How to make your next career move with confidence
The start of a new year is a time when we tend to be especially questioning about where to next – whether that be for our career development or for life more generally. There’s a whole new year laid out in front of us and the desire to make a change can feel empowering and scary at the same time.
Maybe you’ve been in your job for a while now and want to take the next step – an internal promotion or a move to a different company – but you’re not sure what that first step is. You have a sense of not being able to see the wood for the trees.
Perhaps you’re aware that you are procrastinating about making a change, but despite being aware of that, you still can’t make it happen. What is it that’s holding you back?
It could be that you feel vulnerable and unsure in case you don’t succeed. If you doubt your accomplishments and question your abilities, how about if I told you that you’re not alone and that there are claims that around 70% of people experience this (generally termed imposter syndrome) at some point?
There are two main parts that I can think of to make any change.
- The practical, action-centred part.
- The subconscious, internal chatter part.
Taking a practical perspective, do you have the skills and experience for a promotion? Do you know what the decision makers are looking for? How is your network looking – both for supporters or stakeholders internally and a wider, more diverse external network? What is your timeframe and is it realistic? What about your CV? If you’re like many people, the last time you updated it was when you last changed role or company and that may be a few years ago now. It can be a daunting task so I encourage you to have an ongoing CV document that you can update regularly.
The good news is that’s all completely doable.
The internal chatter can seem like a bit more of a challenge.
What are limiting beliefs?
We each have our own set of unique beliefs. Some of those beliefs are positive, and some are what we term “limiting” beliefs. Our beliefs, or assumptions, are built up over a lifetime of telling ourselves what we can and can’t do. Take for example giving presentations – if you believe you can’t give a presentation, or will be rubbish at it, chances are you will be. Unless you change your limiting belief.
Our brains are wired to keep us safe. If you had a negative experience once that involved a presentation or heard someone you respect and admired when you were younger, talking about how they gave a rubbish presentation, or feared presenting, then you will likely have formed a belief that presenting is scary.
Scientifically speaking, it’s our reticular activating system (RAS) that is constantly seeking and filtering evidence to support and validate our beliefs. It’s phenomenally useful but sometimes might not be particularly helpful because it reinforces what’s in our subconscious so it can distort (that meeting was a complete disaster), delete (I never have any positive feedback) and generalise (I’m no good at that) to make a situation fit our belief. The RAS helps us see what we want to see and thereby influences our actions.
When you consider this in relation to career development and our own skills and abilities, we have a tendency to forget the good stuff and remember more of the negative. I am sure you’ve had the experience of a performance review where your manager has given you positive and negative feedback, yet how much of the positive can you remember? I guarantee you are more likely to be able to recall the negative, even if the feedback was awash with positivity. Our ability or desire to make change is the same, our brains tell us that change is scary, so we elect not to make the change.
The good news is that we can retrain our brains, to reframe some of these limiting beliefs.
Retraining our brains
When was the last time you thought, really thought, about all you’ve achieved? Here’s a simple exercise for you to try:
- On a large piece of paper, draw a line to represent a timeline for your life and work. Put a date at the start of the line and end the line with today’s date.
- Mark on the line all the successes you have had – large or small. You can include things like feedback received, jobs, promotions, training, qualifications gained, voluntary work, celebrations etc.
- Consider all the strengths, skills, and qualities you used to make all these happen.
- Keep going until your timeline is full of every little success you can remember. (You can ask friends and family to remind you of some if you need help!)
- Look at the timeline with fresh eyes and a new perspective. Take ownership of all that you have made happen. Keep it somewhere close as a regular reminder.
And that CV you haven’t updated for years? You can use this exercise to bring back to mind all the things you need to update it.
But let’s have a look at what happens if you aren’t successful. This time.
- For an internal promotion you’ve put yourself on the radar and the decision-makers will know you’re looking.
- For an external move you’ve gone through an interview or selection process and the recruiters now know you are looking.
- You should have received some real, tangible feedback on why you weren’t successful and can work on that.
- You’ve found out more, your curiosity has been awakened.
- Your CV is up to date and you’re ready to put yourself forward for other opportunities.
- You’ve developed or reignited your network.
- And whilst sometimes it doesn’t feel like it, it really is a good experience.
Career: Next steps
So, what can you do to take the next step for your career?
- Back yourself. Have confidence in your abilities. Remind yourself of everything you have achieved, prepare for any meetings or interviews, and believe in yourself.
- Build your network. Be real when you do this, check your reasoning and be authentic when you make connections. You never know what opportunities might be available if you don’t ask and if people don’t know who you are or what you’re looking for, they can’t help you.
- Have a go at the exercise above. Remind yourself that you are the one who did all that, not anybody else. There’s a quote from Jon Acuff that I’m fond of “Don't compare your beginning to someone else’s middle, or your middle to someone else's end.” Apply that more generally. Don’t compare.
- Breathe. If the chatter starts, take a few deep breaths to refocus your thoughts.
Finally, I would like to leave you with a question to consider; If you don’t make this change now, how will you feel about having not taken it, in say two years’ time?