09/29/2015 10:57 EDT | Updated 09/29/2016 05:12 EDT

3 Tips to Navigate Career Confusion


Change is messy.

Have you heard the expression "change is messy"? It's something I've heard and said many times over the years working with clients creating and navigating career (and other) changes. And in my own life, I've experienced my share of personal and professional change over the years. Who hasn't? Who won't?

Maybe you've had your own share of change -- imposed on you or self-imposed. Or you are at a stage of recognizing it is or will soon be time for change but not yet clear on what that is going to look like for you. Perhaps the job you loved that was all tickety-boo for some time has become a bit stale or frustrating. Or your work is fine in an OK-ish kind of way but something is missing and wondering what else is out there.

Too many options swirling around your brain -- or not enough? You have so many questions and far too few answers.

Hello career confusion! We often get clear about the need for a change before we have clarity of the what and how of the change we need/want. This creates confusion, fear and sometimes even chaos.

The uneasy stage of change

Our first instinct when we find ourselves in this place of confusion or frustration (and daunted by the challenge of figuring it out) might be to judge it, stress out about it, resist it. Our brains prefer certainty so the chaos of not knowing what's next can trigger a stress response (amygdala hijack) and gear down our higher thinking ability. Unfortunately, this only makes things worse. An overly stressed brain doesn't think at its best, doesn't see as many options, and isn't creative and resourceful. Just when we need it most our critical thinking skills go out the door!

There is an angst of being in the divide of knowing and not knowing. I get countless calls from people who find themselves in this place of confusion. They often characterize their situation as a career crisis. But it's not really a crisis. Really, they are simply in a place I call the gap.

This gap is actually a blessing

Yes, you read that right: a blessing. You see, the discomfort and unease of this stage of not yet knowing brings an acute awareness (something isn't right/I need to make a change) which is a critical step for evolving ourselves (and work + life experiences) -- and being proactive and receptive to change. Think of it like a wake-up call. Without that feeling and awareness you would likely not be prompted to explore the what's next for you. And you might miss the opportunity to evolve.

Three empowering to do in the gap

If you are finding yourself in that uncomfortable place of knowing you want/need to make change either personally or professionally but not yet knowing exactly (or even vaguely!) what it looks like keep these three tips in mind.

1) Park the judgment:

Resist the instinct to fear or be frustrated over the confusion. Recognize it as being part of the process and continuum of change. Consider it a wake-up call and be grateful for it (as per next tip).

2) Embrace the awareness and reframe it as possibility versus a threat:

While this stage of uncertainty can be difficult, embrace this as a gift to invite you into possibility. The wake-up call is the universe's way of letting you know it might be time to reflect, recalibrate and potentially make some new choices. The divide between knowing it's time to change and knowing exactly how this will look like will be different for each person. Be in the gap with some trust knowing there's another stage ahead if you do your work and give it due time. This acceptance will be good for your brain (and mojo) and empower you to navigate this time with more efficacy. Which leads us to the next tip.

3) Commit to doing what you can to find your way to what's next:

Figuring out what's next is a process and for each person this part of the journey will be different and take varying lengths of time. While your stress brain might be taunting you to find fast answers these may not come as silver bullet quick solutions. Instead, make the commitment to do what is needed to navigate the exploration. Take time to reflect, get support, and if you can invest in a coach to partner with you.

There's lots more to each of these ideas. But for now, embrace where you are, be thankful for the awareness, and have faith that if you commit and take the right steps at the right pace you will find your way. And don't be afraid to get some help. I'll be taking these ideas further in an upcoming Career GPS tele-class program.


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