The Transformative Power of Hard Truths – For Adults and Children Alike

This is a story about how much we can learn from our children: about the transformative power of looking deeply into what they say; exploring their reactions and emotions to daily experiences; and about how we can learn to be authentic, vulnerable, and infuse our lives with curiosity. This is also a story about “readiness” in the face of hard truths.

Last month, I was at a restaurant with my family when my 7-year-old daughter, Isabella turned to me and asked: “Mom, are tooth fairies real or are parents the ones who leave money under our pillows when we leave our tooth for the fairy at night?” I was taken aback, not expecting that question to come up at her age. Undeterred, Isabella continued: “That’s what my friend told me, and most girls did not believe her.” I was quiet for a moment. She looked deep into my eyes and said: “Please mom, I want the truth now.” 

The conviction in Isabella’s voice let me know she was ready for the truth. I looked at my husband, who gave me the go-ahead. I proceeded to tell her, in the most caring and loving way I could: “Yes, that’s right. We are the tooth fairies.” I noticed her mind working and imagined she was reflecting on those times when she woke up and found a couple of dollars under her pillow, or received drawings and messages from the tooth fairy by her bed in the morning. Connecting the dots, Isabella remarked: “Oh, so on that day when I got that big pink heart, it was actually you, mom? And when I was at grandma’s house and my tooth fell out, she did the same thing… and so did my aunt a few times too?” Her eyes were shinning, as if a window of truth and discovery had opened up for her. But I could also see some disappointment in those beautiful brown eyes.

Once we were in the car and driving back home, Isabella said: “Mom, tell me more truths. I want to know them all.” Curious about what had triggered this, my mind worked through a series of assumptions: was she ready to know more, curious, or just testing me? Gathering my thoughts, I said: “There is nothing else baby, you know it all.” She quickly replied: “What about Santa Claus and the elves, are they real?”

Santa Claus visiting our home on Christmas Eve – Dec 24th, 2018

I looked at my husband and quickly responded: “Yes, they are real, didn’t Santa come to our home last Christmas Eve?” She quickly answered: “Yes, but I noticed his pants dropping, which means he had a costume on.” I said: “Well, he has a body under his clothes like everybody else, Isa.” After she insisted several more times, I believed that she was ready for the truth. Eventually, I explained: “That’s right, Isa; Santa Claus is not ‘real.’ A person dresses up like that on Christmas to bring us happiness and joy, to create a beautiful fantasy for all of us, especially for kids.” She opened her mouth in shock: “Wow, mom.” 

At that moment, I realized Isabella would no longer experience the magic of these childhood beliefs. 

It was hard for her and it was hard for me. 

The next day, the first thing Isabella told me when she woke up was: “Mom, I am so sad about Santa.” We hugged and stayed silent for a while. I told her that we can always keep the magic and beliefs of what we want inside of us, in our hearts – that the story makes the entire celebration and season more fun, fulfilling, and joyful.

After we went about our days, I did some online research about the average age kids find out about Santa (which, it turns out, is around 8-9 years old). I felt guilty for having shared that with Isabella at her age. This motivated me to come up with a new perspective to share with her, and it also helped me to come to a better place as a mother.

I broached the subject by asking Isabella how she wanted to celebrate Christmas from that point on. We agreed that, starting this year, she will be my partner in helping to keep the fantasy of Santa and the elves going for her younger brother, Lucas and other children who are not yet ready for the truth. We talked about how she could help me to prepare the house for Santa and sneak money under Lucas’ pillow once he starts losing his teeth. As we talked about various scenarios, I noticed a shift occur; there was a different shine in Isabella’s eyes. She seemed stronger, more grown up, confident, and empowered to help me create similar fantasies to what she had experienced. She promised me that she would not share what she had learned with younger kids, and to hold the beauty of these fantasies within her heart. Moments later, we moved on. What had initially seemed to be a loss and the cause of pain was transformed into something fun she looked forward to.

This is but one of many learning experiences I have had thanks to my children. Some of my greatest lessons have not come from textbooks, but rather engaging deeply in my experiences, having meaningful conversations with my friends and loved ones, and observing, listening, and being present. Kids have the sensibility to feel, sense, and speak up when they need to. In fact, most children express their needs from a place that is free of fear and barriers about what other people might think about them. In a word: they are egoless.  

Isabella showed me that we are responsible for the narratives that shape our lives and those of others. This is a core concept of leadership. We are responsible for identifying the time that feels right to face the truth within ourselves, to uncover what’s hidden, and discover both our light and shadow. That is the place for vulnerability and growth, the place that nudges us to ask for help without shame or guilt. This story also reaffirmed how remarkable it is to shift perspective from something that no longer serves us to a better place, where we can find happiness and fulfillment in the purity and simplicity of the truth.

