Transitioning careers is a normal part of most people’s career journey, and yet, there’s no foolproof blueprint or timeline. Everyone’s process is different — sometimes it takes weeks, sometimes months and sometimes it happens when you least expect it.
As the job market continues to shift, I see more and more people feeling stuck and overwhelmed at the vast and convoluted prospects, unsure of how to navigate them, wondering how to make the leap and feeling more and more defeated as time goes on. As a career coach, I believe that personal resiliency is one of the most important factors in successfully transitioning careers. When things don’t seem to be going as planned, rejection feels crushing, or things don’t feel like they’re progressing, how do you stay the course and keep moving in the direction of your dreams?
Below are 10 things you can do to help you stay the course, get unstuck and dare I say thrive(?!) during your career transition:
If this feels daunting, or you feel like nothing you try is working, it might be time to seek support from a career coach that can help you get unstuck and provide some expertise, resources and accountability for a successful career transition. If that’s you right now, I would love to explore how to best support you in changing your career. Let’s talk!
I have had so many clients and friends who have been in toxic work environments and it left them feeling stuck, depressed, and worthless. Sometimes, the people above us are actively demeaning and abusive. Sometimes it’s just a bad environment that isn’t working for us.
Either way, the reality is, when we’re in an environment that is demoralizing, we start to feel that we aren’t worthy of anything else. It can deaden us, steal our joy, challenge our worthiness, and we start to question what of value we have to offer. Being in a job (or relationship for that matter!) like that can limit our ability to be fully alive and use our gifts and be the people we want to be in the world.
I know this, because this is part of my career story. I had been in a toxic environment with an emotionally abusive boss for almost 3 years when one day it all came to head. I had a post-conference panic attack in a hotel room in Vegas and when I finally peeled myself off the floor two hours later, I pulled out my laptop and wrote my notice and quit.
And it felt great! And then terrifying.
A lot of times when I work with people who have recently quit something toxic and are facing the post reality and shock of not knowing what’s next, I notice another thing that can happen. After the initial empowerment of quitting begins to fade, some start to wonder if they made the right decision and if they will ever get their career back on track. Questions flood in. Doubts. “What will I do next? How will I explain this?”
I have been there. So deeply there.
So, as I’ve recently been working with some clients going through this, it has me reflecting back on my own experience. I now have the luxury of hindsight, and so, I was inspired to write a letter to my former self from my future self (or current self!?). A letter that I wish I someone had written to me when I was living that moment.
Sharing this to honor those who have found themselves in this place, in the hopes that someone will benefit from this today.
P.S. If you are in a toxic work environment and haven’t yet left, it’s OK. It has to happen in your own time, based on the needs you need to be met, and this is not meant as a judgement for staying. Sending love, strength and support your way today too.
Hello you brave soul, you.
Yes, I’m talking to you. The one who quit your job.
The one who left a toxic work environment because you couldn’t go into that place one more day and be treated like that.
The one who said f*ck it and walked right out the door.
You are a bad*ss.
You might not feel like it right now. When your career doesn’t turn out the way you had intended, when you’re in the moment of that realization, it can sometime feel hopeless, confusing, unsteady.
You might feel lost, you see, there’s no real blueprint for this. You had a plan and this wasn’t it.
Nobody starts their career thinking, “Well, I’ll do an entry-level job for a couple years, then I’ll use my skills to transfer into an abusive work environment, get depressed, quit, take a year off to take care of myself, incur debt and then take a temp job to work part-time then finally transition to something else full-time that may or may not feel right.”
That’s never the plan. But, it’s actually what a lot of career journeys look like. Trust me, I know this.
So, you left. It is not a poor reflection on you. You did something brave. You chose to take care of yourself. Nobody, I repeat, nobody deserves to be abused. Nobody deserves to be in an environment that steals their self-confidence, steals their well-being.
I have some good news. It may not feel like it right now, but I promise your career isn’t over.
You have so much more to offer this world! You will do things you never dreamed you would!
This is one stop on that long journey. You’re just getting started and you have the rest of your life ahead of you. This is not a dark stain on your career. You WILL look back on this and see the silver lining.
So, now you’re trying to figure it out. You’re asking yourself, “What skills do I have? What can I do now? How can I support myself?”
Maybe the financial stress of not having steady income is starting to freak you out. That’s real! And it’s OK.
Maybe you took something else that wasn’t quite a fit and it feels like it’s beneath you just to pay your bills. And you’re asking yourself, “How long will I be here? Is this my life now? My other job was more prestigious, it used my skills, maybe I should have stuck it out?”
That’s real too.
