Strategic Conversations with Barbara

The Power of Refocusing After Ending or Changing Your Career

Winding down a career, shifting jobs, being laid off: all can produce feelings of uncertainty that put most of us on edge and off center—not the best way to begin something new. Here are tips that may help you regain your bearings and refocus your efforts:

Slow Down to Gear Up
Keep in mind that it’s impossible to navigate a safe and effective turn at full speed. You may not be able to see what follows the shift, but if you are mindful about what’s needed to turn well, you’ll eventually get beyond the curve.

  • Center yourself with three deep breaths whenever you feel anxious or overwhelmed by thoughts of change.
  • Calm your spirit by reflecting on three things for which you are grateful each day.
  • Remember what has helped you navigate difficult times in the past and repeat it.
  • Reach out to a trusted friend and be vulnerable when it is safe to be.
  • Stay focused in the moment and decrease the times you push yourself to multi-task.

Reflect With Purpose
Consider these questions to shift your thinking from outer to inner and clarify key career touchstones:

  • What are your key strengths and competencies that call on your natural tendencies and talents?
  • What are the interests that engage you?
  • At this stage of your life, what do you value? How do you want to make a difference?

Looking Back and Moving Forward
What did you want to do or be when you “grew up”? Did that dream happen? If not, is there any part of that dream that still calls you?

  • Consider what was appealing about each idea or dream and what the idea reflected about you. Was it linked to one of the career touchstones: competencies, interests, or values?
  • Ask yourself how you feel today about each idea. Listen for a response from both your head and heart.
  • If there’s something that you want to explore, discuss it with trusted friends, family, or a career counselor. Ask for suggestions about ways to explore its viability.

Research, Explore, Investigate
A commitment to pursue a new direction must be grounded in current reality and facts, which requires time and strategic conversations with people in the know to determine whether options are truly a good fit.

  • Once you identify one or two areas of interest, use your network, including LinkedIn, to identify individuals in this field. Request an introduction from your contacts, then arrange a short meeting during which you ask key questions about their work.
  • Typically, three or four informational meetings will allow you to determine if you want to pursue this work further.
  • If the answer is yes, talk with several more people in a position to hire for this type of work. Convey your current status and the skills you bring to the work, and ask for advice on securing employment.
  • Eventually, you’ll hear of openings and, because of your earlier meetings, you’ll know what to emphasize in your application, resume and LinkedIn profile.

Last But Not Least: Trust Your Timing
Whether it’s anticipating responses from key contacts or prospective employers, you will need to practice patience. After all, there are many factors at play that are beyond your control:

  • Trust what is happening and remind yourself of the end result you want.
  • Stay positive. Resist negative thoughts. Keep taking steps toward your goal.
  • Be kind and gentle to yourself.

Barbara Babkirk is a Master Career Counselor and principal at Heart At Work Associates, an innovative career counseling and outplacement firm in Portland. She is committed to strengthening Maine’s workforce by guiding individuals to positions that align with their skills and life stage priorities, and has particular expertise working with the baby boomer population. Contact her at [email protected]

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