Career changes come with losses, but they present tremendous opportunities to grow

While it’s true that career changes come with losses, they also present tremendous opportunities to push past your comfort zone and work through your fears. Over the past few years, most of the people I have worked with in my capacity as a career coach have transitioned into a new organization, field, role, or entrepreneurial venture that they considered “better.” I have worked with: 

  • lawyers who left large firms to start their own businesses in different segments; 
  • financial services professionals who shifted industries at mid-career; 
  • women who took a few years to be stay-at-home moms prior to returning to corporate roles; 
  • individuals who moved countries and took a step back in their careers, but were able to grow significantly over time; and
  • professionals who switched companies within the same industry after going through restructuring initiatives, and found more fulfillment in a different organization and team. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (August 2019), “individuals held an average of 12.3 jobs from ages 18 to 52, with nearly half of these jobs held before age 25.” Other studies on career management suggest that the average person will change careers 5-7 times during their working life, and approximately 30% of the total workforce will change jobs every 12 months.

As a case in point, the award-winning film Bohemian Rhapsodyrevealed some of Freddie Mercury’s decisions and qualities that led the band to their extraordinary success, including his self-confidence, trust in his abilities, clear vision, and the single-minded focus and dedication to realize that vision. Of course, talent played a critical part in their journey! After all, the band faced challenges, criticism, and rejections along the way to their success. 

Freddie Mercury (1946-1991)

A prime example of maintaining their vision and taking risks occurred when the band needed to sell their van – one of their only assets – to start recording in a studio. Despite his band members’ reservations, it was obvious to Freddie that selling the van was necessary to open up new opportunities. While this represented a significant loss – limiting the band’s ability to travel and perform – it also represented a new beginning. So much so, in fact, that it marked one of their first steps to become the band, Queen. 

This example reminds me of what the ice hockey coach behind an Olympic medal, Herb Brooks once said: “Risk something or forever sit with your dreams.” 

Bearing this story in mind, I invite you to reflect on the greatest risk you have taken in your career. What did you lose with your career change, and what did you gain? What has improved in your life as a result of that change? 

A few months ago, my client John called me to share that he had lost his job. He had been unsatisfied with his work for some time, so we already had wheels in motion for a new job search. But the reality of being “let go” from his company hit him hard and shook his confidence. Uncertainty about what would happen next, how quickly he could secure another job, and his financial situation made him fearful and anxious. Not to mention, the pressure of sharing this news with family and friends was very stressful. 

It’s easy to start questioning our abilities, skills, performance, and judge how good or bad we are based on someone else’s criteria. All kinds of saboteurs (negative internal voices) try to make us believe the worst about ourselves and our circumstances. In that moment, it is critical to exercise self-compassion and self-love by focusing on our strengths, qualities, uniqueness, and the new possibilities ahead. It is equally important to keep in mind that we are not our jobs; we are human beings and we are so much more than the roles or the positions we hold. We are also interconnected with other people and should leverage our relationships in times of recovery. 

It is also worth remembering that – in our current job climate where companies restructure fast and often, where market and consumer needs change constantly, and the digital age advances – any person can lose their job, including very talented individuals. There is no such thing as stability, neither for employees nor entrepreneurs.

According to a 2017 study conducted by McKinsey & Company related to the future of work, by 2030, “globally, up to 375 million may need to switch occupational categories and learn new skills” In other words, becoming too comfortable in a job, area of expertise, or not working towards self-improvement will have an impact on your career, sooner or later. The study concluded that “we will all need creative visions for how our lives are organized and valued in the future, in a world where the role and meaning of work starts to shift.” It stands to reason that diversity, fewer boundaries, mixed generations, and different cultures will continue to be reflected in our workforce. We will need to constantly assess the market to understand the needs, new opportunities, and changes in work-based practices and philosophies that lie ahead.

Ikigai (生き甲斐, pronounced [ikiɡai]) is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being.” As part of the career change process, we review aspects of this model.

Returning to my client John, he began working on his job search, became more self-aware, acquired new social skills, and learned how to network. He went through the ups and downs of career transitions, just like the rest of us. Importantly, our initial step was to “soul search” (using parts of the the “Ikigai” concept), taking an opportunity to reflect on his passion (what he loves), his strengths and skills (what he’s good at), his purpose, and the things he wanted to achieve through growth and personal development. This constituted a gain, in that it presented an opportunity for John to empower himself to become the protagonist of his own life and career.

