and paying attention to what is happening to you right now, and how you are feeling right now, takes you out of fight or flight mode, and brings you into a relaxed state of mental clarity and calm. This helps you to focus more on what you actually need to get done, in a calm and thoughtful way, and helps you stop ruminating on negative or unhelpful thoughts.

 

Better decision making

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When you are in a mindful state, paying close attention, you have access to heightened awareness. This allows you to more clearly feel, label and understand your emotions – but critically it also enables you to see them more objectively, so that you don’t get caught up in them (a potentially big trap that can lead us astray when making decisions). Increased self-awareness has been shown to be related to better emotional intelligence – the somewhat intangible ‘something’ that affects how we manage behaviour, react to situations, navigate social complexities, and make the personal decisions that achieve positive results. Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognise and understand your own emotions, and those of others, and to use that awareness to help you navigate life more easily.

 

Increased creativity and performance

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Mindfulness can also significantly increase your creativity – a huge advantage when you are tackling new challenges, and needing new insights and ideas to help you make your career change. Practising mindfulness can shift your brain to a state where it is generating alpha brain waves. When creative people are solving complex problems, their brains show huge bursts of alpha wave activity, indicating that their brains are calm, present, relaxed and aware. In these states we are fully absorbed in the moment, able to perform at our optimum and show ourselves at our most innovative.

 

Practical ways to be more mindful

On a practical basis how can you build your capacity to be mindful, so that it becomes a genuinely useful tool in your career change journey? I recommend a few things:

Breathe deeply

This one is for stress reduction. The key here is actually getting out of your mind, but in a mindful way! Instead, focus on your body. This could be whilst you are meditating if that is something you already practice and find helpful, but if not, a simple and easy way to do this is to just lay your hands on your belly and focus on your breathing. Bringing your full attention to the exercise, take a few deep breaths, making sure you are using a diaphragmatic breath (if you are doing a diaphragmatic breath your belly will rise as you breathe in, and drop as you breathe out), counting to 8 on the inhale, and then 8 on the exhale. This will slow your breathing right down, helping to lower your heart rate, increasing the flow of oxygen to the body’s cells, and relaxing your muscles. Endorphins will also be released, making you feel better and more able to cope with whatever situation you are in. At the very least, it will give you a bit of space before making an instant decision.

 

  1. Listen to what your body is telling you

By learning to really listen to your body, you have access to insight and information that can help you make decisions and feel comfortable that you are moving in the right direction. When you have an important career change decision to make, take the time to settle down somewhere quiet and do a body scan. It may sound weird, but so often we make decisions based on lists of pros and cons, trying to weigh up all the positives and negatives. Whilst this approach definitely has its uses, it is also important to take account of what our body is telling us – as paying attention to the feelings that come up when we think about our decision can give us a real indication of whether something really resonates with our hearts. This approach can take some time and practice, especially if you have always been someone who makes decisions based on their head, but as you learn how your body responds in different situations, you will find that it gives you perspective and choices that you did not have access to previously.

 

  1. Meditate

If you do decide to start a regular meditation practice it can be as simple as focusing on your breath, or using a simple one-word/phrase chant (sometimes easier than what we are often told to do in meditation which is to relax the mind, and let thoughts float in and out without focusing on them). The more you practice the more automatic, natural and easy it will become. As it becomes easier, you will also find it is easier to enter that state of mind at will, when you need an extra boost of creativity.

 

  1. Exercise

Some studies also show that as well as the benefits of meditation in increasing mindfulness, there also appears to be a link between the ability to pay attention and exercise – both physical and mental. So staying in shape, whether through a regular gym session, swimming or walking; or teaching the brain to stay more focused through mental exercise, can be really helpful in building our capacity to be more mindful.

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If you think of mindfulness in this wider definition, you will soon see it opening up many windows of opportunity to you. It gives you the chance to focus on what you are really feeling, to identify what really resonates with you, to come up with fresh ideas and insights, as well as a means to calm yourself down at stressful moments, so that you can actually take advantage of those fresh insights. Importantly, the more you practice being mindful, the easier it becomes, as you are building muscle memory, and giving yourself a ready-to-use, always-on resource that you can tap into at will.

