Updated: Nov 17, 2022
'Hell is other people'. I think it was Jean Paul Sartre who said this.
'Change would be so much easier if it wasn't for the people', is what I used to say when I did change management.
Like it or not, like any change, this career change thing is heavily influenced by people.
In this blog I want to talk to you about the influence people have. On you. On how you are. On how you are changing. On what you are changing to. And what you can do to work with people to make your career change happen.
How people have influenced your career path up until now
Have you ever thought back to when you were young and considered the impact of your parents or family on your career choices? No? It's an interesting exercise.
You see, if I had my time again I would not have chosen the path I did. I wouldn't have gone to university to study Law.
My family didn't rate art, or anything creative. No, that's wrong. They did rate it, but - you know - as a 'nice hobby'.
The school system where I lived was the same. The more intelligent you were the more academic the subjects. I didn't do art at school from the age of 14. As if being academic and being creative were mutually exclusive.
But it goes wider than that. A while back I did an exercise in which I looked back through my family history, at the careers my family did and do. What was 'acceptable' in my family. It was enlightening. Teaching. An engineer or two. A lawyer. A number of business owners (my granddad owned a chocolate factory, how cool is that!). And one artist - who was living off benefits. Reinforcing the idea that art was nice as a hobby, but not a career.
And then there's the people you met along the way. Mentors. Managers. Leaders. People that have employed you, taught you things and who helped you move forward.
What I'm trying to say with this is this. Consider what influence your background and people in your past have had on your career choices.
What was acceptable in your family? What were career choices that were frowned upon? What path were you 'forced' onto - even if you didn't recognise that at the time?
People have an enormous influence on your career path, even early on in life.
People and your career - right now
It doesn't stop there, of course.
Your choices have led to where you are finding yourself in your career now.
You bring in a certain amount of money, have a certain lifestyle, do certain work. You could say you have a certain personal brand, or even identity.
That's how you think of yourself. That's what everyone around you is used to. That's how everyone around you knows you.
Until you are no longer happy doing that. Being that person. Until you realise that you want to make a change.
A career change is not just that, a career change.
A career change is a transformation. Or it can be. A transformation that goes to the root of who you are and what you want.
And if that wasn't hard enough, by changing who you are and what you do, you are changing the lives of people around you too!
In this phase of figuring out what you want the following things are important:
To be open to the people closest to you - Your partner, your kids, the people that rely on you. Tell them what is going on for you. Tell them that you've not yet figured out what it is that you'd like to do next, but that you're working on it. Ask for their support. Without judgement, without advice.
Figure out who you want to engage with in this phase - My mum is lovely. But when I was changing my career her main concern was to keep me safe. Starting my own business? Doing art? Throwing myself into the unknown? She was worried, to say the least. So which people around you do you know to be supportive? And who - well - not so much?
Stop asking other people what you should do - When I first became a change manager I asked my manager what next steps could look like. She said 'you can become a programme manager'. My uncle told me that the right career path for me was to become an auditor. None of which had any appeal to me.
In the end it's not about what other people think. Your career change is about you. About what YOU love. About what YOU're great at. About what YOU think is important. About how YOU want to do your work. You. Not them.
The more people you ask, the more ideas you'll be given, the more confused you'll become. Also, everyone you know will have an agenda. Based on what they know about you and what they want for themselves they will tell you what you want to hear, what will keep you safe, what is convenient for them and what they know (which might be less than you do)
Early on you need support. Support from the people around you. To make you take those first steps. To help you explore. To get clear on where you'd like to go.
NOT well-meaning advice from people who don't know you (or think they do).
How people can help you change your career
Of course you don't do this career change thing on your own. So when ARE people able to help you in your career change?
To tell you what THEY think your strengths are - One of the key exercises I ask my clients to do is to ask their friends, colleagues, managers, what THEY believe your particular strengths are. Because sometimes you can't see the obvious. You don't see what others do. Because to you it may be that you do something so effortlessly that you don't even know you're doing it. That's what other people can tell you. State clearly what THEY think. Go on! Try it. Not only are you about to learn something new about yourself, you'll get a nice confidence boost in the process!
To create ideas - Career change starts with introspection. With understanding why you're stuck and getting to know yourself and what you want for yourself in your carer AND your life. But once you know that you may want support on creating ideas. What does that look like? Well, what if you brought some of your friends together and ask for their input? You could say something like this: I have been thinking about making a change. I know I'm good at X, Y and Z. I LOVE doing A, B and C. My thoughts are going towards 1, 2 and 3. What ideas have you got? What job titles can you think of that would fit my unique combination of strengths and skills?
To test ideas - Six degrees of separation, is how the theory goes. What does that mean? That everyone knows someone who knows someone (you can get in contact with someone, anyone in the world, in six steps). So, if you want to learn more about a certain role who do your friends know? Do your friends know someone who knows someone who does exactly what you want to investigate? Mine your immediate network first for ways of finding out more about a role, for ways to 'test' your career ideas.
To have an informational interview - Sometimes it's someone you already know. Someone it's someone you know via your network. Sometimes it's someone who you've found on LinkedIn (look for 2nd connections, you'll be amazed who's already in your network). And sometimes it's a complete stranger (when I decided to become a coach I googled a coach in my home town and asked her for an interview in exchange for a coffee). Asking for an informational interview is one of the tried and tested ways of finding out what a job is all about, what you'd do on a day-to-day basis and - most importantly - if it's for you.
To find a job - I'm not elaborating here, but - once you've decided where you want to go - networking, finding the right people, getting yourself known, creating opportunities, is yet another way in which people can be pivotal to your career change.
So, yes, people are pivotal to your career change. But knowing which stage of your career change you're in requires a totally different way of engaging with people.
Each stage of your career change requires different people, requires different support. And sometimes engaging with people requires NOT engaging people, so that they don't derail your career change plans.
'Hell is other people'. No. I don't think that's quite right.
But - like it or not - considering how you can ask support from other people and considering how your career change affects other people, so that you can bring them along on your journey is vital for your career change success!
Your (support) network is vital to your career change efforts. Which is why we pay a lot of attention to that in the Creating Career Freedom private coaching programme.
Do you want to know more? Book a first free Introduction Call here: BOOK NOW.
Tineke Tammes is an ICF accredited Career Coach, who supports creative, multi-passionate, professional women in making successful career transitions! Besides that she is also a lifelong feminist, part-time portrait artist, never-only-read-one-book-at-any-time reader, and obsessive doodler. Oh, and she knows a bit about change management too.
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