After less than three months of hard work and a lot of relationship building, John accepted an offer with a company and was back to work. Of course, this timeframe is well below average. There are many factors that can impact the time it takes to get back to work, such as: the job market, state of the economy, location, candidate’s mobility, professional level (entry, middle-management, or executive), expected compensation, qualifications, network, and the time dedicated to a job search. Understandably, my client’s achievement was an important milestone in his life, and came with lots of positive changes. His new organization is in expansion-mode, meaning he may have growth potential. The role itself is more challenging, with opportunities to develop new skills and capabilities. The new company’s values are also more aligned to his own. On the “losing” side, he had some minor reductions in his benefits and has a longer commute (though he now has the ability to work virtually on occasion). 

It is important to emphasize that we cannot talk about career change without reflecting on our career values (whats is important to me) and career motivations (what drives me). Some questions to ask yourself are: What are the most important things to me right now? What is my current life situation and what do I need the most? What drives me? For example, career motivators can be challenge, or stability, balance, independence, influence, contribution. Alternatively, what are the non-negotiable factors? Where are you willing to be flexible? Because these motivators tend to change throughout your developmental phases, it’s important to re-check them often. Significant life events like a new child, a change of country, and new interests are all factors that can impact what matters to you professionally. This awareness can help you to identify what to pursue in the moment, and guide decisions that “feel right.” 

Finally, I want to acknowledge that career changes can be tough, full of uncertainties and fear. But you always have a choice in the matter; you can choose to go through it as a victim or as a protagonist. You can take the opportunity to learn from past experiences, to reinvent yourself and bring new meaning to your life and career. Freddie Mercury taught us that we can succeed despite setbacks, armed with confidence, self-trust, and the courage to take risks. The world of work is changing and careers are dynamic and flexible. In the words of Theodore Roosevelt, I encourage you to: “Believe you can and you’re halfway there.”

My name is Beatriz Nicolau. I am a consultant, executive & career coach and facilitator. My Purpose is to expand human consciousness through more awareness, understanding of values, beliefs, and by helping individuals reach their full potential. I believe this expansion opens up possibilities for people to trust themselves, live a more fulfilling life and develop strong connections with others.

Why Purpose?

When I think about Purpose, the words that come to mind are connection, values, passion, fulfillment, and depth. Several years ago, when I first started this work, I have to admit I had a really hard time understanding the idea of Purpose. I remember in a coaching training where the subject was “Fulfillment,” I told the facilitator: “How can I connect to my bigger purpose if I feel like my life is full of obligations, responsibilities and tasks?” I continued: “Routine demands around my kids have been exhausting. At work, it is all about pressure, deliverables, results.” I felt really disconnected to anything bigger than just accomplishing those things and checking the boxes, day after day. Finally, I learned and allowed myself to move from 100% thinking to feeling more. From non-stop doing to being more present. And to connecting with the heart when I was too much in my head. 

When we look at the definition of purpose in the dictionary, it can be defined as a noun and as a verb. As a noun, it speaks to “the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.” As a verb, it is to “have as one’s intention or objective.” To me, Purpose is our essence. It is at the deepest core of all of our intentions.  It is the reason to exist and the reason it is worth waking up daily and doing our best. It is deeply connected to our values, which are the things that are most important to us, the guiding principles of our journeys. Values are developed throughout our lives and are based on our experiences, education, family environment, culture, and beliefs. They are so important when we are identifying our Purpose because they are the basis of the work. 

In several areas of my work – coaching, leadership, careers – purpose seems to be always present in the process of human development and growth. There is a lot written out there about Purpose and it has become a subject of great interest in different circles. I was personally inspired by Jomara Fernandes, a Brazilian friend who has this beautiful mission of making our world a place with more purpose. She created the “Purpose Mining Game,” a gamification tool that creates the opportunity for individuals to identify and connect with their purpose in a fun, creative and collaborative way. The game became a tool in my own practice, and can be used by individuals, teams and organizations to explore this fascinating path towards discovering their Purpose. 

Purpose comes with self-awareness and understanding of who we are. It may be expressed as a sentence, a few key words, or emotions that bring us fulfillment and a sense of worthiness to our lives. People may call or connect with Purpose in different ways. Some take it to a more spiritual level, connecting to God’s will or their mission in life. Others may connect to the power of the universe—that energy that moves us in directions that sometimes we are not even sure how it happens.  

