I have started my own consulting company a year ago. Many people ask me what led to this decision and especially they ask me the whys of my “radical” change after 15 years in corporate environments in a series of increasingly senior roles with high profile bio-pharma companies. I had no real reason to leave behind a career that was developing very successfully, except one crucial one; I wanted something different.
Much to the surprise of my family, friends and colleagues, instead of being a senior executive in an international company, I decided to open my own company whose aim is to renew, innovate business by putting people at its centre. It could, as many pointed out, have been a high risk and it actually hasn’t.
Should you be following me into the move of crossing the unknown? Do you ask yourself if it is too late to make such a move? And, if you do, how can you make sure that it’s a success?
I would like to share with you what I learnt on the way and I hope it will help you in the process.
Your confidence and belief in yourself is the most important part of making a successful career and moreover a career change. When you are, like I am, around 40 years old, this is a major life decision and you may feel afraid. The best piece of advice I can give you is don’t let fear dictate how you live your life. Unlike many others, I haven't decided for a parachute option while I was considering my career change. I do understand the fear and the need to pay bills, so I won't recommend to leave everything behind and jump, nor I will tell you to look for part time jobs that will allow for a smoother transition. I, instead, ask you to look into yourself and into your fears, understand what drives and motivates you and what scares you. During any change it is important to be clear about what is right for you and what you really want. It’s critical that no-one else is allowed to make that decision for you. Ask for advice, talk to people, hire a business coach and ultimately take your own decision. Taking control can give you confidence and that confidence is crucial to impressing potential new employers or investors. Follow your process, it is your career, and your life.
Many will advice you to take one change at the time rather than revolutionise your life all at once. When I decided to change path I literally did change everything else. I moved from UK where I was living at that time to Switzerland where I had a stronger network and better infrastructure. I decided I needed also to take the time to clear my mind and become more precise about my business objectives so I took off for few months and travelled. You do not have to go for a radical 360 degrees change. What you need to focus on is the need of a place to stand. That place is made by: character, relationships, faith, values, etc. For me that place came from travelling, exploring and focusing on myself. It was the best and most critical decision I made so I could function at my best. Learn about yourself and what supports you and then make it happen. Avoid taking the media or industry’s advice on the “hottest new career” or “best places to find a job”. Instead, figure out what you want to work at every day. Making a career change often involves rejecting much of your working life to this point. Don’t waste time regretting the fact that you didn’t make the move earlier, and refuse to beat yourself up about it. Along the way you gained knowledge and experience. Now is the time to use them”.
As crazy as might look, the very best time to move is the hardest time to move. It was for me. The so called “top of the game” is probably the point where everything is going great, when no-one wants you to leave, you’re at a career pinnacle. This is the time when your all-important self-confidence will be at its strongest, you’re upbeat and ready to tackle new challenges. When you take on a new career, new problems, new challenges, new people will show up. While it will be stressful initially you’ll find yourself surprised by just how much you can take on and succeed at. And this is because of all the confidence and experiences you gained before.
So when is it time to move? When you are 40, 50, 60? All and none of these - it’s the day when you ask yourself if not now when? If you spend too much time weighing and analysing your options, you may find yourself caught in the “paralysis by analysis” trap. This happens when you focus too long on things that can go wrong. There is never any certainty of success in business or in life except this one: if you don’t make an effort to realise your ambition, you will join all the others through history who, at the end of their lives, were forced to admit ‘I never even tried.’
Open yourself up to the fact that you will make some mistakes or take a wrong turn on your career path. It is how the learning happens. The biggest learning form me came from enjoying the process of change. I am not denying I was, and at times I still am, scared. As a writer, I firmly believe in the power of words. When I feel scared or worried, I shift my vocabulary and language. Instead of saying “I am scared” I say “ I am curious”. Changes are scary and it’s also a very exciting time in your life. This is your chance to create a new life, start fresh, and use your brain and body in a whole new way. If you’re not enjoying changing your career, you’re not doing it right.
Curiosity it is also critical to reduce stress. Being stressed out won't help in convincing potential employers that you are easy to work with, flexible or adaptable to a new team and work environment. The last two tips I have for making a career change are:
- find your your tribe. Spend time with them not only to build a new network but especially to understand what differentiates you from them. This is what will help you finding your niche.
- Last advice is to find sources of inspiration and go after them. Make a conscious choice to be inspired and look for inspiration whatever you do. If you do not feel inspired how will you inspire others?
I hope this was helpful in some ways. If you have more questions please get in contact with me. I am happy to share more on what I learnt on the way and I can support you on your journey.