How long have you been in your current profession or role? What is the process for shifting into another profession? This is a basic question that stumps most mid-career professionals seeking to change something significant about their work.
Why do we physically shrink from these conversations? Automatically assuming we will have to start from scratch financially and professionally in order to shift? The truth is most senior level professionals truly believe they have a very limited toolkit of skills and better hang onto their current role forever, since they have minimal options. Well that is not the case.
Senior professionals (regardless of their industry) have experience and many skills that can be transferable into other industries. Therein lies the crux of the matter: HOW does one successfully shift into a different career while maintaining seniority, a certain level of compensation and responsibility?
John Sculley is not the only example of someone who did this successfully. There are many examples of professionals who moved from one industry into a completely different field - and did it beautifully. Likewise there are examples of professionals who took a personal break at some point on their way up the ladder, only to resume their career path at a later date. Is it simple? No. Is it possible? Most definitely, YES!
What keeps so many stuck in careers which are no longer fulfilling is the fear of this type of seismic shift. It's daunting, overwhelming and well . . . easier not to do. Easier that is, until it becomes too painful not to change. Consider not waiting until that time. Take stock of who you are, and what you bring to the table across many platforms. Delete the industry specification and focus on the content of your resume. What industries require similar skills and where do your contacts possible intersect in an adjacent field.
We are 21-26 when we first enter the job market. Many people work well into their 50's-60's. Once profession for 20+ years is not only unrealistic but unfair to you as a professional. You must grow career wise. Change is sometimes necessary in order to make a large leap professionally.
So the truth is that fear grips ALL professionals periodically. I've discussed it with CEO's of major corporations, and with entry level professionals. The fact is there is risk associated with every move and decision we make regarding our professional climb. The smarter we are, the more we are trained to carefully and analytically weigh the pros and cons of our decisions prior to making them. The more senior we become, the more we have to lose from making incorrect decisions. This leads many clients of mine to a state of paralysis. We know we are not fulfilled in our roles/organizations but we are hesitant to make the bold changes we should because of fear.
What to do to get your foot out of the bear trap and get going? Use your analytic skills to ask yourself the worse case scenario. Can you survive it? Now ask yourself the best case scenario. How badly do you want it? More importantly, can you realistically attain it? If you can, and the downside risks are survivable, the research shows that leaders know how to check their fear at the door - and move forward.
Your fear is there for a reason: it allows you to weigh the consequences of your actions. It is NOT there to prevent you from taking healthy risks - ones that you will later look back upon as the linchpin moves in your career: the necessary bold steps taken to attain what you are capable of attaining. Most importantly: the valuable experience you need in order to truly have a fulfilling, professional career.
Take stock of the pioneers in your field - and the risks they took in order to get to a certain level. The experience gained from forging ahead aggressively with calculated risks is the best offense to fear.
Traditionally, professionals adhered to a strong boundary between their work lives and their personal lives. There was an unspoken divide between the two worlds, and experiences from one rarely merged into the other. Thanks to technology and longer work hours, the time devoted to purely personal issues got squeezed. This resulted in professionals being squeezed. Early morning workouts are combined with breakfast meetings, and commuting time is constantly spent working. How many parents are on their iphones during school functions for their children? Right.
How organizations handle the fact that their professionals have OTHER lives determines how much stress they pass along to those same professionals who are trying frantically to straddle both spheres of their lives. The stress created from families demanding more attention - simultaneously with organizational demands for more productivity/revenue/client meetings, etc. is a dance we all try to accomplish with grace.
But here's the question: does the organization and/or profession you've chosen allow you to have a full life? Are you encouraged to participate in community events, charitable endeavors, family events - not to mention take time for your own mental and physical health (a yoga class or a run at lunch?). I hear silence.
Consider the research from Teresa Amabile (Director of Research at Harvard Business School):
"Gallup quantified the link between employee feelings and corporate outcomes, reporting that lost productivity due to employee disengagement costs more than $300 billion in the U.S. annually." (Amabile, T.M. & Kramer, S.J. 2012. How leaders kill meaning at work. McKinsey Quarterly, Jan. 2012).
