As the second half of the year begins today, you may well be asking yourself this question.
In my coaching practice, I encounter experienced professionals grappling with this issue all the time.
These people are not facing a career crisis as such, in fact quite the opposite. Broadly happy, they just sense they are no longer as energised in their role as they once were. And as they look ahead, they are not sure they want to be doing the same thing for the next 20 years. But then, they ask themselves, what else can they do?
It is a kind of liminal space. The word “liminal” comes from the Latin word limens meaning literally, “threshold”. As far as the outside world is concerned they still appear at their day jobs, but privately, in their minds & hearts, they are at a threshold as they have started to wonder what could be next.
A liminal space, the place of transition, waiting, and not knowing our “next” can be unsettling and disorient us for a while. The question we are tempted to answer as quickly as possible is “What’s next?”. But the problem with that question is it assumes that there is one clear answer… and it should have presented itself by now.
The truth is career change never happens in a neatly packaged box. Much as we wish it would, real life career transition is not linear, and is often a more emergent process as we explore, test and learn and gradually find our way into a new professional identity. It is about finding our “career compass” to guide us in the right direction, rather than theorising in the abstract about what the ideal next role would be.
Here are 3 pointers that may help you get the most from this liminal space so that it becomes a place of fruitful enquiry where you learn more about who you are becoming and what you are now called to in your professional life:
Don’t ignore it… But don’t let it dominate your thinking
Find a balance between reflecting on what a change could be for you and keeping focus on the day job. Take time to journal – what are the positives about where you are now, what is missing, what are your talents & values, what are you looking to contribute at this stage of your working life?
It may help to speak to a trusted friend or colleague or explore with a coach – if you ignore it completely, chances are the feeling will come back with more urgency at a later date.
Don’t act too quickly… But don’t get caught in analysis paralysis
The temptation is to just do something – anything, but it is best to take time to reflect and consider what the next move could be. However over-thinking has its own drawbacks – the test is are you thinking productively and constructively or ruminating which tends to take you round in circles? The test is are the same thoughts coming up again and again, or is your thinking progressing in fresh directions?
Again, talking things through with an independent person such as a coach can really help you get clarity here.
Stay positive… But acknowledge change is hard
Finally, keep a growth mindset and stay positive – although realistically so. Change of any kind, even when it’s wanted, can be unsettling, so there will be highs and lows. The key is to ensure you get enough support around you to help you navigate through this transitional period. Career change can be hard, but the rewards can definitely be worth it.