Or what to do if you’re considering a career change.
Recent weeks have seen both Jacinta Ardern and Nicola Sturgeon resign from prestigious and powerful positions.
Resignations which are perhaps a little surprising.
Why would successful people simply walk away from something they had spent a great deal of time and energy trying to achieve?
In these instances we will only know as much about the “real” reasons as we are told which may or may not be the whole truth.
But, if we take Jacinta Ardern’s comments at face value, I love the honesty and self-awareness of:
“I am leaving because with such a privileged role comes responsibility. The responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead and also when you are not. I know what this job takes and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It’s that simple.”
Leaving a Professional Role
In a smaller and less public way, I made a similar decision when I walked away from a career at the Bar after over 15 years of working to make it a success.
People have frequently called my decision brave. But it didn’t feel that way for me. It felt (and, happily, still does feel) entirely right but it was obviously a decision that has consequences and, therefore, needed some thought.
And a lot of the coaching I do is with professionals who are not sure if they want to carry on doing what they are doing, or who know they would rather do something else but are not sure they can.
So, if you find yourself in a similar position and are wondering whether you send that resignation letter or not, here are some pointers from the collective experiences of Jacinta, Nicola, me and my clients.
Can you fix the current job?
If your desire for career change is relatively recent there is a significant chance it relates to something quite “changeable” in your current role.
So, before you jump, do a little bit of reflection, either alone or with a coach, and see what it really is that has prompted this urge for change.
Has the role changed?
Have you changed?
What is going on that feels wrong?
And what, if anything, can you do about it?
Evaluate your transferrable skills
When did you last sit down and think about your strengths?
I have spoken to both barristers and doctors who have assured me, in all seriousness, that there is nothing else they could do.
This might be understandable when you have followed one path your whole life, but is also manifestly untrue.
So do an honest audit and don’t stop until you’ve identified at least 5 transferrable skills.
A bit of research will undoubtedly reveal others who have made the leap so take inspiration from them.
It’s a good idea also to think about your personality in that audit – would you be happy with the uncertainty that comes with freelance work or opening your own business or do you need to find something more predictable?
Inject some realism
I am not one of those coaches who thinks everybody can achieve everything if they want it enough. (Although you can probably achieve more than you think you can).
We all have to live in the real world and most of us have bills to pay.
So you need to do some very practical analysis also.
How much do you really need to live on? I certainly found I could live on a lot less once I was feeling happier and less stressed.
What are your contractual obligations including a notice period? Are there any restrictions on what you can do next?
It is always helpful to find a way to make the leap without burning bridges. Most of us work in a fairly small world and some of your current colleagues may be future clients, or at least valuable members of your network.
But don’t find excuses to delay
When I left the bar, my then accountant said to me, that she’d love to do what I was doing but, as she only had 11 years to retirement, she was going to stick it out.
Eleven years of not being happy, doing something you don’t love, clinging on until someone else says you can stop – sounds like a life sentence to me.
And we only get one go at life. Famously, it is not a dress rehearsal.
Please don’t settle.
Leaving at the right time might need bravery (and might surprise people), but if you’re unhappy where you are, surely it is better than the alternative.
You don’t need to do it alone
I hope that has been useful to you. I am always happy to have a no-obligation chat if you are wondering whether coaching might help with this. You can email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or, if you are still at the thinking stage, you can sign up to my newsletter here or in that box over there.