At some point in your career as a woman aspiring to do great things in your corner of the world, you may experience a period in which you will need—or want—to reinvent yourself.
In Chapter 7, I shared practical advice for navigating your way through situations which resulted in the loss of your employment. While the loss of a job can be a stressful and disorienting period, it can also present one of the most transformative opportunities to go to new levels. Personal reinvention is often born out of a crucible moment in one’s life, where an original path has become muddied or has disappeared as an option altogether.
What can you do when change creates a series of choices? You can choose. Women are often at the center of conversations surrounding choices: a choice to leave the workforce to have a child; a choice to delay their return to the workforce after the birth of a child; the choice to be a stay-at-home mother; the choice to strike their own unique version of work/life balance, etc. You will also have the choice to take control of the diverse options laid before you. Perhaps you may be stirred to reinvent your entire career landscape, and find an entirely new professional footing.
Whether that moment of choice comes naturally or unnaturally, you will need to be thoughtful about your reinvention journey. Enter the first leg of that journey, then keep traveling to arrive at what may be an unanticipated destination. There are key actions and considerations which can serve as a light to guide you along the way.
Operating at the Crossroads
There are things in our lives which, if we’re honest, we would admit may not be materializing the way we had envisioned. Those things run the full gamut of life. Changes at work, or in our professions, may place us at a pivotal crossroad—forcing us to make tough decisions about our ‘what’s next.’
If you’re in this period of major transition, what you choose next will either cement your current career path, change it slightly, or alter it dramatically. The key question to ask yourself during this period is—how much discomfort and risk are you willing to tolerate? Circumstances surrounding your household income, savings, and people who may depend on you will clearly be included in your calculus. The balance between familiarity and risk comes down to your willingness to embrace the unknown.
At times, the crossroad may be thrust upon you through a job loss as I’ve shared. In those circumstances, you can use the energy from that imposed crossroad to propel you forward rather than waste it on self-defeating thoughts, or allow inertia to take hold. Take comfort in the fact that you will always have data from which to draw as you make key decisions. This data has come consciously and unconsciously from the library of your life experiences. Oftentimes, as women, we are quick to look at other women whom we admire and wonder what they would do in our situations. However, every situation is different, because the people and details involved are different. When you arrive at a crossroad in your professional life, be sure to draw from your own database rather than let the amount of energy and years which you’ve spent accumulating it, go to waste.
Stick to the Essentials
On any given day of any given week, we are too often overwhelmed. We are perpetually overcommitted. We have many times overpromised something to someone, and are living with the fear of under-delivering. When we are at the precipice of reinventing ourselves, the last thing we need is clutter in our lives. In Chapter 3, I shared the importance of exerting the power that each of us holds over how we spend our time. Being busy does not equate to productivity. At your crossroad moment, you will need to say ‘no,’ more, in order to get to the right ‘yes.’ You will need to carefully assess how you’ve been spending your time to ensure that your activities are serving you, rather than sapping you of precious time and energy. That includes volunteer activities, professional associations, relationships, and bad habits (i.e. overeating, too much TV binge watching—ouch). Make a list of the likely clutter targets and go over them, one by one, until your justifications for holding onto them begin to wane.
Engage Your Truthteller
There is a point in our lives, particularly as women, when we must be intentional about caring for ourselves in order to take the next big step forward. Many of us are not great at self-care, as we’ve settled into the role of caring for everyone—and everything—else. When we’re confronted with the need to change, we will periodically need to reduce our giving tendencies in order to avoid the depletion of our emotional, and other, resources. Only then can we learn, or rediscover, how to truly listen for the truth about our situations. That truth may take any number of forms. It could be the truth about a job that we hate, but settled for; or the truth about our fear of change; or the truth about our inability to develop new skills and accept feedback. The truth is hard to hear even when one is listening.
There are many truths along a professional path that, in order to surface, will require becoming vulnerable. You’ll need the help of a truthteller. This person could be your spouse, friend, or another family member. However, the right professional coach is more likely the type of objective source you’ll need to dissect and reconstruct the most pertinent issues at your reinvention crossroad.
The right coach can breathe clarity into those hazy periods in your life, and help you to devise sound strategies which can break through the fog. Rather than flying blind into the wilderness, a coach can help you check your motives, clarify your desires, and arm you with tools to take a particular strategy to fruition. There are many people quite skilled at this. The trick is to look for someone with the skill and passion for this work, and one who meshes with your personality.