I’m here to say, as your future self, don’t get caught in that line of thinking.
You are bigger than what you are doing right now.
Your life, your worth, your value is bigger than what you quit, and what you took on.
Your worth is not defined by the job you do or did. It never was. It never will be.
You are a HUMAN BEING. There is no one exactly like you. No other person on this planet with your exact life experiences, your exact skills and perspective. You have value and innate worth.
I AM PROUD OF YOU.
You are exactly where you need to be in this moment.
Taking care of yourself could be the most worthy endeavor in life. Taking steps to be healthy and well is a critical step on this journey. You can’t do the work you were meant to do in this world without going through this moment. This experience. You are on your right path.
And, in case you need to hear this too, you are bigger than your job title.
You are bigger than the tasks you are doing.
And you are bigger than this “gap” in your resume.
And you are sure as hell bigger than the bully that you faced down or that toxic environment that walked away from.
You are infinitely valuable and worthy and you will get past this moment and be so glad you left.
And for good measure, because I saw this somewhere along the way and it has gotten me through some tough, tough times….
Right now, just take a moment to “breathe… and remember Who the F*ck You are.”
With love and mad respect,
Your Future Self
This post is inspired by my morning reading, where a wise and curious (perhaps two sides of the same coin!) kitty joined me in my pondering.
This question, "How can I do meaningful work and how do I make money while doing it?" has been asked by me at least 1,000 times and almost every single client I have worked with.
So as I read the opening and first chapter of Sacred Economics this morning, it brought me right back to that familiar question.
Some context about what I’m reading:
I first encountered Charles Eisenstein’s work through his book “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible.” Reading that book was one of the first times in my life I felt that my uneasiness with the systems we are living in and living out was valid.
I no longer felt crazy that I felt out of place trying to fit into the chaos of growth for the sake of growth or the”hustle and grind” mentality of the startup world (and our current economic system). If you haven't read it, I highly recommend!
So now, I’ve got Sacred Economics in my hands and I’m diving in and it’s got me really thinking and nodding my head "YES!"
Here are some powerful snippets from Chapter 1:
“It is ironic indeed that money, originally a means of connecting gifts with needs, originally an outgrowth of a sacred gift economy, is now precisely what blocks the blossoming of our desire to give, keeping us in deadening jobs out of economic necessity, and forestalling our most generous impulses with the words, “I can’t afford to do that.” We live in an omnipresent anxiety, borne of the scarcity of the money which we depend on for life -- witness the phrase, “the cost of living.” Our purpose for being, the development and full expression of our gifts, is mortgaged to the demands of money, to making a living, to surviving. Yet no one, no matter how wealthy, secure, or comfortable, can ever feel fulfilled in life where those gifts remain latent. Even the best-paid job, if it does not engage our gifts, soon feels deadening, and we think “I was not put here on earth to do this.” Even when a job does engages our gifts, if the purpose is something we don’t believe in, the same deadening feeling of futility arises again, the feeling that we are not living our own lives, but only the lives we are paid to live. “Challenging” and “interesting” are not good enough, because our gifts are sacred, and therefore meant for a sacred purpose.”
Whoah. Read. That. Again.
In the years I’ve been coaching, the most prominent reason that people have sought me out is to find more meaning in their lives and work. That feeling of discomfort knowing “I was not put on earth to do this” can be nagging at best, and heart-breaking or life-sucking at worst.
One of the most worthy endeavors I believe we undertake as humans is to find and make meaning in our lives. One of the most worthy endeavors I have found in my own life and work is to support people on that journey.
This has lead me to some questions I’ve asked myself as I’ve been diving deeper into this exploration with clients and myself:
Does that mean my job has to be the most meaningful aspect of my life? I think the answer is no. Sometimes we actually have to just work to live.
And sometimes we can make meaning where we don’t immediately see it. The low hanging fruit is, how do we make our jobs more meaningful right where we already are. I have loved Hidden Brain’s episode on this.
If work doesn’t have to be the most meaningful aspect of our lives, does that mean we should give up on exploring our gifts and doing meaningful work in our lives altogether? Or give up on finding a way to share our gifts while also getting paid? Not at all.
Have you seen the statistics about retired people? A recent Washington Post piece says this:
“Over the past two decades, dozens of studies have shown that seniors with a sense of purpose in life are less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease, mild cognitive impairment, disabilities, heart attacks or strokes, and more likely to live longer than people without this kind of underlying motivation. Now, a report in JAMA Psychiatry adds to this body of evidence by showing that older adults with a solid sense of purpose tend to retain strong hand grips and walking speeds — key indicators of how rapidly people are aging.”
Read the full article here.
