Three ways to maximize your thinking for successful career transition
We can solve most of our daily problems by thinking of a couple of available options and choosing the best one. Going to a new restaurant and not sure how to get there? Look it up on a map and you can quickly determine: car or transit, back street or major thru-way, street parking or parking lot.
Complex problems, on the other hand – such as figuring out what to do next in your career or how to get ahead – require a different kind of thinking in order to solve them. While there are no online maps to give you the straightforward advice you might like, there are guidelines for finding the answers you need.
For almost a decade now, I’ve been helping people navigate the uncertainty of career transition so they know what to do next, and can start taking action. Here are my top three guidelines for “thinking your way to successful career transition”:
#1: Determine the right question
“If I had an hour to solve the problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than 5 minutes.”
Knowing the proper question to ask starts by knowing what the actual problem is in your career today, i.e. what’s motivating you to try and change it. Your “problem” might look like one of the following:
- You’ve reached a plateau, and you no longer find your work challenging
- You’ve had a significant experience which has changed how you view your work
- You lack the skills required to handle workplace bullying or political manoeuvring
- You’re ready to take on a leadership role, yet you aren’t sure how to ask for it or how to act like a leader
Once you’ve clearly identified your problem, it’s time to dig deeper to truly understand it. If you no longer find your work challenging, for example, why is that? Have your interests changed, or do you have a new manager that doesn’t inspire you, or is the business not evolving fast enough to keep the work fresh and energizing? What influence do you have over any of those things, and are there any assumptions you’re making about yourself, your work, your colleagues or your industry?
The clearer you are about what’s causing you to feel less satisfied with your work today and wanting a change, the easier it will be to figure out what your next steps are; who you can speak to, what kind of information you need to move forward, and what kind of help you can seek to support you on your journey.
#2: Explore many possibilities
When you’re feeling itchy about your work, or stuck in a rut, it can be tempting to look for the most accessible alternative to soothe your unease. Many people begin interviewing for other jobs in their industry even though they know that won’t really solve their problem. Some people quit their jobs to give themselves space to figure it out, and then end up feeling more anxious (and therefore less creative) because they’re not making money and can’t adjust to being out of a routine.
In order to make a successful transition in your career, you need to engage in divergent thinking. Dr. Danny Penman describes this in his book, “Mindfulness for Creativity”:
“Divergent thinking is spontaneous and free-flowing. Divergent thinking generates ideas by exploring many possible solutions, often in parallel. Ideas may arise in an emergent cognitive fashion as epiphanies or ‘Aha!’ moments. Many possible solutions are explored and unexpected connections are drawn.”
By taking the time to brainstorm many possibilities for your career transition and investigating those that hold the most interest for you, you’ll gain new insight that allows you to see opportunity where you couldn’t see it before. It’s important not to judge the ideas you come up with but rather to be curious about what’s in each idea for you, i.e. you may not really want to open an ice cream stand but that idea may reveal that you want to explore entrepreneurship or do work that brings people instant joy.
#3: Practise becoming open to possibility in the moment
Quick: list as many reasons as you can think of for why you won’t be successful in changing your career. I bet you came up with at least 3 reasons right away. That’s because most of us are hardwired to resist significant change and we’ve got an arsenal of compelling reasons to keep us safe and comfortable right where we are.
Of course, that kind of thinking is not going to help you make a successful career transition. It’s going to keep you exactly where you are because that’s what it’s designed to do.
In order to become open to the idea of transitioning in your career, you need to practise becoming open to possibility in the moment. This means being aware of the critical voice in your head telling you why you can’t successfully change your career and choosing to focus instead on all the reasons you want to anyway, along with the possibility that you will actually be successful..
By becoming open to possibility in this way, you balance your perspective out instead of always tipping towards the negative side. This allows you to feel more confident about your career transition ideas, and that can make the difference between taking those first few steps towards acting on them or not.
Einstein certainly was a smart fellow. As he suggested, “the problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them.” The same is true of career transition. The level of thinking required to solve that kind of complex problem is different from that we use to address most of our other daily problems. By taking the three approaches mentioned above – understand the problem to determine the right question, use divergent thinking to explore many possibilities, and practise becoming open to possibility in the moment – you can significantly increase your chances of making a successful transition in your career, one better thought at a time.
Still not sure how to think your way to a successful career transition? Contact me for a free consultation to find out how career coaching can help you optimize your thinking. You may also want to consider my Listen, Sense, Grow career transition program which taps into your creative and intuitive self to find the answers you’re looking for.