By Maria McKenna, Life and Career Coach, Institute for Coaching
In his ASU commencement speech this week, President Obama urged graduates to be prepared for more than one job or career in their lifetime. His recommendation was “to keep gaining new skills – possibly even new degrees; and to keep taking risks as new opportunities arise.”*
Although our leaders in various fields have been expressing this for years now, I meet many people who haven’t quite stepped into this career paradigm shift. The fact that many aren’t sure how to prepare themselves for job and career transitions is understandable since we live in a demanding and transforming culture with few rituals, road maps, instructions, and support for people during or regarding change. There is a growing amount of information, expertise, and support for people IN career transition, but on a foundational level, how do we stand in this new paradigm powerfully so that job and career transitions start to become more organic and fluid?
Acceptance: To prepare ourselves as career marathon runners who’ll likely make many stops, we first must step into accepting and absorbing that a career paradigm shift is happening within our culture as a whole. Although it can be difficult to imagine changing careers for many reasons, assessing whether this is likely to be a reality for you is ultimately the more empowering and energizing place to operate from. The problem with ignoring or denying something that is likely to occur is both that we loose the ability to steer our own lives and we often find ourselves ill prepared for change that comes our way.
Preparation: To elaborate on one of the essential points of President Obama’s speech – staying in a place of learning and discovery in your day-to-day life is vital. This learning may mean an additional degree, broadening your skills within your desired field, or engaging in extracurricular learning activities. Whatever you choose to explore, the more you connect yourself to learning and growth-oriented activities you love, the more likely you will start to create possibilities for new jobs and careers in areas that you deeply enjoy in your life. In both my work as a business executive and in my work as a Life and Career Coach, I have met numerous people who’s thriving careers sprung from a single extracurricular class, hobby, or life-long interest that was initially pursued by carving a small amount of time out of their schedule.
Flexibility & Openness: Getting comfortable with change is vital as well. If you’ve ever taken a first yoga class, you’ll remember what it’s like to marvel at the flexibility of others around you while you struggled to sit comfortably. Remaining flexible and open to career development opportunities and career change in general takes practice, practice, practice, but the more you practice, the better and stronger you feel. So, try and embrace new technologies and new ways of doing business, accept new work assignments, and stay open to job and career changes…the more you do, the more one thing will start leading to another naturally, and the more fluid transitions will be.
A Longer Vision: Start to think of your degrees and job experiences as important personal building blocks rather than things that define you within a singular career. In addition, imagine the kind of life and financial security you’d like in retirement and keep this image in mind when you make job and career decisions going forward. A long-term career vision that is rooted in what you really value and desire for yourself will help you plan and strategize for your life.
Risk-Taking: Take calculated risks when appropriate in your career. Whatever shape this takes for you, we frequently make our biggest leaps when we take risks. So, before you run from the risk, think of your long-term vision, enlist support and explore all the possibilities around this. There may very well be a way for you to take action with limited risk, and this risk may turn out to be the best opportunity you’ve ever create in your career.
*from the transcript posted on “The Huffington Post,” May 14, 2009.