Conscious Career Transitions

"Change is inevitable. Growth is intentional." Glenda Cloud

Going through a career change or contemplating one can be a daunting and exciting experience. As with any transition, we’re asked to let go of “what was” in order to create openings for “what will be”. Becoming mindful of what it feels like to let go of something very important is a powerful exercise in and of itself.

When I think back to that day four years ago when I left my secure, stable job as a health care professional for entrepreneurship, I realize now that there was no way I could have anticipated much of what I was to experience. As many of you reading this have experienced through your own career or life transitions, it grew my self-confidence as I realized dreams of what I can do and who I can be. What surprised me were some unexpected ways I felt a sense of loss and what opened up for me as I moved through it.

Letting go of the credibility that came with being an established and experienced clinician. Having to establish myself all over again in a new profession aroused feelings of anxiety, excitement, a sense of being lost and occasionally freaking out. It opened me up to what it’s like to live in this world without having credibility, a valuable exercise in self-esteem and sincerity. Starting over and stepping into being a beginner, again, re-connected me to the power of beginner’s mind, to being a life long learner and to being authentic about my not-knowing. 

Letting go of the status of being associated with an honourable profession and working for a world re-known organization. I had to let go of experiencing the prestige that came with my title or naming my workplace and having people recognize it. It offered me the possibility to experience who I am without status which was an important lesson in humility. I also began to explore who and what I wanted to associate and be associated with and I learned that status was not necessarily a factor in making my decision.

Letting go of a professional network in order to create a new community of colleagues, collaborators and co-creators. Letting go of the informal connections with hundreds of co-workers, clients and community members whom I befriended and saw on a regular if not daily basis. I made a concerted effort to stay in touch with many but even so, there were relationships that I grieved for not being able to move past the specifics of place. It created an opportunity to reflect on who I wanted in my professional network, evaluate how I was as a collaborator, co-worker and community member, and to experience transitions in my professional relationships.

Letting go of stuff — papers, files, books, binders, CDs — or the historical and procedural information that belonged to my previous professional career. I held onto them thinking that at some point I might need them. Over the years, I’ve let go of them in stages in such a way that I’d feel comfortable with what remained. This was a big one - it was both a concrete and a symbolic act of creating space for my next career. The lesson I learned is that the skills, knowledge, experience and know-how I acquired is there for keeps and can be accessed anytime.

Letting go of how I used to network, promote and find support. Working for an organization meant that it did the marketing and promotion so that its clients found me. I didn’t need to understand or know how to use social media. There were skilled administrative staff who analyzed my statistics and reimbursed expenses, and IT staff who were available to offer technical support when computers weren’t having a good day. I missed not having that network of supports readily available. It opened me up to developing new skills, innovations, ideas and resources. If you had told me four years ago that I’d have my own website, a monthly newsletter, a blog, that I’d be using social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, Wordpress), that I’d be coordinating and leading tele-webinars, and e-classes, that I’d figured out how to straddle traditional communication with the latest technology, I’d have stared mouth wide open with incredulity. 

Letting go of financial security and relying on a salaried paycheck to be automatically deposited into my bank account every two weeks. I’d held certain beliefs and attitudes about money that I wasn’t aware of and only realized as I left my stable position. During my career transition I realized that I wanted to change my relationship with money to one that was conscious, mindful and respectful. Even more importantly, I learned the spirituality of money, what it means to do without, how little I need and new meanings for success and abundance. 

Looking back I realize that the wide, open space of my career transition was overwhelming in the “not-knowingness” of re-creating my professional identity and career. Going through the The Unknown stage in transitions gave me an opportunity to pause, to appreciate, to reflect, to clarify and to vision who I wanted to be, what I wanted to do and with whom. It taught me what it would take to realize my dreams to find new meaningful work that would be aligned with my core values, important learning that I will take forward to future life transitions.

What other losses would you add to this list? What realizations and opportunities opened up for you as you let go?