Center for Creativity and Work
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Reflections

•          A successful technology consultant facing a mid-life search for meaning in his work goes back to school for a master’s degree in counseling psychology and is excited about building his family therapy practice.

•          An automotive detail engineer, bored and frustrated after twenty years in his field, follows his love of nature and takes a job in a rural area, writing an environmental newsletter for a non-profit agency.

•          A high-level international banker, yearning for autonomy and challenge, launches an independent consultancy that draws on his Ph.D. in political science and his extensive global network.

•          The marketing director at an international fashion company decides to pursue her interest in writing and soon becomes the editor of a major magazine, bringing alternative health to a mainstream audience.

In my twenty five years as a career consultant, I’ve been fascinated by people such as these who make major changes easily while others who have dreams fail to act upon them. Why do some people become immobilized by fear at the mere thought of change?

In a dynamic world, change is a constant whether we choose it or whether it is thrust upon us. Charles Handy in The Age of Unreason, published in 1990 but still a business classic, talks about the incredible rate of “discontinuous” or unpredictable change in technology and the economy. As individuals, we are impacted both by these external changes and by our own internal changes in awareness, interests, values, needs and life-stage.

Change is energy. If we resist it, we wind up tired, burnt-out, uninspired, spending our energy holding on with clenched fists, fighting for the status quo. Fear runs us. Our creativity and productivity plummet. The irony is that many of us are holding onto a job, system, relationship or lifestyle that we don’t even really like or that no longer supports who we are.

Successful career changers embrace certain principles. The following comments are based on my integration of Jungian psychology and Eastern philosophy with traditional career development and my observations of my clients’ transitions.

Start with Self-Knowledge

Each of us is a still point in the sea of change. By going within and connecting with our deepest sense of purpose, we can become the anchor in our own life. Taking the time to introspect and re-contact moments of high creativity, as well as themes, values and interests that have run through our lives, we are freed from defining ourselves in terms of success and failure at our most recent job or career. As one client said after going through my career transition process, “My whole self-concept was redefined.”

One woman came to me for career counseling when her marriage was falling apart. Her self-esteem was very low, and she saw herself as a failure because she hadn’t passed her accountancy exam. It turned out that becoming an accountant had been her husband’s Idea. In our sessions she came to see that helping others and an interest in psychology were consistent throughout her life. She has now returned to school for a master’s degree in social work.

Another client said, “I was stuck in a rut, thinking that TV production was all I could do and that it had to be in New York.” Once unstuck, she sublet her apartment, moved to Ohio, and within three weeks received two job offers. She envisions a new career in fitness programs for children, but the move was an important first step. “I’m not a spiritual person,” she says, “but all of a sudden things were working for me. It is as if it was meant to be.”

Choice and Visualization

At some point it is necessary to stop the self -exploration, make a choice, and begin to take action. This is a difficult shift for many, moving from the “yin” of self-reflection to the “yang” of making it happen. Visualization is helpful here. Twice a day clients visualize themselves reaching their goal. They see themselves taking steps and overcoming obstacles along the way. They sense the energy and excitement in their bodies.

Focus and Synchronicity

Carl Jung defined synchronicity as meaningful coincidence between events separated in space and/or time. Again and again, I see that when a client has a focus-especially when it is connected to a deep sense of self- the right people and events seem to be attracted to him/her and change unfolds easily. Everyone has experienced this in some way. A schoolteacher entering the field of training wonders where her first job interview will come from. She goes to a cocktail party and the first person she meets is the vice-president of training at a major bank where there is an open position. Successful career changers are open to synchronicity and follow through on these seeming coincidences.

Tolerance for Ambiguity

Change doesn’t happen overnight, and it often proceeds in unpredictable ways. Successful career changers make choices, then view obstacles that occur as lessons bringing them closer to their goals. There is an important interplay of structure and flexibility. As in sailing, we need to chart a course, monitor closely the weather, wind and currents, and adjust accordingly.

Opening to Support

The willingness to draw on others’ strengths and to share our own is another key to successful transition. If you have like-minded friends, form a Creating Change group. Or, you may prefer to work with a career coach individually or in a group setting. There are so many distractions in our lives today that setting a time every week to focus, visualize, discuss obstacles and get support is very powerful for everything from transition and job search to increasing salary or profits.


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