Sarah Story Coach | Four Approaches to Career Transition during Covid

Looking back to February of 2020, what seems like a lifetime ago for us all. From my side, I had just finished up in my job at one of the Tech Giants so I could fully focus on my coaching and consulting practice. From your side, you could have been working away, happy in your job – or perhaps you were already itching to get out and discover something new. Whatever your situation, a month later, Covid ‘hit’ Ireland – as it had already done throughout the globe.

For me, I had started off my self employment journey with a *bang*. I had so much work and just two hands but Covid slowed the consulting in particular, right down. For you, Covid may have meant saying goodbye to your job or alternatively, it might have reinforced what you already knew deep down, you didn’t want to be doing what you’re doing. And then the added pressures of being at home all the time coupled with those frustrating feelings can make things seem, well, harder.

At the beginning, I was in the position like many others, with the kids at home while trying to run my own business while my partner still worked (for a portion of lockdown) and honestly, it was really hard. For you, you could have been in the same boat or perhaps you were experiencing lockdown on your own encountering a whole other world of challenges but whatever the circumstances, it may have been difficult too.

What kept me on-track were the four approaches I’ve listed below. Each has encouraged me to become more resourceful and although they are not rocket science, they work. I’ve experienced it with my own clients. I’ve listed them and included sections on ‘how they could work for you’. Please feed back in the comments below with any additions.

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1) Detaching from the Outcome

“Plans are intentions rather than guaranteed outcomes” Marion Franklin

Oh the biggie. Life would be so much simpler for us all if we could collectively work on this. I had a fast start to my business, honestly it was a whirlwind those first few weeks. None of the business ‘stuff’ got any focus (branding, strategy, marketing etc.), instead I just dove straight into client work. 2020 was looking shiny and bright. Then slowly things started to quieten (hello Covid), not completely now but enough to bring in those self doubt strangers mentioned above.

How did detaching work for me?

Confession time. I’m a bit of a control freak. Yep I know, shocking. But, I believed that if you were taking a leap like I was – leaving my job to go solo with the kiddos at home, you needed to have a plan. 2020 was going to be the year of graft (probably followed by another before I got to where I wanted). Letting go of the control, of the outcome was and is at times, still difficult but, by detaching, my stress, my anxiety and my frustration towards Covid decreased massively. Instead I choose now to learn from this time and what I’ve learned so far, well that could be a book.

How could it work for you?

Ask yourself this question if you find detaching from the outcome, whatever it may be, hard – what is it costing you to keeping hoping for XYZ when it may or may not happen? Sit on that and really think. At times when you fixate on the ‘plan’, you miss out on the journey (we’ve all heard the destination quote before).

2) Pivoting Perspectives. From Loss to Gain

So yes I had a fast start and from what I hear, that’s not always the case. But ironically for me, it was slightly overwhelming. I had a ton of work and plenty of ‘pipeline’ in sales speak but with Covid, the consulting in particular slowed right down as I mentioned. It wasn’t ideal and on the personal front, we had to postpone our wedding until 2021. Two big losses. But perspective is a funny thing.

How did pivoting work for me?

Yes it wasn’t a perfect situation that my plans (#1) weren’t trucking along but instead of focusing on the losses, I chose to see the gains. From the work front I gained more time to focus – to really dig into what I wanted my business to look like, to feel like and to do – basic perhaps but naively, this work wasn’t done and I am so glad of that now in hindsight. I also gained more time with my family. We had weeks at home altogether and it was genuinely amazing. Last year we spent 9 weeks traveling four countries and this year it was 6 weeks in Dublin. What will next year bring?! From the wedding front, it was a long time coming so we can wait for that amazing party with our family and friends. We gained more time to plan for the wedding (my partner is only beside himself – Irish speak for delighted).

How could it work for you?

This is a hard one, but important to recognise, you always have a choice. Your perspective, your reaction, is a choice. When faced with an obstacle, an event, with loss, feel the feelings yes absolutely and particularly when its traumatic, don’t shy away from that. But a good question to ask when looking to pivot perspectives is what do you get out of holding on to that message?