And why does it matter? Because having a purpose allow us to be true to ourselves in our work, relationships, and in our decision making process. It helps us to honor our values through behaviors and choices. These apply to small day-to-day decisions such as buying a product versus another, attending a meeting or missing it. Or it applies to major life decisions such as changing careers, having a child, or moving to a new country. 

A misconception about Purpose is that it must be something related to a professional activity that is intended to help people. In that case, the purpose of a psychologist, educator, teacher, coach, or doctor, would be more easily defined and lived, as their work relates directly to helping others on a daily basis. I believe no matter what we do in our lives, if we have a profession or if we are home caring for our children, if we live in a poor country or if we were born in a wealthy family. Our Purpose will always have an impact on other people, since we are all interconnected through humanity. Purpose is like a light, that when it’s on, can shine through many places and have a strong effect and impact on others. 

I worked for many years in the financial services industry in the United States and in Brazil. At the beginning of my career, I had a really hard time connecting with to purpose of the industry in general. I thought everything revolved around money – helping clients earn more, getting higher bonuses, generating profits, and bringing value to shareholders. One day, I attended a town hall with a very senior leader of the institution. He brilliantly explained the impact of the bank’s work beyond making money. He talked about how the bank was impacting education as they provided student loans to many young people around the globe. He talked about how the bank supported families by helping small business owners and entrepreneurs to raise capital and build their lives. He shared the number of job opportunities the bank created that year in several locations, and the impact of that to the economy. He mentioned we were working on some initiatives to reduce the use of paper in our offices and become more environmentally conscious and responsible. He talked about some specific community work the bank was doing with the support of many employees around the world. And on a more personal level, as a leader, he talked about his commitment to help people and teams by giving them opportunities to grow, develop, and accomplish things for themselves (and for the institution).

I will never forget that day. I was finally able to connect to the full Purpose of that organization. I was also able to connect my own Purpose to the Purpose of the place I worked hard for, and to which I dedicated so many hours of my life. From that moment on, my drive, motivation and engagement moved to a whole different level. 

I do not mean banks or other organizations are not interested in making profits. That’s a key goal, otherwise a company cannot exist. However, as the conscious capitalism movement states, we can make profits in a conscious way, being a conscious business. Purpose is one of the four tenets of the Conscious Capitalism, which also include culture, stakeholder and leadership. 

In general, Conscious Capitalism asks business leaders and entrepreneurs to define their purpose and the purpose of the organization, build a stakeholder map describing how value is added for each stakeholder, faster conscious leadership and a conscious culture for their organization.

Whole Foods Market is a great example of a profitable organization adhering to this framework and concepts. On the Purpose front, they state: “Our purpose is to nourish people and the planet. We’re a purpose-driven company that aims to set the standards of excellence for food retailers. Quality is a state of mind at Whole Foods Market.” You feel and see this when you go to a Whole Foods store, by the quality of their products, their value proposition, customer service and the way the staff operates. I love what Raj Sisodia stated in his book Conscious Capitalismon this topic. He says “Purpose is most powerful when it taps into a universal human truth. In other words, it is fully aligned with the higher aspects of what is means to be human.”

I believe when organizations start moving from sharing their mission and vision statements with their stakeholders from a far distance to sharing their higher Purpose at a deeper level, they will break barriers, become more transparent, and allow people to relate to them. That will consequently impact their brand, the ability to attract and engage employees and customers, and bring better results. 

These concepts become even more relevant as we think about the younger generations, whom we know will not work or be loyal customers to an organization where purpose and connection are not present. Despite all technological advancements and the digitalization in the world, these principles will always be important to human beings and organizations. We know work/jobs in the future will be around innovation, creativity and leadership, while other processes and systems will become automated and digital. That makes even more critical to create conscious and purpose-driven cultures and businesses.

Finally, I want to end this article by sharing a brief story of a mailman who lives in a small town in Brazil and is passionate about reading and writing poems. He talked about his purpose in a short video that I recently received from a dear friend. In the video, the mailman shared that in every stack of mail he delivers to a home, he includes an additional piece of paper with a poem written on it. He said something more or less like this: “I see the mailman’s work as a poetic act because we always bring a message to the people. A poem is a message that touches people’s hearts and souls. By sharing poems, I found my own way to make the world a better place.”  He believes that poems do not only exist in books. They can be seen right below our eyes, on the street, in front of us. It depends on how deep we can look into things. To me, this man is an inspiration of passion, connecting to Purpose on a day-to-day basis, and being fulfilled. 

I invite you to become curious and explore your own Life Purpose. There are many ways to do that, and maybe a starting point is to ask yourself questions such as: What are my values? What matters to me the most? What am I passionate about? What do I want to leave as a legacy? If I could guess, what would I say is the reason I exist?