We ALL must find a meaningful way to feel useful, in order to live healthy and well. That meaning is different for everyone. Some will turn that into a financially supportive career, others will do that as a part of their family systems or communities, other will find it through hobbies or volunteer efforts.
As it relates to the job, these feelings of anxiety, of not wanting to simply live the life we were was paid to live, those are REAL. Those feelings are part of what lead me to venture out on my own and attempt to shape a different model of living for myself and in turn, help guide and support others in that. I firmly believe as careers are dramatically shifting, companies are going to have to do a better job at connecting their employees to things that matter, if they want to keep them around.
So if you, like me have felt (are feeling!) that anxiety of wanting something more meaningful in life and work, if you are on the journey to make meaning with your life and are feeling the painfulness of the mundane, day to day tasks that don’t feel they matter. If you’re not using your strengths and gifts. If you’re not lit up in your life and you’re feeling you want to explore your gifts and find more meaning and purpose in your life and work, it is possible. I have worked with dozens of clients to help them discover what is meaningful to them and connect those dots. If you're interested in learning more about this, tell me a little bit about yourself and let’s chat!
I want to share a powerful experience I had over the last two weeks because as we know, our voices are power.
I was getting my nails done with the lovely Allie Armitage for her birthday last Friday and we started talking about anger.
Anger. Anger. ANGER.
What is it exactly?
Here’s an online definition:
I don’t know about you, but anger is an emotion that I do not let myself express. As we were talking, I realized there are maybe 2 or 3 times I can remember truly expressing anger in my entire adult life. And those times were terrifying for everyone involved. I scared myself. I scared everyone around me.
The association that came up from that is that anger is violent. Anger is scary. Anger is wrong.
So, I don’t express anger.
On first pass, one might think this is a virtue. I certainly did (and still somewhat do). In my conservative Christian upbringing, I was taught to turn the other cheek. As a young woman in the US I was implored to be “nice” and to not rock the boat.
And I’ve gotten really good at that. You see, I’ve spent my entire life disarming people, de-escalating situations, being the emotional stronghold in an emotionally volatile environment. I’ve become the eternal diplomat, talking people down, looking at situations from all sides, problem-solving to avoid increased violence, outrage, pain, discomfort. Hell, I’ve even swallowed my anger to avoid awkwardness.
I’ve learned to bite my tongue, not defend myself, not say what I really want to say, rephrase, rework from an understanding and compassionate lens. I’ve also spent an enormous amount of energy trying to diffuse the anger others close to me felt about the situations I was in, that I wasn’t allowing myself to express anger over. WOW.
They say it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. Well, I am a double master (does that exist?) at swallowing my anger. And I’ve sacrificed myself to this cause (more on this further down).
For most of my life I’ve chugged along quite proud of this, never questioning this strategy as the appropriate one. “I am so virtuous!” “I am a master at resolving disputes!” “I am adaptable!”
And I still believe that overall it’s not a bad skill to have. It is useful to be able to cap an outburst, to cool down, to be diplomatic, to see through the red. It has proven vital to my safety, in fact, many times over.
And then the other day as my nails were drying under that purple light at the nail salon and I was thinking about and talking about anger, the pride of being ever level-headed began to dissolve and another feeling started to emerge around this: curiosity, disillusionment?
You see, what I’ve learned in my life about emotions is that if they are repressed, if they aren’t allowed to move healthily along, they stick around. So, if I had not expressed my anger, where did that anger go?
Later that night I woke up at 3am in sweats. Contemplating the anger I had repressed had brought it bubbling out of me. I laid in my bed, sweating in the dark, replaying scenarios from my life where anger was an appropriate emotion, but I didn’t let myself express it.
Lists of names, ran through my head like a stock market ticker. All the way back to the first time a kid in my class hit me so hard I got welts on my rear when I was in 5th grade. All the way back to the time someone I trusted pinned me down and crawled on top of me as I was kicking and screaming in the back of their truck as a teenager.
Back to the stalker who harassed me for months my freshman year of college whose identity was never revealed. To the rapist who was never found or convicted. To the people who I'd trusted who broke their commitments to me and their word. To the man who punched me in the face on the streets of Paris. To the colleague who raped me when I was unconscious and who I continued to work alongside as if nothing had happened. To the boss who demoralized me, who I could never please, who yelled, made fun of me and told me I was too naive and sweet to be successful in this world.
And there were other, more subtle instances that came up fresh and vivid. It was all there.
As all of this came whirling up, rushing in, I shook, trembled, cried, sweat. I attempted some panicky breaths through the tight knot in my chest, my throat.
Where did all that anger go, I had wondered? Well, I think I found it!
