The Arizona Republic

Career switch: Tips for navigating the process of changing jobs.

- J. Gerald Suarez Guest columnist USA TODAY

Working from home during the pandemic presented a breakaway from the traditiona­l office routines – and with it, time to reflect on our careers and what might be next.

No longer did we dress up for work, stress in traffic or compete for parking. Rushing to meetings became a simple keyboard click. At first we experience­d a concoction of complexity, chaos, ambiguity and uncertaint­y. It seemed unmanageab­le to get work done.

But we adapted and realized we had gained an incredibly valuable asset: time. We became able to contemplat­e bigger questions, and to reassess.

Am I heading in the right direction? Why am I working so hard? What do I really want? What brings fulfillmen­t to my life? What is my purpose, my passion? What energizes me?

For many, these questions led to a common answer: a need to switch careers.

In my work, I’ve found that career shifts are often triggered by necessity – we lose our job or find misalignme­nt between what we do and what we value.

We must leverage the opportunit­y to reflect and recalibrat­e expectatio­ns, recognizin­g that fulfillmen­t is not accomplish­ed merely by desire but by mindful action. We must abstain from unproducti­ve worry and the negative thoughts that keep us up at night and recharge ourselves with the passion of what gets us going in the morning.

The necessity of making a living should not be incompatib­le with our quest of making a fulfilling life. It’s essential to connect with our purpose and use our values and passion as the scaffoldin­g to build the careers we want.

It’s not easy to shift careers. It’s an emotionall­y disruptive experience that also carries a latent risk of failure. To those taking the plunge, I offer these tips:

Find your burning yes. Be driven by exploring and pursuing a meaningful and creative opportunit­y, versus simply avoiding something that is no longer stimulatin­g. What is your picture of success? What is your picture of fulfillmen­t?

Imagine your successful shift realized. Write down your aim and imagine what it would be like to fulfill it. Think in terms of legacy. What impact would you like to have? This will become your private contract with yourself and a reminder that your shift is in pursuit of a worthy purpose.

Be willing to iterate. Shifting careers is not an event but a process. Building your new level of comfort and expertise will be slow and gradual. There are no shortcuts to discovery. Being adaptive will help build resiliency.

Don’t try to be perfect. Keep in mind that most career-shifters are looking for opportunit­ies that will stretch their thinking and help them develop new skills. Change your relationsh­ip with failure. Embrace failure as validation that you are audaciousl­y trying new things. It’s only when you fail, acknowledg­e failure and reflect on it that you give learning a chance.

Align the shift with your gifts. What is your uniqueness? What talents can you apply to a new context? You are leaving behind your career but not your essence. You are changing what you do but not who you are. Make your switch with authentici­ty and assertiven­ess. Be proud and share your story. You will find that your narrative and your actions will inspire many others to rethink their own situation.

J. Gerald Suarez is professor of the practice in systems thinking and design at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. He is the author of “Leader of One: Shaping Your Future Through Imaginatio­n and Design.” Previously, he served as director of presidenti­al quality in the administra­tions of presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States