Redundancy, burnout or disillusionment at work are just some of the reasons behind a career crash. Some people are cheering after the decision or announcement as it frees them up to pursue a business idea or work part time in a more vocational role. Others fall apart. Their job title has been their identity and status. Many get stuck. After the initial euphoria and the dipping into the nest egg they realise that they have no real idea what they want to do next.
Getting a new job often isn’t the difficulty. It’s the emotional fall out that takes longer to recover from. However, there is hope as recovery from career crash is a process.
The eminent anthropologist, Arnold van Gennep, described three universal stages in any passage from one status to another separation, liminality and reincorporation.
In other words give up your old status, stand on the threshold ( can feel like the abyss) for a bit then embrace your new life.
This is easier than it seems. I speak from experience as I gave up my business to write full time. It was a hugely risky decision but in my gut I knew it was what I needed to do.
For those going through this tunnel what can I share with you?
Get out of denial! You’ve been feeling a sense of estrangement from your work for a while. Maybe it has no meaning anymore. Are you doing your job because of parental pressures. ( You can still have the parent in your ear long after you have grown up). Maybe you watched the “History Boys” and the idea of teaching resonated.
Give up blaming. Life happens. It sucks a lot of the time. Put the big pants on as my dear old Dad used to say and get on with it. Negative thinking will get in the way of positive choices.
Investigate all possibilities. Try to resist panicking and going straight into a new job. Seek out the services of a career or life coach. Many offer their services via Skype these days. Be open to suggestions. If you can, take some time out just to hang out for a couple of months or take some part time work while you figure your next move.
Give up identifying yourself with your work. You are more than that. To move on it’s necessary to detach emotionally from clients, colleagues, office gossip and the way things were. Nobody says you have to get your career back on track straight away, if at all – only the voice in your head. Some couples do a role reversal for a while.
People have bigger adjustment problems when self esteem is tied to work and its trappings. I came across a writer in the Lakes recently who told me that from now on she is going to adopt a pseudonym. She wants her work to speak for itself.
Treat a career crash as a new beginning and not an ending. Use the time for self-exploration. Focus on health, family and friends - the things that really matter in life. Try out new hobbies, learn new skills, and push the frontiers a bit. Stop being competitive. Just do it for fun. I don’t know how to draw or paint but I had a go whilst away in the Lake District. I was proud of myself for just trying.
You’re not a failure because you decide to give up being a dentist after 20 years or your job is made redundant. Who cares what people think?! It’s your life and you will do as you please with it. Just take the time and space to heal from the shock and sense of loss and you will be really amazed that whilst it’s a rocky path, the flowers smell wonderful.
( This was originally published in the Isle of Man Examiner business pages)