As Brene Brown states in her book Dare to Lead, “Curiosity and knowledge building grow together. The more we know, the more we want to know.” I invite you to dare to know, and start walking on this beautiful path of connecting to your own Purpose!

My name is Beatriz Nicolau. I am a consultant, coach and facilitator. My Life Purpose is to expand human consciousness through more awareness, understanding of values, beliefs, and by helping individuals reach their full potential. I believe this expansion opens up possibilities for people to trust themselves, live a more fulfilling life and develop strong connections with others.

What color are your glasses?

A few weeks ago, when my 6-year-old daughter Isabella entered my car after school and burst into tears when I asked about her day, I realized it was time to stop and be fully present.

Isabella has been a good student, having strong academic performance and an ability to learn very quickly. Fitting the methods and demands of traditional school in the US have been quite challenging for her. When I first read Dr Seuss’s quote at the pediatrician’s office – “Why Fit in when you were born to Stand out”? – I thought…that is just perfect for Isabella! 

That day, when she started crying so deeply, I stopped the car and told her to come to the front with me. We hugged tight and remained in silence for a few minutes. I gave her the space to cry, to relieve her emotions. After reading author and researcher Brene Brown books talk about shame, guilt, parenting and vulnerability, I learned not to “rescue” my kids anymore from their moments of pain. In situations like this, I choose to just stay there with them, respecting what they are going through and in many cases, relating to them. I like to share my own stories (as a child or grown up) of things that hurt me in similar ways. I bring my vulnerability to the table. As we say in leadership and coaching – we meet the person where they are. We stay there, together, until they are ready to move into a new direction. That’s what I did with Isabella that day.

When she calmed down and talked about what happened, I realized Isabella was upset about her teacher, some of her friends’ behaviors, but mostly, she was frustrated with the overwhelming limits imposed to kids of this age in schools. As an “out of the box” girl, Isabella has a hard time being quiet during classroom work, or feels unable to express herself and play more freely at school. That day, the issues were not too concerning to me, but they were important to her. What I love about kids, which ironically I see adults working hard to develop later in life, is their ability to speak from the heart. Kids are authentic, present, and bring courage to speak the truth. Unfortunately, life experiences, pain, judgment from within and from the outer world, somehow impact our ability to maintain our authenticity and self-trust throughout life.

Later that day, I had the intuition of sharing with Isabella something that I strongly believe. I adjusted my words into her language for better understanding. I said:

“Isabella, I have a special secret to share with you today”. She started paying attention with those beautiful brown eyes that are able to focus so deeply when we explain things that interest her. 

I said: “Did you know every person in the world wears invisible glasses daily and in every moment of their lives?” Isabella has been attracted to glasses since two of her close cousins wear them. 

I continued: “Every moment you are alive, you have the chance to choose the color of glasses you want to wear. So I asked: ”What is your favorite color?”

“Pink!”, she said. 

“Ok, so what would it had been like to have worn invisible pink glasses at school today?” I asked.

She said: “Well, I would have felt happy with myself, and not upset with my friends and teacher”. 

“Nice!”, I celebrated, and asked: “And how different would you see them through these glasses?” 

She said: “I would see them pink too! I would have played with them more, I would have been a better listener, I would have had more fun at school today”. 

“Great”, I said. “So what color of glasses do you think you were wearing today”?

Isabella answered strongly: “Black!” 

And we went on discussing how these colors are linked to how she sees other people, her behaviors and the ability to be at her best. We talked about the impact of pink…. the color that brings her joy, softness, connection. We discussed, in her own language, how our experiences could be different if she were to imagine her glasses were pink most of the time. Or any of the rainbow colors – she loves to draw things using rainbow colors, in this exact sequence – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink.

The next morning, we woke up with a cloudy sky and lots of rain. We were in the car, waiting in line for Isabella to be dropped off at school. We then looked in front of us, there was Officer Manny, a police officer that is in front of the school every day, helping parents and kids on drop off/pick up time, and most importantly, protecting our kids throughout the day in school. Officer Manny was holding his umbrella with one hand, and his coffee with the other. He was smiling to people, helping cars move in the right direction. He did not seem worried about the rain and the fact he was probably very wet for standing there for such a long time. 

Isabella said: “Mom, look at Officer Manny, he is all wet!”. 

So I took that opportunity and asked: “What color of glasses do you think he is wearing?”

Isabella thought about it for a few seconds and said: “Blue, because that’s his favorite color!”. 