All the anger I’d swallowed to protect others or myself, those YEARS of repressed anger had taken up permanent residence in my body and it was now making itself known.
Because I had been taught it was a virtue. Because I believed in a dichotomy - explosive anger or none (and exploding was not an option), I never let it move through me. It didn’t disperse. It was living inside of me.
And I knew right then, I did not want it there anymore.
What I realized that morning as I lay in my sweat, reliving some of the more horrific experiences in my life was that I was so afraid of my anger, I had never developed healthy ways to express it.
The more I thought about this, the more I got curious about the emotion itself. You see, anger isn’t inherently negative. It’s not a bad thing, necessarily. It just IS. It’s an emotion that needs to be felt and expressed in a healthy manner like all the range of emotions a human being can feel. It’s an emotion, like all others, that has to be allowed to move through us.
As a coach and someone who does work in personal growth and emotional intelligence. I’ve learned a lot about repressed emotions which can be applied here. When we carry our anger around, it gets lodged in our bodies and creates knots, tension, pain, disease - it finds a way to express itself even if we don’t realize it.
So much has been written and there is still so much to understand about how we store emotions in our bodies and the problems it can create for us. I am not an expert on this, but many are, so I’ll leave the explanations and details to them.
For me, I believe my repressed anger likely contributed to my TMJ, chronic stress, anxiety, sleep problems, and I’m sure other issues.
So, I decided to do something about it. You know what they say, “If you change nothing, nothing will change.”
If you change nothing, nothing will change.”
This weekend, after participating in #marchforourlives (another source of fuel for my anger fire), a few friends and I took to the wilderness. We embarked on a journey to release and transform our old, stored up anger. To move it through and out of our bodies through ritual.
We packed a bag of nourishing snacks, a picnic blanket, and four notebooks and pens and we were off.
On the hike up, I explained why I had wanted to do this. I recounted the story of waking up with sweats, or remembering those who had “wronged” me. We discussed how we all felt anger was an emotion we had been repressing or expressing unhealthily.
The sharing was healing. It was important. Many of us had specifically named people, often men in our lives. Several of us noticed a change in handwriting - bigger, more jagged, more emotive as we wrote. Some of us started to see a shift in emotion by the end of our writing. As we shifted from the people who we were angry at, and towards the anger at the oppressive systems we are living in, some of us began to feel compassion for those who were also unwittingly living those systems out.
We talked about how anger can be a fuel, a motivator. That it can activate us to take action. Drive us. That not all anger needed to move and there was some of it we might not be ready to release. That anger can serve us. That it is powerful.
We talked about transforming anger. We asked ourselves what we wanted our anger to convert into (if anything at all). Mine was compassion and understanding. Others said action, motivation, love.
Then, we stood up in the middle of the forest and we held hands facing out and we screamed as loud as we could. Guttural, deep sounds from the depths of our beings.
We yelled and hollered and screamed and we did it until we didn’t feel like we needed to scream anymore. I don’t know how many times I screamed or how much time went by. I remember feeling silly at first and then quickly feeling empowered. I remember noticing the beauty in the angry screams of my sisters. I remember not recognizing my own full angry voice at first and then settling into it after 5 or so times and loving the sound of a raspy deep holler and the echoes off the trees.
When the yelling felt complete, we shook our bodies, releasing the emotion, letting it move through and out, disperse and dissolve. We vibrated and shook our arms and legs, our trunks, and then, we danced. To Taylor Swift.
We shook it off, baby!
We danced wildly, freely, like little children just learning how to use their limbs, we allowed our bodies to move us instead of the other way around. And as the song came to an end, a natural completion of this movement, we asked each other how we felt?
I felt lighter. Others felt free, excited, activated, alive. We faced inward and let one final scream out, together. It was glorious.
As we reconvened in our circle around the notebooks where we had written, we felt the anger of our pages outside of us, rather than inside. We couldn’t wait to tear them up, so we ripped those pages and threw them all in a big pile together and took turns walking handfuls of them to the trashcan - leaving them in that place.
As we packed up and began to hike away from our place of ritual, we all said we felt lighter, more free. The ground beneath us felt softer, spongier, more supportive. We thanked the wilderness for holding us and supporting us in our practice.
We said a blessing for the person who would take out our anger trash - that they would not feel our anger. That it would convert, dissolve.
And I personally said a prayer for the journey I’m on of developing a new relationship with anger. To be supported in starting to allow healthy expressions of anger. To make a judgement call in the moment - do I express this or do I not? When I don’t express it, I promised myself to revisit it and find a way to healthily let it move, when I am safe to do so.
