[Photo credit: Johannes Plenio]
You will have heard the saying, ‘Wherever you go, you bring yourself’. Wise words, and usually spoken in relation to travel. But they have a strong application to career change too—a fact that can cause problems to the unwary…
Well, the dream version of a successful career move comes down to one idea: self-reinvention.
Now I am a BIG believer in the notion of self-reinvention, having seen so many people make new lives for themselves with bold career moves. However, I sometimes grow uneasy when I hear the phrase ‘self-reinvention’ used a little too casually. Very often what’s meant is not so much self-reinvention as self-recontextualisation. Which can be a great and liberating thing in itself, of course. But there lurks in this confusion between self-reinvention and self-recontextualisation a risk that can bite some people when they go all in on a career change.
What is this risk? It’s that you leave unexamined the self who has been unhappy in your job, and forget that you are in all likelihood going to bring that same self with you into your new career. Result? The same old problems and issues and discontents sooner or later end up rearing their ugly head all over again.
Here's a hard truth: an adult personality is not an easy thing to change.
Imagine a person who works in a boring office job. They are uptight, stressed, frustrated. They slip into backbiting and bitching with (and about) colleagues. Their unhappiness at work leaves them unable to get a decent night’s sleep. Etc. etc.
Ok. Now let’s imagine this person on their quiet lunch break, dreaming of an alternative career that would be, well, their dream career. More to the point, they picture the person they would be in this dream career. Effortlessly charismatic. Super-productive. Full of energy. Bursting with positivity. Imperturbable. Etc. etc.
What’s happened? They have invented a dream version of themselves. Which is a very different thing to having actually reinvented themselves.
‘Oh, but,’ I hear you say, ‘the self-reinvention part can only kick in once they’ve made the actual move. They have to liberate themselves first from current circumstances.’ True, but only very partially so. If I’m showing poor resilience and low problem-solving nous now, there’s no guarantee I’m going to magically turn into Unflappable Super-Resilient Challenge-Buster in a new role, a new job, a new career. And make no mistake: there are few careers out there that are free of stresses, strains, pressures, frustrations—and difficult people. (Beware the Outside-Looking-In Fallacy: appearances can be very deceptive!)
If you haven’t been doing a great job of meeting annoyances and challenges in your current role, you’re going to need to take a critical look in the mirror before taking your self into a new career zone. Because, one way or another, you’re going to bring yourself with you when you make that move. So you must try to cultivate now the values and habits and mental attitudes you picture your dream career self living by. Don’t wait until you’ve made your career move. Get practising now! Work on your weaknesses, your blind spots, your negative scripts, your self-sabotaging habits. You’ll thank yourself down the line.