Twelve years ago, I was part of a layoff at a company that was going through a dramatic downsizing process. I was given three months' severance that kicked in during the sunny first days of June. Instead of sulking and hiding out, I broke out my sundresses, bought myself a pair of pink Pumas and deemed it, "The Summer of Rachel." I took the time to explore my options AND do the reflecting I needed to do to land the right next gig. What did I like about my job? What do I want to do more of? Less of? While I didn't wear my Pumas to networking meetings, I DID talk all about the "Summer of Rachel." Everyone got it. The gift of time to do things I enjoy, spend time with people I love, the space to "not know" for a while.
When you're in the process of figuring out what's next in your career, a time of "not knowing" can be terrifying. My high-achieving, goal-oriented clients admit, "On top of hating that I don't know the answers, how in the world do I explain where I am right now to my family, my former colleagues, my mentors? I feel like a flake!" Of course you feel that way, because that's how you're choosing to feel. I don't know if it's because I'm an optimist or a former marketer, but my next question is always, "How would you describe this time if you had to make it sound exciting…or like a gift?"
The truth is that it takes courage to explore something new. The process can be exhilarating, but it can also be scary and leave you with (as the sage Brené Brown would say) a vulnerability hangover! Hangovers aside, this is the time when being honest and authentic in your relationships can bring your connections to a deeper level. You can admit you don't know the answers. This doesn't make you a slacker. In fact, it makes you a hero. I can assure you the people sitting across from you don't have all the answers either. They have been in your seat in the past or may be inspired by your courage because they are desperate to make a change.
How do you want to own your career transition story? Let's start with writing a Career Transition Elevator Pitch with some examples from my own career transition from Marketing to Career and Leadership Coaching:
1. Own up to being in a career transition. How does this sound for you?: Example: After 16 years in Marketing, I decided to take a step back to figure out my next move. I looked at my strengths, what I've loved about past jobs and started putting the puzzle pieces together. I don't have the answers yet, but I'm enjoying the process of figuring them out.
2. What are you finding exciting about this time?: Example: It's exciting to start considering the skills outside of past job titles and descriptions for which people have always sought me out. Motivation, mentoring, writing, career advice. I've done these things throughout my career and when I did them—that's when I felt completely myself. There's something there that I need to look into for sure!
3. How can this person help you?: Example - Now I'm talking to people who have similar strengths and roles that they seem to enjoy. Would you mind telling me more about your role, how you got there and what you like about it?
4. Now put it all together!: String all the pieces of your pitch together. You get bonus points if you come up with a fun and creative title for your exploration time. This can be a gem that emphasizes your personal brand AND a clue that you don't take yourself too seriously.
5. Practice: Practice with friends, family and your close-in circle. Make sure it sounds like your voice and your personality -- not robotic.
Now own it with the chutzpah it deserves! This is where you are right now. It's not where you'll be forever. Fight it, and you will continue to struggle. Accept it, and you will move through it with grace and a deeper understanding of who you are.