3) Awakening. Awareness to Alternative Paths.

Kudos to my partner-in-crime from Janus Consulting. She titled this time for us as an ‘awakening’ and I love that. Love that term.

“The final freedom is choosing to live who you are – specifically when it’s scary, uncertain, inconvenient or unpopular” Kim George

An awakening in a time like this, is fairly common I have seen. You get to take a step back from the ‘Groundhog Day’ that life can become, and reassess where your life is. Well potentially – if you weren’t on the frontline, then you could have had the opportunity to do this. It’s what you do with this learning that really matters.

How did the ‘awakening’ work for me?

In four areas to put it simply.

  • I was introduced to new activities – sea swimming, Wim Hof breathing, things that forced me to take time out for myself. The old self care focus.
  • Alternative opportunities came my way which are really interesting – Outplacement Coaching is one example.
  • Focusing on my business structure and the future resulted in simplifying a lot of things already. When you start something like this, you really need to drill into the ‘why’. The why behind what you’re doing in the first place.
  • Family – the importance of family was something I was very much aware of prior but how much we depended on each other, needed each other when we were asked to stay apart, was really apparent. (Potentially me needing my parents more than them needing me #honesty).

How could an ‘awakening’ work for you?

Think about this, you wake up tomorrow morning with a winning lotto ticket in your pocket – a big win. Yes! You start thinking of all the things you will do, things you can do, now that you have this security. So now take a step back and ask yourself this question – is it really about the money or is it about that feeling? (I can hear the cynics but genuinely, think about this. When people think and talk about winning the lotto – the most common ‘what if’ life example, is it about winning the lotto or is about the feeling that winning the lotto gives you?). The lotto could be your awakening yes, but a mindset change could also be just as valuable (in other ways aside from monetary). A great question to ask yourself here is what would you do differently if you lived every day without fear of the outcome?

4) Reconnect to Joy

Can you remember the last time you experienced a laugh that stemmed from your gut? Or that feeling of pure fulfilment, like nothing else is needed in that moment. Joy and reconnecting to joy in whatever way is absolutely, a form of self care. It is glorious and in times of uncertainty, of discomfort, of this crazy pandemic, reconnecting to joy was ultimately my saviour.

“Joy is enough of an excuse for being” Martha Beck

How did reconnecting to Joy work for me?

From cloud watching with my circle in the park, to reconnecting to the joy in friendships and dancing crazily in the back garden, to the simple joy of walking near where we live – walking slow, not watching the time. All of this and so much more. The joy of pushing myself outside of my comfort zone by embracing new opportunities, participating in random activities and creating my upcoming workshops. I embraced it – and am still embracing it all.

How can it work for you?

For those who may have read ‘The Artist’s Way’, you will be familiar with the term ‘Artist’s Date’. An Artist Date is a solo date where you can explore something that interests you which is outside your comfort zone… For Joy, I am challenging you to try this out and let me know in the comments (or privately), how it worked out. I do this activity with my clients consistently because it is *so* surprising how as we grow older, we lose the things that give us joy, that make us happy. Whatever they may be. Your task:

1) Brew a cup of tea/coffee/<insert favourite drink>

2) Sit down for 30-45 minutes and grab a notebook (yes handwritten is a better way to execute this) and title a page ‘Joy List’. List 20 things you love doing/experiencing. Don’t analyse your answers or overthink. If you’re focus is on career transition, keep this Joy List specific to your career – what do you love doing/experiencing.

3) Complete (the really important part), complete this list. The more you can think of, the richer the results and more meaningful the exercise for you.

4) Leave the list for a day or two then come back and review. What do you notice about it? Are there things that you need more of on this list? How do you feel about it? Finally, how can bring more of these into your life – planning time?

This period has been a transition for us all, in many ways but hopefully the approaches and questions above can support those who need it, just as they have my clients.