And I went: “So how do you think he is feeling now?” 

She said: “He is happy”. 

That morning, we talked about how would Officer Manny’s face and mood be like if he had some black or brown glasses on (colors Isabella is not attracted to). He would be mad about being in the rain, cold (even though we rarely feel cold in South Florida), or upset about this job that requires him to be standing there every day. Instead, he chose to wear blue glasses and enjoy the work he was doing, to be fully present and connected to the kids and parents. We discussed the impact for the kids, arriving at the school and having someone smiling at them, saying good morning in a very warm welcoming way.

The next day I had forgotten about our discussion on glasses. Isabella gets in the car after school and says “Mom, guess what? I had pink glasses on today!” She was happy, smiling, carrying such a positive energy. I cheered for her “Yes!!” and we hugged each other. That was enough and no other words had to be said.

Being a mother has been, by far, the most challenging role I have ever faced in life. No work, client, job or relationship has stretched me as much as motherhood. I am sure this is true for many parents out there, so I don’t feel alone. And yet, it is the most rewarding one! As a parent, I feel the need to be constantly observing myself, aware, learning, changing, and adjusting (pretty quickly sometimes), to be able to teach my kids what I consider to be the right thing, always. In my home, we know the importance of expressing the values that we share as a family through actions and behaviors, and not only through words. Our kids are our mirror, and we can see our strengths and derailers through them, in such a strong way that can be scary sometimes! And yet, we also need to show them our vulnerability, opening ourselves to imperfection, mistakes, and failures. We teach them to love and be loved. We let them witness that our glasses are not always “pink”, but we learn to notice when they are getting too dark, and make a choice to bring beautiful rainbow colors back.

This experience with Isabella made me realize the importance of being AT CHOICE. This is a simple concept, very used in the coaching field, but that we constantly forget about. We give power to others, to the circumstances, to the world out there, instead of focusing on the inside, in our inner strength and power. When it starts from within, when we become more self-aware and bring out authenticity and courage to face both joy and pain, we are able to bring calmness to our hearts, fulfillment, and strengthen connections. And that deep connection with others and the world around us is what keep human beings alive. As Philip Shepherd states in his book Radical Wholeness, “There is no such thing as independence existence. All things exist only through relationship”. To me, Wholeness is one of the key goals of humanity. And as Phillip says, “Every new challenge you meet with wholeness deepens it”.

One approach I use in my practice and life is helping people look and explore different perspectives, related to different topics (i.e.: leadership challenges, a tough job or a difficult relationship, or the career transition one wants to make). I realize the glasses of Isabella are very related to the perspectives and choices of any human being. It is important to stop, stay at the current perspective (“color”), and observe it. Instead of running away, we can ask ourselves: How does it feel to be here? What does it look like? What are some words that I have to describe it? Name it! How is it impacting myself and others around me? How is my body responding to it? And from there, explore new ones, maybe a couple of different “colors”, understanding the pros and cons of each, their meaning and impact. And when we feel connected with one perspective, when we feel in our bodies and mind the place we want to be, then we can make a resonant CHOICE and shift, claiming to ourselves and those around us that’s our (new) place. That includes letting go of what no longer serve us, and incorporating what we want more of in life. That also requires taking action and committing to it!

It is no miracle or magic. When we decide to be at choice, we feel empowered and strong, but there will still be drawbacks. In most cases, we have worn dark glasses for many years in our lives. So slowly, just like Isabella, we become aware of them and make a conscious decision to keep the ones we like the most for longer. And over time, with gentleness and love, these beautiful colors start becoming more of the norm in our day-to-day lives. We are then able to start seeing the world through different lens, creating new possibilities for ourselves and those around us.

References:

Coaching Training Institute (CTI), Coaching & Leadership Programs

Daring Greatly, Brene Brown

Gifts of Imperfect Parenting, Brene Brown

Radical Wholeness, Philip Shepherd

Managing Stress during career transition: 5 ideas that can change your experience!

Going through a career transition process can be very stressful. Sometimes it may feel like being in a roller coaster. It goes up and down very fast, with short moments of stability, full of intense emotions and uncertainty.

Career Transition

Whether your position was eliminated or changed due to company restructuring and now you need to find a new job; or you have recently moved to a new country and need to find opportunities in a market that you are not familiar with; or you have decided to leave a job to pursue new areas that are more aligned to your values and passions. Whatever your case may be, the uncertainty and pressure of career transition bring anxiety, concerns, and stress to most human beings.

