We have had 82 women go through our Game Changers programme in the last 12 months wanting to switch career, return to something new after maternity leave, basically make any sort of change to achieve an improved work – family set up. I am constantly amazed and inspired by their progress, their bravery, their commitment to change.
I’ve been incredibly lucky to work with every last one of them and I don’t just say that. I feel like I’ve made friends, I’ve learnt so much from their stories, I’ve done things that I didn’t think possible. Their conversations and feedback help me to continually adapt and amend the design so that it keeps evolving (in fact the current version is now probably only 60% of what it was originally 12 months ago).
So I thought, without sharing any specifics (what happens in Game Changers stays in Game Changers) I would reflect on some of the things I have learnt and gained from working with these incredible women and running this programme. Some secret tips and advice to switching career, making a work change or indeed any change to how your life is currently set up.
1.Get comfortable in the space between where you are now and where you want to be
It sounds annoying but it’s so true. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula which tells you exactly what to do next, actually Game Changers is probably not even the easy option because it involves going a bit deeper and asking some bigger questions. HOWEVER, if you want to play the longer game and not feel exactly the same in 12 months time then this is work which I think is 100% worth doing. There will be some decisions that feel hard, there will be uncertainty, there are no right or wrong answers and that feels un-nerving. For some their Game Change has been forced upon them due to redundancy or crap treatment from an employer during maternity leave. Others are currently working and trying to make a change on the side. Across the board though, regardless of the situation, there is a genuine shared fear at the start around making a wrong decision. But I always think the alternative is far more scary – making no decision and then regretting it. There might be three different options, three paths and all of them might actually be pretty great. You won’t know until you try. What you DO know, what is certain, is that the your current status quo doesn’t feel right. People nowadays will work for numerous employers, have many different ‘careers’, take comfort in this and the fact that there will be many right decisions. Take a leap and start figuring it out…even if that does feel a bit eeeeek.
2.Just focus on this change as one next move, think of it like the next step.
Sometimes in envisaging a career change as this single, huge, life changing, forever decision it becomes even bigger than it needs to be which just makes you feel more stuck. And also know that there are often options which involve a more gradual shift into something new too which can help. A reduction of hours whilst you build up customers or a business, for example. One previous attendee set herself some goals at the end of the course around building up her new business idea over the next 12 months AND managed to secure a short term contract within her current area of expertise to help financially in the meantime. Portfolio careers are on the rise, perhaps you wouldn’t need to discount that ‘dream job’ on the grounds of it paying well enough if it wasn’t your sole source of income?!
3. Life is about so much more than just getting one step up on the ladder.
These women are passionate and intelligent and capable but wanting to make decisions that are right for them at this very moment. Which might very well mean saying, “this is o.k for now and I’m going to work on my long term dream over the next few years”OR, “actually work isn’t the issue, I need to rediscover my creativity and that can come from doing more of X” as well as, “I want to progress my career and starting up as a freelancer is the best way forward.”
The fact we work as a group of mothers is pretty special because there is very much a shared understanding of what we all have going on.
Everyone is different and only you will know what is right. Knowing that there’s no rush, particularly when our children are young, but likewise checking in with ourselves that these decisions are our own and don’t come from a lack of confidence or fear or someone else. There is a definite slant towards downplaying our achievements and capability as women but there is no room for this when you are surrounded by a group of vocal cheerleaders!
4.Push yourself out of your comfort zone
The women who seem to get the most from Game Changers are undoubtedly those who have pushed themselves out of their comfort zone. And I mean by this actively taken a few gambles, said yes when they’d normally just say no, spoken up when they’d normally shrink back. If nothing else when you are starting to think about making a career change it is key to get into this mindset. One previous attendee said yes to meeting with a past colleague setting up his own business and within the 12 weeks had got herself a new, far more exciting role.
5. Your current network may not be the best people to help!
This is meant in the nicest possible way but here are the facts. Your family will likely have your best interests at heart so that might mean advising you against doing anything a little risky, a little less ‘apparently’ financially secure etc. Your friends might have their own agendas and personal experiences which will influence their advice. Current colleagues are all within and influenced by the same culture that you might be trying to break free from. Chances are if you are wanting to do something completely new you won’t have the contacts you need yet. One of the challenges on the free mini 7 day version of Game Changers is to get out there and make a new relationship with someone in an area you are interested in. Surround yourself with people who are doing things that inspire you, get yourself along to a networking event (I personally find these hard as I’m fairly introvert but I also know how important it is so for me this is part of the major comfort zone push), get out there and talk to people. One previous attendee has remained with her current employer but started doing some brilliant new projects. She didn’t need to make a major career move but has instead crafted a role that has far more meaning and interest, just by getting in touch with a few people in completely different departments.
6. The theory is great and very useful but it all stems from taking action.
We do cover some brilliant theory and provide a 12 step ‘structure’ for Game Changing which is like a broad guide on the steps you can take. We do a lot of work at the start thinking about values and strengths and internal reflection. But the real magic, the biggest changes, happen in the middle section of the programme where you start experimenting with options and ideas. Because unfortunately switching career isn’t often just a linear A-B process, it’s a winding, bumpy, surprising road and it isn’t really until you are on it and moving forward that you start to see different paths, different opportunities. The programme has 12 live challenges that you complete along the way and these are just that. A chance to put the theory into practise, to test out your thinking and reflection, to experience new things. The attendees who do the challenges, who throw themselves into the experience report some pretty life changing results.
It is only in taking action and getting started that things start to fall into place, not from simply reading another self development book or doing some more research. More often than not I am told by past attendees, “this is not at all what I thought would happen at the start of the programme” and I guess that is the point. We can often look too hard, become too fixated on finding the perfect solution, frustrated that we don’t know the answers. It’s only when we stop focusing on one thing and start being more broadly open to new opportunities that they start to happen. So by all means read the books, enjoy the theory but know that it’s action that will make the difference.
I’d love to know the best piece of advice you’ve been given around changing career and if you want some support on this front then Game Changers is our 12 week group development programme and all details can be found here. We also do a FREE mini 7 day version – Head start to Game Changing.