What would you do in your career if you weren’t afraid? Would you offer to put together a presentation for the conference? Go for that promotion? Would you take a break? What kind of noise would you make?
You can make noise in your career even if you’re happy with your current job or situation. We all have career goals and dreams–some of them are too foreboding to even think about. But what if you did think about it? What if?
Realize Your Blue Sky
Putting a plan in place empowers you to make decisions you never thought possible. Sometimes we have time to think about taking a risk and other times it’s not a choice. Spending thoughtful time in the background of your career pondering “what if” scenarios allows you to blue sky a pipe dream and be prepared for both the expected and unexpected.
Earlier this summer, after over 8 years with WunderLand, I decided to give my own fantasy a try. When our youngest child was just a baby I pondered what it would be like to quit my job and spend focused time with my children. I remember zooming years forward on my calendar, mathematically calculating just when exactly we’d be done paying for daycare and set the date of May, 2019 for my break.
For years the idea of quitting my job was a fantasy. My pie in the sky idea. I never gave myself credit that I could actually make it work. I put off sitting down to do the hard work, figuring there was no way I could make it work or pull it off. I resigned myself to thinking it would never be possible. It’s easier to procrastinate than it is to be proactive but as the years marched forward and our children got older I knew that I would regret not taking my risk. So I sat down, looked the good and bad of my intention in the eyes, and put together a plan.
Planning Cancels Self Doubt
The extent of your risk doesn’t matter. Whether it’s finding a new role or taking a career break, devising a plan ensures confidence and trust in your steps forward. A solid plan should cover:
- Financial goals
- Timeline objectives
- Developing your story
There were many uncomfortable evenings spent hunched over my glowing laptop, trying to figure out how to re-orchestrate our budget to make my risk a financial possibility. Just opening our budget in Excel was scary. Each time I sat down to look at the numbers, I was overcome with doubt. I doubted my ability to land another job after taking a break. I would wake up at 2:00 in the morning thinking what am I doing to our financial house? But I spent the time to figure out what to cut, how to save, and determined what I needed to do (and what the timeline was to do it) to earn enough to make it possible. Leaning on my plan gave me confidence.
Taking a risk while knowing your financial bottom line is empowering. The very thought of salary negotiations can be enough to simply decide to stay put or not make a change. Knowing how much you need to earn is an awesome, powerful piece of information. Familiarizing yourself to what your bottom line number is opens you up to consider jobs in a new field or completely different area of your expertise. This knowledge allows you to decide what level risk is appropriate for your situation.
Tendering my resignation was my first out of body experience. I actually looked down and saw myself as I walked to close the door to speak with my manager privately and saw the words tumbling out…a live stream of a well-planned and executed departure script. I wondered if it was possible to shove all those tumbling words back inside. “Quitting” seemed like a forever sentence until I realized that I had a plan and tendering my notice was simply the start.
Determining your timeline isn’t just figuring out when you’re going to make the move, but it’s figuring out how long you’ll plan on taking the risk. Perhaps there’s a chunk of time that you feel comfortable devoting to your goal. Move forward in your calendar and determine not just the date you’re making the decision but for how long you believe you might need to accomplish your intention. Whether it’s starting a search, preparing for a career elevation, or deciding to take a break, figuring out your date and timeline will help you hold yourself to your goal.
I made my career jump with the intentions of spearheading carpools (minus checking my work email at the same time) and taking care of my children. What I didn’t foresee was how to answer questions about why I left my job or explain it to others.
Take some time to write out what you’re doing and why…and then tuck that away somewhere to remind yourself when you feel nervous or unsure of your decision. I love to make lists and one my favorites so far is what I accomplished during this summer with my children. I listed all the camp drop offs I shuttled, the day we toured an Amazon Fulfillment Center (which I highly recommend!), and even jotted down the dates where we did nothing at all. Making a list of your story reminds you of why you made your decision and what you accomplished along the way.
Your Risk is Your Reward
I found peacefulness and confidence through taking a risk by following my plan. Yes, it’s scary to not have a “known.” I’m pulling on reserves (both financial and mental strength) to trust in myself and find courage to discover. And discovering is exciting because it isn’t a bounty of happy but a map of unknown that for the first time I’m giving myself permission to wander and pursue.
I am enjoying less insane mornings getting the kids out the door, volunteering for after school activity carpooling, and squeezing in our evening walks as the sun sets earlier. I feel summer winding down which coincides with my plan telling me to think about what’s next. I might have time before summer slips away to encourage our 6 year old to give up her training wheels. In many ways, I feel like I just shed my own. I’m a little wobbly but trusting in my plan. What would you do if you could do anything? Having a plan helps you realize you can. And I’m always here to help.