Deciding to leave my stable and financially comfortable corporate career was probably amongst the hardest decisions I’ve had to make in my life to this day. Doesn’t matter how much you reflect and read about it, it is never easy and it feels different for each person. As I was having a great week doing something I really enjoyed (which wasn’t a holiday), I reflected on what I have learned from changing career almost three years after taking my own leap of faith. Here are my key learnings that will hopefully help those facing the same dilemma I did.
1) It is challenging and takes time. Be patient.
Just because you have taken the decision to make a change, it doesn’t mean things will just fall into place as you wanted them. It is important to have a vision of where you want to take things, but that vision will not come to fruition overnight. Between the decision you are taking and that said vision, there will be courses, education, attempts, mistakes, failures, fear, disappointments, opinions and a mixed bag of emotions. My biggest mistake was thinking that fate would take care of everything and that within three months I would be living my vision as I intended. When that didn’t happen, I started doubting myself and my decision. This is all specially hard for those that were rather successful at what they did. Realise you might have to start at the bottom. To be honest, I am still not yet living the vision I had when I made the decision. In fact, the vision has changed, and that is OK. Which leads to my second point.
2) Where you intended to start is possibly not where you will end up. Be flexible.
Perhaps you made a career change to follow some passion, hobby or interest. Once getting to know things better, you realise that it wasn’t all that you thought it would be. Or, perhaps, another type of opportunity came up and you decided to give that a go, or timings wasn’t quite right. In my case, I left my career with the intention of becoming a scuba diving and sailing instructor in some tropical island and here I am as a career coach and sailing instructor on the weekends. My journey had its many twists and turns and looking back everything served as a stepping stone towards where I want to go. Have a friend who left his career to become a travel journalist and is now doing documentary productions for Natgeo. It is really hard to tell where the journey will take you, so just go with the flow. Be flexible.
3) You will be criticised. Be confident
Get ready to be criticised or discouraged. It is inevitable. Your family, parents, family and peers will project their own values and fears onto you by criticising your decisions. Specially those that have played it safe for all of their uninteresting lives. People are conformists and they will better accept their reality once they see everyone else around them doing the same. In fact, I hate to say this, but deep inside they are hoping you don’t succeed in your new endeavours because if you do, they then have to take responsibility for their mediocre lives. So remember, there is nothing wrong with you, it is just people projecting their own fears.
4) You will get used to uncertainty. Learn to trust.
I remember when I made the decision to leave my career, I cried for a whole weekend. This was a whole nine months before I eventually left my job. I was really struggling with uncertainty. In the past three years, my new life has been full of uncertainty. As a coach, I am unemployed every Monday, as I need to get clients in order to make an income. As a freelance sailing instructor, I only work when there are bookings and the weather is great. If I end up in a job, I don’t like, I don’t hesitate to leave. I have goals and visions for the next six months to a year, but how can I predict the future? I just stick to my goals and let winds and tides do the rest. Keep your mind open and embrace uncertainty. Uncertainty is where opportunity lies.
5) It is all worth it. Be grateful
Yes it is. There is nothing more rewarding than to live a life that YOU chose for yourself. A life that wasn’t prescribed by other people’s dreams, conventions, fears and opinions. Nothing that is really worth it comes easy, but patience is a virtue to be mastered and so is trust. Trust in yourself and the universe to guide you where you can make the most positive impact. When I was there sailing on a vessel owned by a company started by one of my heroes, that is when I thought, “it is all worth it”.
– If you are truly feeling lost, get help. Talk to a career coach or join a support group.
– Do plan, but be flexible with your plans.
– Know your financial reality. Make sure you have at least 3 months buffer to cover your expenses.
– If it doesn’t work, try something different.
Keep It Simple