Net: how we FEEL about ourselves at work translates into the work product we output.
Whether we are fulfilled about our lives, or completely stressed actually factors into our performance. Of course it makes sense, but stop and think about allowing yourself to be happier at work. The benefits to you AND to your organization may just be worth it.
GETTING FROM GOOD . . . TO GREAT!
Many new clients come to me with questions about coaching. Here is what two recent clients had to say about the process:
“I met Julia Wexler over 4 years ago at a very critical point in my life. She played an integral part in my personal and professional path of self-discovery which ultimately led to a tremendous improvement in the balance and quality of my life. I had recently returned to work at a prominent investment bank after barely surviving a near-death illness. The doctors were unable to explain the cause of the disease but I was convinced that something in my life made me sick. Even though on paper, I had a great wife, two wonderful children and a very successful career I was incredibly unhappy, disconnected from my family and completely unsatisfied professionally. I was questioning everything about my life and getting absolutely nowhere. My wife heard about Julia’s coaching services and suggested I meet with her for a preliminary consultation. I was very skeptical and I had no interest in meeting with an executive coach, I would handle it all myself- as I had done my entire life. Reluctantly, I spoke with Julia on the phone and I found her to be incredibly smart and insightful, direct and honest. I decided to hire her as my executive coach.
We met weekly over the next 6 months and Julia was able to help me understand the incredible pressure I put on myself to succeed, to meet the oversized expectations of my parents, friends and loved ones. Through our work together, I realized that I gave everything of myself to everyone else but I didn’t have an outlet for my needs and feelings. I learned to create space in my life, to say no at times, to close and tighten the circle of truly important people in my life. Most importantly, Julia helped me learn to live in the here and now, to stop passing judgment, to truly be present with my children and loved ones. She helped me gain an appreciation for meditation, contemplation and reflection. She truly save me and changed the direction of my life for the better.”
“I have been a coaching client of Ms. Wexler’s for the past three months. As a Clinical Psychologist with a private practice I was searching for an Executive Coach to assist me in further developing my growing business. Upon my initial contact with Ms. Wexler, I was immediately impressed with her enthusiasm, communication skills, and professional demeanor. She has proven to be an outstanding coach and advocate for me professionally and personally, and I whole-heartedly recommend her for your program.
When I initially contacted Ms. Wexler, I was experiencing an “identity crisis” in my life, as I was trying rather unsuccessfully to manage the balance between motherhood and career. For the first time in my life I felt like I was treading unfamiliar territory and although I had attained a certain level of professional success in the past prior to becoming a mother, my new role presented me with challenges for which I felt unprepared. I was stuck personally and professionally. I began to feel depressed and overwhelmed. I was losing enthusiasm for my career and for life in general. I reached out to Ms. Wexler, who had been highly recommended by a friend and colleague. Ms. Wexler immediately instilled in me the hope that I would find my way again and achieve my professional and personal goals.
Having Ms. Wexler as my Executive Coach has been an incredible experience. She reignited the spark in me that had disappeared. By believing in me and helping me to recognize my strengths, as well as the areas that were hindering my growth, I almost immediately felt a renewed sense of passion for my career. She helped me to set the necessary limits and boundaries in my life. She taught me the skills necessary to approach problems, eliminate limiting beliefs, and communicate more powerfully and confidently so that I could be the driving force propelling my business forward. Ms. Wexler led me through the process of self-discovery so that my inner strengths would be revealed and then she offered guidance for how to leverage those strengths and resources to achieve a total transformation of my business.”
Executive Career coaching enables you to develop a one-on-one trusting relationship with a career professional who advocates for you behind the scenes and enables you to move from your current position (whether stuck or simply steady) to a position of professional growth. Coaching injects the necessary energy into your professional life that may have fallen asleep along the way. Quite simply, it makes the difference in moving from good . . . to great.