Leaving aside the more traditional actions related to job search (Resume, LinkedIn, Target Market, Interviewing, Financial Planning, etc.), I share with you here 5 ideas that can change your experience and reduce your level of stress during times of transition:

1 – Establish a routine for yourself, and take action!

Assuming you have initially taken some time off to rest and reflect upon the events/changes that happened (I strongly recommend you take at least a few days for that), and that you have defined your career objectives, it is time to start the process!

You may or may not like having a formal structure to your routine. During career transition, I find that the more organized and structured you are, the less stressed you will feel about the things you are doing, not doing, or believe should be doing. Making a weekly schedule to ensure you dedicate enough hours every week to your job search makes the process smoother and more productive. We typically suggest a minimum of 30 hours/week dedicated to your search, with a high percentage of that time being focused on networking initiatives.

The structure of having a routine and following it with concrete actions will decrease the stress, as for many human beings the stress comes more from the “thinking” about what needs to be done, versus the “doing” it. You may want to be specific in terms of the types of activities included in your search time: networking, job hunting, trainings, meetings, etc. Think creatively about the resources you have available, such as connections, tools, and skills.

Remember to include in your schedule time for family, friends, hobbies, sleep, exercise, and other things that may be important to you. If you had a routine of exercise while working (we all know the benefits of physical activity in our system), maintaining it now would just serve you really well. If you have a meditation practice or any kind of spiritual routine, that will certainly be helpful too.

I have seen clients who have children and decided to dedicate time every morning of their new routine to take the kids to school. In many cases, they have never done such thing before as they used to get in the office very early in the morning. Take this opportunity to do things you have not had the chance to do before, which may bring you some fulfillment.

Reflect on where your focus should be and how other activities will fit in. Most people find that keeping weekends off for leisure and family is the best alternative during career transition. Why not? You deserve it!

2 – Be your own leader! Use this time to learn and to acquire new skills.

From a personal development standpoint, this time may bring you an opportunity for inner reflection (what I like to call, your “soul search”). You may want to do this by yourself or with the help of others. You can revisit your values, purpose, motivators, beliefs, talents, passion. Have you ever thought about your life purpose? What is the reason to exist? What drives you? What is most important for you now? What has changed? What are the things that need to be present in life now, and what can you let go of? How do you connect with other people? These are just a few questions to think about. In today’s time, people are realizing the importance of finding purpose in the work they do, and connecting their own purpose with their professional activity. How important is that for you?

Many people acknowledge that during their busy working lives, they do not have the time to look outside their companies, to study market trends and get in touch with new things in their field. So this may be an opportunity to set some time in your schedule for learning. Whether you are going for a formal certification (always a good idea!), study on your own or take classes, remember the importance of keeping yourself up to date with your market and field. Check new books, learn about people who are reference in the area, enhance your toolbox with new skills. That may help you land in a better position, to be successful in formal nterviews or in any exploratory conversation, and to feel more confident. As many people say, it is your career, so you drive and lead to whichever direction you decide to go!

Nowadays you can find a lot of online trainings and free webinars. You can purchase “used” materials for lower prices, or join different groups online that share knowledge and ideas amongst themselves. If you can’t afford to invest in a formal training or course, be creative and use the resources and technology available!

During transition, I usually suggest a reflection on the lessons learned from your previous work experiences. Understanding your strengths, what differentiates you, what makes you strong in your field of work can be very useful. There are strengths assessments available in the market (some even free) that you can take to help in this process. Analyzing 360 reviews and feedback you received can also bring some insights to this process. In this context, it is also important to reflect upon the things that you want/need to develop to be more successful, or to make the career shift you desire. There may me some technical things or knowledge you decide to pursue, or most commonly, some behavioral changes (or soft skills) that you want to revisit. These are important reflections, as you have in your hands the moment and the opportunity to change and transform!

As Marshall Goldsmith wrote in the title of his book in 2007, “What got you here, won’t get you there”. Market dynamics change, technology reshapes the way we work, new skills become relevant (and others irrelevant), and diversity is the name of the game! There is a need to adapt and change, constantly, as we are always in movement. If we get comfortable with what used to be important, we won’t be fully connected with the possibilities of the present and future, missing the opportunity of learning and growth.

3 – Engage in some type of professional activity that will bring you fresh perspectives!

The FreshBiz Game, created by Ronen Gafni and Simcha Gluck, also authors of the book “The New Entrepreneurz, changing the way you play life”, bring us several interesting concepts related to the new economy and the new business mindset. One of them talks about how human beings are multi-dimensional and not only professionals in one field of work. Remember your different dimensions: parent, runner, food lover, software engineer, entrepreneurial, etc. Explore and value all the dimensions of your life. Take this opportunity to review them, add new ones, and bring them more active to life!

