A perfect career storm happens when a number of factors combine to unseat you from your current job. It effectively awakens and shakes you out of the slumber of routine and disinterest that has penetrated deep into your soul.
The perfect career storm results when some or all of the following events are present:
- The company is experiencing a dysfunctional culture
- Internal politics are more important than work performance
- You have been “lightning struck” by a work-colleague
- Your expectations and those of your manager are poles apart
- You find yourself dragging out of bed to get to work each day
- You realize that 16-hour workdays still don’t put you in front
- A new boss changes everything
- The company has been merged, lost a major contract, or goes belly-up
- The winds of change are chaotic with no vision in sight – change for change sake
- The forecast is for gale force exhaustion and no reward in sight
What can you do after the storm has passed?
1. Assess the damage
Shake off the dust and damage. Know that no matter what you have lost, you are still intact with a bunch of experiences and skills that will be attractive to a future employer. But you have been battered around and need to recover from an unsettling experience.
Make an assessment of the things you need to take into the future, and what needs to be left behind. Get rid of things that remind you of a past that you wish to leave behind. Take stock. Heavy baggage that has accumulated things that weigh you down need to be discarded.
Courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. – Harper Lee.
2. Seek support
Acknowledge that you can’t do it alone. When the storm is happening, everyone is concerned. When the storm has passed, people go back to their routine and day-to-day activities. But when the storm has passed, this is when you need support from caring friends and colleagues more than ever.
You need to actually initiate support by calling people who have your best interests in mind. Have courage to talk it over, but don’t bog your support person down with misery and regrets. Your support should be there to listen to you, for some psychological first-aid, but don’t cling to them and expect them to rescue you. They are there to help you along the road to recovery and adjustment.
3. Reflect on what is most important
OK. So you’ve lost a job or had your career derailed for a while. It’s not the end of the world. Read my lips. You will recover. I’ll say it again, you will recover.
What’s most important right now? Finances? OK. Get those in order so you have peace of mind to do the next things. So when you work out that you will survive for a while, reflect on what is really important to you. Is it really money? Well, maybe it was some time ago, but you may have been stuck in an endless chase for money, and am now not really sure why.
What drove you some time ago, may not drive you now.
Your motivations and values can actually change. Is security still the main driver? Is the striving to the top of the ladder that drove you before still really important? Think about it.
Maybe that early career dream you diced for a secure, highly paid job, is now coming back to the fore.
Get away for a while. Use the time out to identify what is now important at this stage of your life. You may be surprised that you have buried these earlier dreams for what seems like an endless chase to somewhere – without really knowing where that somewhere ever was.
4. Do something
As straight-forward as that sounds, this is where many people go wrong. They actually cocoon into inactivity, and spiral into a downward despondency that gets hard to shake off.
Start small. Plan your day in the morning, and set achievable goals. That goal does not have to be any bigger than going to the local coffee shop and talking to someone else.
Read some positive material. Check out a job-seeking website. Browse the possible roles you would like to aim for. Be a shopper at this stage. Learn about the job-market.
Don’t be locked into the same role necessarily. Speak to a career or life coach about the possibility of breaking out of your current field and trying something different. It can be difficult, but not impossible. Many have done it before, and really enjoy their new field.
5. Be resilient
Realize that a perfect career storm can get you into a new realm of confidence, resilience and positive awareness. You no longer have to wear the mask that you used to to impress others. You have learned to be authentic and honest with yourself. Does it really matter what others say? Really?
Instead of asking, “What’s in it for me?” begin to ask “What can I do for you?” Move from material successto significance. How can you be of service to people? How can you make life better? What does the world really need and where are you most placed to meet that need? Make a life, not just a living.
Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. – Howard Thurman
Know that you have transformed yourself through the storm and you have come out a better, more well-rounded person.
This creates clarity and better understanding of who you are and what you can contribute.
Never accept second-best, because you are made to fulfill your own destiny. Nobody is every blown away from a career transition.
Out of destruction comes a sharper focus, and a renewed resilience that could never be matched by people who stay in the same old job, doing the same old thing, day-in, day-out.
You have effectively become a stronger, more resilient person.