So, my relationship with my own anger is undergoing transformation. I am in process with that. It has been a few days since I expressed the old anger living inside of me, and I am still feeling truly like I let something go.
Interestingly enough, I recently saw two of the people who showed up on my list, and where I had felt tense and tingly in my body the last time we met, this time I felt peace, groundedness and recognition of our shared humanity. I felt rooted in myself and I felt our relationship had taken a step towards healing.
I am not an expert in anger. I know very little about it, it seems and yet, I want to share my experience with this as the more I've talked about it, the more people have revealed their own struggles with healthily expressing anger and it feels like an important skill to learn.
You see, I believe in healing. I believe there are myriad ways to heal and ritual is one of them - a powerful one. I believe in creating the experiences we want to have and inviting others along. I believe in allowing ourselves to feel and share the uglier parts of ourselves. I believe in loving, nurturing accepting and holding ourselves in our fullness. And I believe that taking care of ourselves and our own state of being is an important part of our movement to heal this world.
As I further commit to this way of life, the layers continue to peel and I continue to go deeper, and learn more about how to be in my fullness, warts, anger and all.
So I pray that I will continue to find ways to allow my anger to healthily be expressed and then move through me so that it isn’t harming me from within (and so that it isn’t exploding out on others). And I pray that we will all find ways to access and express our full range of emotions in a way that is healthy and healing for us and this world.
I pray that our anger can be channeled into action, movement, motion. And that we can be held in loving support when our anger leaves us feeling paralyzed, tearful, wild.
And when I need to shake it off and let it move, I commit to doing just that, and I invite you to dance wildly and freely alongside me as we daily walk in a world that gives us reason after reason for deep feelings of anger.
**If you'd like to be invited to experiences like this or to learn more about or gatherings of conscious communities in the DC area, stay in the loop here!
2017 was brutal for a lot of us.
I realize I’ve been trapped in a cycle of outrage over a lack of integrity and empathy and the abuse of power in the public sphere. In the face of near daily forehead-smacking insanity, it's been easy to feel cynical, powerless, even hopeless. But that’s not where I want to be.
So, in this new year, what can I DO about it?
If 2017 was the year of leadership crisis, I declare 2018 the YEAR OF PERSONAL LEADERSHIP.
Here's what I’d like to try ... Starting now, I'm asking myself: "What do I want the world to look like? What do I wish our leaders were doing?" Then, I'm going to be, do and create that.
I am releasing the idea that leadership must be bestowed upon me or that leaders are only those who've been given power.
Instead, I am claiming PERSONAL LEADERSHIP.
I’m pointing the finger at myself (as lovingly as possible? :))
I’ll ask myself these questions:
(Originally posted on LinkedIn - January 2018)
One of the absolute best resources I've found for helping people release the anxiety of "figuring out what they want to do with their lives" is this talk by Elizabeth Gilbert.
A lot of clients come to me because they are unhappy or unfulfilled in their jobs and want to make a change. Then, sometimes get stuck in the anxiety around trying to answer these questions:
"What do I want to do with my life? What am I passionate about? What's my purpose?"
This part can get us so twisted up that we give up on doing anything at all!
So, if you identify with any of the following:
-- You are feeling the anxiety of trying to find your purpose.
-- You are confused about what's next.
-- You don't feel like your story makes sense.
-- You are feeling stuck or hopeless.
-- You feel like everyone else has it all figured out except you.
-- You don't know what your passion is and it's making you crazy!
STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING AND WATCH THIS RIGHT NOW!!! (trust me!)
It has been an immensely helpful resource as a reframing and jumping off point for so many of my clients (and inspiration for building my own business) and I'm so grateful there's such amazing content like this out there! Plus, Elizabeth Gilbert is brilliant and one of my favorite teachers.
Love and respect,
A couple nights ago, I went to a gathering which is a monthly discussion group around a specific topic. The topic for this salon was “joy.”
Everyone was asked to think about something that brings them joy — be it a physical person or animal, an object or an action or experience.
I shared that singing brings me the most joy in life. Because it is full, unadulterated expression, because it connects me to something else and to others. And it just feels right!
As we got further into the discussion, some theories started to emerge. Here are few concepts that came up in that gathering:
I’ve tried the gratitude jar. I LOVE the idea of it but I’m not disciplined enough to do it everyday. So for me, when I am in bed at night, I think of a few things I’m grateful for during the day — I list and name them and express gratitude for them.
I also find that I feel immense gratitude (and joy) when I spend time in nature. That is resetting for me.
What brings you joy? How do you access it? How do you practice gratitude?
May we all find some joy and gratitude this day!