I have noticed that the people who go through career transition and are engaged in  some type of professional activity or project feel less pressured and more engaged in the whole process. I have seen clients who have decided to take on small consulting gigs during this time and have used this opportunity not only to learn new things, but to increase their network. In some cases, these initiatives lead clients to identify new fields of work. If consulting is not for you, this could be a volunteer activity in your community (if you don’t know where to start, you can check LinkedIn for volunteer work, or research with your local community). Some clients decide to help a friend or former colleague with entrepreneurial projects (for example, helping develop their website, advising on business plans, or any other area where you believe you could use your skills and expertise).

Engaging in such activities can also open yourself to think about other plans (plan b, plan c) in terms of what you can do professionally. If job search is your priority, you just need to ensure the activity will not take you away from your main goal, so time commitment may need to be reviewed carefully.

Finally, another concept that I love from the FreshBiz Game: Entrepreneurial Thinking is our ability to transform ideas into actions. We don’t need to open new businesses to have/develop entrepreneurial thinking. Reflect about this and how you can apply this concept to your career change, job search, or to your life during this transition time. How are you expressing yourself in this process? What it is like to be the leader of your own journey? What ideas do you have? What actions will you take? How will you be effective in doing it? What resources will you rely on? What game are you playing?

4 – Connect with people!

Quite often we see people frustrated with the lack of success they face during their job search efforts. In most cases, the pattern is that they are not having much human interaction, or don’t have networking strategies in place. Instead, they are keeping themselves busy at home, behind computers, checking and applying to open positions in job boards and websites.

Whether you are in a formal outplacement program and have the support from an organization, or you have hired a career coach, or you are working on your own, it is critical to interact with people throughout the process. This can be done through individual conversations, group meetings, events, workshops, or other social gatherings. We know social media is nowadays a key tool for that (and LinkedIn is effective in connecting professionals), but it does not replace a phone call or face- to-face contact.

As an example, I have clients who decided to pay for one of these co-working spaces so they can have a place to go every day, keeping a routine and feeling more productive. They meet and see people daily, learn about new initiatives from their local market, have coffee and lunch breaks to chat with people, and identify new opportunities through these interactions. Remember that networking is about building relationships. It is not about asking people for favors or for a job. It is about having conversations, sharing stories, exchanging ideas, which may or may not lead to new professional opportunities. But it will certainly open your mind for
new perspectives.

Finally, we as human beings need to be connected. As Brene Brown explains in her book “Daring Greatly”, “Connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard and valued. When they can give and receive without judgment”. Think about your own style, preferences, and how you can fulfill the need for human connection during this time of transition.

5 – Practice self-compassion!

During career transition, we may open a lot of space for our “saboteurs” to take over ourselves and make up all kinds of stories about ourselves. Whether your saboteur is telling you that you are not good enough, that time is passing and you are stuck, it is important to connect to your inner strength, your inner leader, and find the real truth about yourself. Review your limiting beliefs, throw away what does not fit you and replace it with what will serve you best. Our thoughts influence our actions and results!

I have seen some very talented professionals and executives out of jobs at some stage of life. Everyone of us, regardless of our position, knowledge or performance level, may go through company reorganizations at some point in our careers, which may result in job elimination, transfer to another location, or new opportunities. In some cases, we may make a decision to leave an unfulfilling job to pursue other passions and dreams. As a matter of fact, some studies suggest that people will change jobs (and even careers) several times throughout their lives. This is especially true now for the new generations, such as millennials and the z’s. How would you face your career transition in that context?

Many, many people reach a better place after all. They find something they enjoy more, that matches their values, and connects with their purpose! Successful career transition may happen at all ages and stages of life. I have seen it happening at 20’s or 60’s, or in moments of life when people decide to reinvent themselves. It is fascinating!

So my invitation to you is to practice self-love and self-compassion. As experts Dr Kristin Neff and Brene Brown explain in their research, “self-compassion allows us to tame our inner critic by encouraging and supporting ourselves in the same way we would talk to a loved one. Unlike self-criticism, which paralyzes us, self- compassion makes us braver”.

Reflecting upon this, think about how have you been treating yourself during these times of transition, uncertainty and change. What would you do differently? What are you learning about yourself? What would make you fulfilled and energized? How would you stop self-criticism and replace it by self-compassion? Finally, how can you make your career transition less of a roller coaster, and more of an opportunity for growth, deeper connections and joy?

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