 

Allison Lindsay, 7th October 2017

 

 

 

Building confidence in times of uncertainty

Confidence is a state of mind. A state, in which we feel we can move a mountain!

In times of uncertainty, for example when considering a career change or aiming for a promotion, our mind means well in protecting us and therefore comes up with tons of reasons why we should stay where we are – in our comfort zone where we are a subject expert and where we know every potential outcome of the next steps.

When we challenge our protection mechanism, our irrational brain takes over and overwhelms us with feelings. Fear of failure kicks in. We start criticising ourselves, feel we lack the knowledge and can get really insecure. Soon after, we come up with good reasons why we should perhaps postpone our scary leap and not shake things up right now. And here we are again – back in this vicious cycle.

When going for something big in life, we need a good amount of confidence so that we dare to reach for our ambitions and don’t let our emotions stop us. As Katty Kay, author of The Confidence Code, nicely put it “Confidence is life’s enabler – it is the quality that turns thoughts into action”. It is one of the main ingredients that is required when we don’t know what our next step entails.

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People with a healthy amount of confidence have an appearance; An aura that shines and somehow impacts people around them. They seem to take more risks and look at the bright side of life, even when things aren’t always going according to plan.

Building our confidence in times of uncertainty is inevitable. And it can be learned and mastered through practice and self-reflection. Here is how.

 

Confidence building exercises

Plan and prepare for the unknown

When taking a leap that results in not knowing what’s next, it is wise to plan ahead. For example, if you are considering to leave your full time job to pursue another career, plan ahead by speaking with people who have done this step before you and back yourself up in every area that could possibly throw you off track. Usual considerations would be your financial situation, fears that are likely going to hit you, and who is going to support you. Think about investing in a mentor or a coach, who can be your sparring partner during that transition.

Knowing what to expect makes us feel prepared and ultimately more confident. Read through Allison’s related article that describes potential fears one by one.

Introduce positivity

We are programmed to feel guilty if we haven’t given something our best shot. We tend to listen to our inner critic that tells us we are not good enough, not smart enough, don’t earn enough money and so on. Once in that trap, we keep beating ourselves up and remain in this mindset of negativity. Sometimes even certain friends or family can trigger our confidence to shrink.

Drop the negative mindset, distance yourself from those who aren’t good for you and surround yourself with positive energy, enthusiasm and gratitude. This is difficult at first, however it can go a long way.

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Be conscious about your body language & appearance

The way we speak, move and interact with people plays a big part in how we feel. Simply being aware of our posture, for example, quickly reveals what gives us confidence. Wearing clothes that make us feel powerful and maintaining an attitude that is full of kindness and smiles support how we want to be perceived.

Try pulling your shoulders back and really be present during your next conversation. Be mindful, curious and actively listen. Talk slowly and notice the difference on the impact you have. It is likely you will get positive recognition.

Work out

Getting our endorphins released is one of the most powerful ways to increase our confidence. We can see the results so obviously, through stats and body improvement that we tend to approach every task that follows with the attitude to just ‘hit the ground running’.

Sports, movement, and fresh air plays such an integral part of our success, and yet is it often the first thing that people remove from their schedule due to ‘more important’ commitments. Make sure that you don’t compromise on your own well-being and treat it as important as other areas in your life.

For times when nothing else works

It happens to all of us that, despite having found good routine that sets us up in the right mindset, we do have days that are just not in our favour. Prepare for such days and have something in place that helps you to be ok with this situation. Some ideas could be to have a list ready that shows all your moments that you are proud of, getting lost in a novel or art work, calling someone who can lift you up or simply take a deep breath. Tomorrow is a new day to start all over again.

Turning fear to your advantage during a career change

One of the main reasons people don’t pursue a wanted career change, or why they get stuck, is fear. Fear of failing… fear of getting it wrong… fear of looking foolish… fear of someone telling them they are doing the wrong thing… One of the challenges is that fear is often ill-defined, perhaps we have a nagging sense of doubt or we start catastrophising about all the things that could go wrong.

