5 Steps for Making Big Changes in Your Career

By Vibrant Nation Archives
Cover image for  article: 5 Steps for Making Big Changes in Your Career

Deep into a second bottle of Cabernet the other night, my friend and longtime-ago college roommate was describing the career crossroads she was facing. After three decades in NY, London and Johannesburg in independent movie production, and recently divorced, she finds herself back in our college town, having put her mother in a nursing home with Alzheimer's. Should she find a job there, or get back to New York where she has friends and contacts and try to build again there?

There's more going on here, of course, with a shrinking pool of interesting jobs for 50-somethings as age discrimination in hiring has become the norm. There's the fact that her standard of living is so much higher and greener than it would be in New York. There's the question of finding an interesting man, and the question of whether the money will run out before she figures things out.

I was thinking about her predicament on my way home. This is a really difficult decision!  We went around and around on all of the factors, until 2:00 am, in fact.  It's not clear how this decision will get made, as the factors swirled in my mind.  After months or years of mental swirling, so often we just plunge in on a big change, and lots of times look back and wish we had thought things through more.  Is there a better way?

Turns out you can apply business change management theory to yourself.  I learned that from the September, 2015, Harvard Business Review, "Managing Yourself: How to Embrace Complex Change" by Linda Brimm.  Brimm provides us with the "seven C's of navigating career changes." The article is not available online without a subscription so I'm summarizing it here, adapting it a bit and cutting down the HBR-speak.

In a nutshell, it says to be systematic about these very difficult personal decisions, and don't skip or rush the steps.

  1. Understand all of the issues that come into play in the decision. The decision is likely complex so don't be frustrated that there will be a lot of variables to consider.  Take time to identify and explore each one.  Talk to people and get opinions to help you get the full picture. Do not feel pressure to move on to the next part of the decision process until you are confident you have gathered all of the information you need.
  2. Prioritize the issues. With a list of variables and considerations on hand, the next step is to prioritize them. The priorities should start with what's important to you, which will likely require some deep reflection and introspection.  What can really help during this phase is good advice from others, especially those not that close to you who have some objectivity, and those with real expertise with taking or not taking the paths in question.
  3. Problem solve. Remember you still haven't decided yet.  In this step, you explore "creative but realistic solutions" to challenges that would have to be solved for the decision to work. Brimm recommends seeking the help of friends in problem solving, and I agree.  It is a way to share your concerns, to get out of your own head in the process, and likely find solutions that you wouldn't come up with on your own.
  4. Finalize the decision. Most likely, the decision has emerged from the very good preparatory work you've done. Make the decision and put the wheels in motion.  Brimm reminds us that, at this stage, "you reed to close off other options including escape and move forward." This is often the hardest step but there is no change without it.  She says to "focus not on what you've lost but what you've gained."
  5. Do it. This is part of the process and should not be rushed. There will be consequences that need to be worked through. More problem solving and more focusing on the future, not the past.  Brimm says to focus on "savoring the positive outcomes while dealing with any unintended consequences or new challenges that arise."

I'm glad to be reminded how important it is to be purposeful and systematic even with the toughest personal decisions. We are so careful to do this in business, why not in our personal lives?

The opinions and points of view expressed in this commentary are exclusively the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaVillage.com / MyersBizNet, Inc. management or associated bloggers.

Copyright ©2021 MediaVillage, Inc. All rights reserved. By using this site you agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.