How to Navigate a Career Crossover

Jen Spencer is an expert on careers. Aside from her private coaching practice, she also works with creative executives to help them succeed in their work and their business practices through leadership courses and retreats (Austin ladies – check out the Immersion Experience!).
Because Jen is our go-to for all-things career related, we knew she was the gal for our second Design Your Life column. Here, Jen offers tips on how to (successfully) navigate a career change.

As a coach and a teacher, I’m in the business of transitions. Creative professionals and businesses seek me out to help them in times of change.

Through this work, I’ve noticed that our careers fall into three phases:

  1. Where am I going? At this stage, you’re deciding what field you want to work in and what you want your role to be within that field.
  2. I want to go here. You have your eye on a big goal, like leading a team or having more impact on others.
  3. Is this right for me? If you’re feeling that you are on the right path, you start thinking about your legacy — the mark that you want your creative work to leave in this world — and plotting the rest of your career around that. If you answer no, though, you’re looking at what I call a crossover.

What a Career Crossover Feels Like

A crossover is a big, game-changing shift in your career and your life. It might mean leaving your field for a new career, or working for yourself instead of a company, or any number of other changes that get you off of the wrong path and get you moving toward a life that’s more in line with who you truly are.

It’s going to be messy. It’s supposed to be messy.

Real talk: A crossover is hard. It can shake you to your core to realize that what you have been pushing toward is no longer where you want to go. We get so attached to our ways of being and doing. While you might long for the “new self” a crossover will bring you, it can also feel like your old self is dying.

So How Do You Get Through?

I just experienced the nerve-racking exhilaration of a big crossover myself. For me, it meant realizing that I couldn’t do things as I had always done them as a business owner and still be present for both my clients and my young son the way I wanted to be. Here’s what I learned as I made shifts in how I work to reflect the whole of who I am now.

  • Get real. Be honest with yourself and others about who you are and what you want. Even if they’re not so sure about the “new you.” Even if you’re not yet comfortable with these truths yourself. I worried about what clients would think if I changed the way I worked after becoming a mom. But then I realized I wasn’t running from others’ opinions — I was running from my own. I was so attached to the idea that motherhood wouldn’t change me that I had trouble seeing that “business as usual” was leaving me exhausted and uninspired. That’s not who I wanted to be at work or at home.
  • Take risks. You have to take a step forward even when you’re not sure what the second step will be. For me, that meant doing things like limiting how much I traveled even when I wasn’t sure how that would affect my business.
  • Be open. A crossover means putting yourself out there emotionally. That’s kind of scary, but I found there’s also a benefit. When you’re upfront with others about what you’re doing and what you’re going through, you’ll find more opportunities than if you had kept everything to yourself.

If you can give yourself the gift of being in that moment of uncertainty and risk that a crossover brings, it’s amazing what can happen. That’s when we get creative with our own lives. It’s going to be messy. It’s supposed to be messy. Dig deep. Live it fully. And never forget you’re worth it.

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