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Fear is normal, a basic human emotion that we cannot live without. Psychologically, fear is designed to protect us. It makes us pause in our tracks, think about the next step, and decide how we are going to go forward. So we shouldn’t view fear as an inherently bad thing, it only really hurts us when it paralyses us and stops us moving forward at all.

Instead of seeing fear as a negative, try looking at it differently. Fear is an indicator. It tells us what is really important to us. Fear can even help us make decisions when used in the right way – as leverage and as a powerful driving force that can help us take positive action.

The first thing to do is to identify what your fears actually are. Putting them down in writing can help define them more clearly. Once you have made a list of all your fears, it is helpful to think through what is at their root. For example, if you are afraid of getting it wrong – what lies beneath that? Is the real concern about losing money; losing face in front of others; of having to go back to a job you are desperate to leave because it hasn’t worked out; of wasting time? Once you have clarity on the underlying fear, it is easier deal with it.

Tackling your career change fears one by one

Will I make enough money to live on?

If the real fear is about not having enough money to live on, what actions can you take to give yourself a financial cushion? It might be putting in place a savings plan for the next six months so that when you do finally quit your job you have enough to survive on until you are generating sufficient income. One trick is to see what you have left in your account at the end of the month and to move across any surplus to a savings account. It will quickly build up and even putting away a few pounds each week can make a difference over time.

Am I going to waste time by making the wrong career change choice?

If it’s fear of wasting time because you’ve taken a wrong turn or made a decision that didn’t turn out the way you hoped, what can you do to ‘test’ your decision in advance? Can you shadow someone who does the role you are interested in to see if it’s really for you; What about talking to a range of people in the industry to find out their perspective on what the job is all about, the highs and the lows, as well as the types of people that are successful in it.

How will I cope with starting at the bottom again?

This is a tough one and a really human fear. Perhaps you are contemplating taking a big drop in status, going back to the beginning and starting all over again. It can be a really daunting prospect to be at the bottom again, especially when it means having a boss who is younger and less experienced than you. It’s not just about overcoming the blow to your ego through the loss of status, but also the worry about whether you will ever be able to regain that status again. One way to tackle this is to reframe the fear mentally and emotionally. Think of what opens up to you if you do not have responsibility of being the person who is ultimately in charge. This can be a chance to try doing things differently, and to take a new path that may not have been open to you in the senior role that you held previously. Also, remember all that life experience gives you a huge advantage over the other people at your level in the organisation – you have the opportunity to add value that others’ cannot, and you may even be able to use that experience to fast track your promotion back up the ladder again.

 Let your fear help you decide

These fears may be familiar to you, or you may have other fears that are unique to your own journey. Fears can be overcome, or at least reduced, through taking the time to build an action plan. In addition, keeping your vision in mind is incredibly powerful when fear creeps up on you. Your vision is your motivator to keep going when things are tough, and then you can use your fear to sense-check what’s most important, to help you make even the most difficult decisions and get that action plan working for you.

I made my last career change in 2009, a year after the crash, and at a time when it was really tough to get a job. I was really clear on what I wanted to do, but I had a fear of whether I would actually be able to change careers successfully. I knew that I needed to do some additional study to get into the field I was drawn to, but I was finding it hard to decide between the ‘sensible’ option of studying part time (much easier financially, and much less risky in terms of being confident I would actually have a job at the end of it) and the ‘risky’ option of studying full time and hoping I would manage to find a job afterwards. I dialled into my fear to help me make my decision, and I quickly realised that my fear of being stuck in a career that I no longer loved was far greater than my fear of not having a job at the end of my studies. I realised that only by making 100% commitment to the career change would I be successful, so my approach was to quit, but at the same time to put in place a back-up plan, in case it did take longer than I hoped to find the role that I wanted.

Turning your fears to your advantage in career change is about

  1. Identifying what your fears really are
  2. Building an action plan to overcome or mitigate the risk of those fears coming true
  3. Using your fears to help you make the right decisions, a compass to tell you what’s really important to you and guide you through the action plan that you have put in place

 

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