How To Handle Life And Career Transitions Like A Boss

May 26, 2016  |  



If it is difficult for you to roll out of bed because you are dreading the office, then you might need a career change. And oftentimes, career changes come with lifestyle changes.

Selena Sage, a former L.A.-based engineer working at one of the top international firms, understood this. Though she was climbing the corporate ladder and traveling the world–North America, South America, Europe, and Asia–she wasn’t fully satisfied. At one point, she took a break from the rat race, recouped and eventually entered another demanding position, but she still wasn’t fully settled spiritually.

During a trip to Asia at that time, Sage started writing a book, Meditative Questions: Zen + Tao Inspired, a 140-page coffee table read that includes thought-provoking questions aimed at leading readers to a deeper spiritual awareness. She launched her own publishing company, Zentao Books, as well. She figured she’d take another break from work to promote it, but the break led to a major career and lifestyle change–one that landed her in Africa, where she now calls home.

“I actually wrote the book while I was still in Corporate America in March 2015 when I was in Asia on a business trip, and I returned in April and started a publishing company, designed, and printed the book,” she explained. “During all of this I came to the realization that I really didn’t want to stay in Corporate America; it was just a toxic environment for me. So in October 2015, a week after I got all the copies of the book, I decided to take a leave from my job and spent the time promoting the book and doing speaking engagements.”

While the need for a professional change of pace may seem abrupt, the desire actually doesn’t come out of the blue. There are always signs, explained life coach Erica Glessing, CEO of Happy Publishing. “You aren’t energized going to work; you are dissatisfied with your job; you find yourself embroiled in arguments or sticky situations with the people around you (your boss or your assistant are the most common); and your money situation is changing, you get fired or you get laid off.”

When it comes to wanting to make changes in your personal life, the signs are similar. “You have a sudden energy loss, or lack of energy to do what it takes to thrive; you find yourself at odds with people in your world; you don’t even know yourself anymore. You are reacting differently than you used to react to everything; and your money situation is changing, you get fired or you get laid off. This is characteristic of both career and life changes,” Glessing added.

Most find that career satisfaction and happiness are only truly achieved when you articulate what you really want. “Having a career and life vision gives you the ability to see your work and career — what you do and where you do it — in a way that is personally meaningful, stimulating, inspiring, and fulfilling, and in alignment with who you are,” reported the Graduate School of Business at Stanford.

That’s exactly what Sage discovered. “I knew I wanted more of a zen lifestyle, and working for myself is something that would give me this–as well as moving to such a beautiful place such as Santo Antão, Cabo Verde.”

While you may separate your life from your career, transitions in these areas often coincide, explained Efe Cierkowski. “They are typically prompted by the same underlying issues.  And once those underlying issues are confronted, the result is an evaluation of all aspects of one’s life, prompting several changes.” Efe walked away from a six-figure salary career at ADP to follow her heart and open A Sip of Art, a BYOB art class studio in West Orange, NJ. “The key to a life transition is your ability to be honest with yourself and to be specific. You have to be able to define what you want to transition and why.”

Examine your current situation as compared to your goals. Do they coincide? If not, start thinking about how to achieve your goals. “Make a list of goals or actions you want to take. Be detailed.  Go over the list a few times to make sure you have been open with yourself,” offered Stephanie Holland, founder of Performance Life Coaching. And don’t just list items, think about why you are listing them. “Check your motives,” she added. “If you are planning on moving make sure you’re going to something and not running away. Remember you still move with you when you relocate.”

Cierkowski found she needed to look inward and figure out not only what she need a change, but “why” she needed it. She advised others to “determine your why? Evaluate the current situation and figure out exactly what the root issues are for your discontent.

“Determine if it is something you can stay and work on.  You have to be sure you are making a transition for the right reasons.  Lastly, figure out your ‘Why.’  Some great questions to figure out answers to are: What and who are you doing this for, Why do you have to do this; and why NOW.”

Once you know why, you have to figure out the how. “Have a plan,” Cierkowski said. “This might mean creating a budget to enable you to save more ’emergency fund’ money.  Or it might mean enrolling for a class to brush up on or develop new skills. Or setting up a structure or routine at home to support the new role you are going for.”

With a plan in place, it’s a must you take a leap and do. “When December 2015 came around I decided I still didn’t want to go back to Corporate America and I decided to make a major life change I visited Cabo Verde and loved it. I decided I wanted to move here. Surprisingly it was a very easy decision,” Sage recalled. The author returned to the States with a deadline of a month to move. She sold a majority of her belongings, packed up, visited with family and friends, and then made the move to an apartment overlooking the sea in Cabo Verde in March 2016. And while she is still settling in, the plan is to open a business that will align with her Zen-inspired lifestyle.

While Sage made a quick transition, she did have a process, as should anyone making such a change. “Figure out what the most important tasks are and prioritize those,” Cierkowski suggested. “Focus on the critical tasks that you must do yourself and determine what can be outsourced or put on the back-burner. Stay connected to your support system and ask for help when you need it.”

You also don’t have to make your change a permanent one right away. “I would advise [trying] what you want to do while you are still working–test drive your dream,” said Sage. “Say you want to open a bakery, for example, you can sell out of your garage; you don’t need a storefront right away. This gives you a chance to try out your idea. The next piece of advice is to try and live below your means because saving is very smart for any kind of career change.”

And remember not to push yourself too hard in the process. Cierkowski found out how necessary pacing herself was when she was opening her new business and leaving her corporate career behind. “Make time for your rest and recuperation. That has to be a priority.  You need to schedule time to work out, even if it is just a short 15-minute walk around the neighborhood, schedule it and do it consistently. Schedule time for some quiet downtime as well as time for fun.  You need it,” she shared.

Ultimately, the process could and should be very satisfying. It certainly has been for Sage. “I think I feel a sense of freedom that I never have before. [The move] has allowed me to focus more on living than working. Don’t let fear keep you from moving forward. Remember, you can always go back. And the experience you gain when taking a risk such as a life change will make you even more valuable in the workplace.”


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