Ask the experts: How can I make a change in my career?
It’s safe to say, no matter what work situation you’re in, it’s likely to have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak. When piled onto of the uncertainty that comes with a global pandemic, this change can affect our confidence and decision making abilities.
Here, life coach Belinda Raitt answers your questions on working during the pandemic and making changes in your working life.
I’ve been made redundant and am feeling lost. What are some next steps I can take?
Redundancy can feel hugely unsettling. Any change in our lives requires adjustment and we tend to attach a lot of meaning to our work. We often use it to define who we are, so when we no longer have a job, we struggle with a sense of identity, along with the other worries about whether we have enough savings to keep us going.
These concerns often make us jump into the first job that comes along, never mind whether it’s the right fit. Treat this pause as an opportunity to explore what you really want and need from your work (and life!). Be kind to yourself. We make better decisions when we are in a good place, so take time to relax and focus on your health (mental and physical) so that you stay positive and focused.
I’ve realised during lockdown that I’m unhappy in my job and want to launch my own business… but I’m scared to make the jump. Do you have any advice?
Go for it! Life is too short to be unhappy in your job. The Japanese have a concept called “ikigai”, which roughly translates as your sense of purpose, what gets you out of bed in the morning. For them, it’s a way of life, and to not feel a sense of enjoyment and purpose in your work is anathema.
If you have a chance to do something that gives you this sense of purpose, do it!
Change is scary – it’s the fear of the unknown – but experience shows that our brains imagine scenarios far worse than reality. Do your market research, don’t be afraid to ask advice from friends or others in the industry. Also, trust your instincts. A business plan helps to work out cash flow and where the money will come from. A business is more likely to succeed if you can be flexible enough to adapt to changing circumstances.
I’m working from home and am struggling to maintain my boundary between work and life, what can I do?
It’s important to stick to a routine when you’re working from home and to keep a separation between your working day and time to yourself. Treat your working days as if you were getting up to go out to work, as you would normally do. Get up at the same time, put work clothes on. Stop for lunch and take some time to go outside and get some fresh air, clear your head.
If you have the space to have your online office set up in a different room or part of the house, this helps to maintain the boundary too: at the end of your working day, close the door to your office space, mentally and physically. Be clear with others that you are not available to answer emails or calls after hours, and be firm with yourself about ignoring emails or calls until the following morning!
I’ve been furloughed and feel lost without my job. Do you have any suggestions to help me reconnect with who I am outside of work?
We spend so much of our adult life working that this is an opportunity to take some time out to relax. Enjoy the break while you can. Use it to rest and reflect. Every day, find something to appreciate and savour. Start a gratitude journal, recording at least one thing a day that has been good and that you are thankful for. Keep up contact with friends and family, get in touch with people you usually don’t have time to because of work.
Treat yourself to good meals, cooked from scratch with fresh ingredients. Take a daily walk, actively observing your surroundings and tuning into your senses, how and what you are feeling at that moment. Spend some quiet time every day just sitting and reflecting, perhaps with yoga or meditation if that feels right for you. Take an online course. Have some fun and don’t feel guilty about it!
I’m feeling apprehensive about returning to the office, the culture can feel toxic. Do you have any thoughts on managing difficult relationships at work?
A toxic working environment can be very draining. Stress can take its toll on our overall wellbeing, so try to keep healthy by eating the right things, exercising and getting enough sleep. This will help you to keep a positive attitude. Often a difficult colleague is reflecting their own negative feelings about themselves onto you, so it can help to approach the relationship from one of understanding and trying to see things from the other person’s perspective, rather than taking it personally.
Perhaps they are not aware of the impact they are having on you, so sometimes an honest, non-confrontational conversation about how you are feeling (try to avoid any finger-pointing blaming them) can encourage a shift in behaviour. Seek out allies, supportive colleagues who will fight your corner and make your working day easier. Try to take time out during the day to go outside in the fresh air.
Top tips for those feeling lost in their career right now:
- Don’t be afraid of change. It’s the path to better times ahead. If it’s feeling overwhelming, just take it one small step at a time, until you are where you want to be.
- Spend some time thinking about what you really enjoy. Draw up a list of what you love doing (your values and motivators); what you are good at (your strengths) and what you can get paid for (your experience/skillset).
- Enlist the help of a career coach who will help you to work out what’s important to you, and how to go about finding work that gives you a sense of purpose.