When I first walked away from my corporate job, I was filled with great excitement and wondered what the next chapter of my life would bring. Who would I meet and where would it take me? I was a single girl with close family ties but nothing holding me down; I literally could go anywhere and try anything. But that was also extremely scary as everything that had come to define me and shape my daily routine was open to change. I found myself starting to question who was the real Kerrie and what did I want and what did I wanted my legacy to be.
The last 15 years of my life had largely been driven by my career, the house I brought its location and having somewhere I could work from home, the car I drove needed to be suitable for long journeys up and down the motorway. If you opened my wardrobe 90% of the clothes were power suits. My personal life was shaped around it; exercise had to be at a gym on my way home from work to make sure I went. I could never socialise on certain days as I would either be staying away for work or have a long journey home. The habits I had created, the routine I had devised had been shaped by work but was all up for grabs.
I can remember feeling a mixture of emotions, excited to reinvent myself but also frightened as I started to explore. Convinced that I was doing the right thing but confused about who I was and what I wanted. Whether you choose to walk away from a job like me, or the decision to leave is made for you such as a redundancy, you can feel as though you have lost part of yourself.
When people ask you what you do, few of us will answer this question with reference to our personal life, we have been socialized to respond with information about our careers. Imagine then, how you would answer this question when you are in that in-between stage. I can remember meeting people and feeling embarrassed when they asked me as I didn’t know how to answer. I would offer this long explanation as though I had to justify myself and validate my existence, that I was worthy of their attention. When your career has been a pivotal part of your life, it is neither surprising nor uncommon that we feel a sense of loss.
Adjusting can be difficult and take time, but it can be an opportunity to build an identity that really is aligned with who you are. When I left university I imagined that my life would follow similar to my mums, I would meet someone and have kids. Gradually through the years, I built a career and relationships would come and go, but because I had not met anybody or had any children the part of my life that was easiest for me to gravitate to and identify myself with was my career. I became regarded by family members as a career-driven person, colleagues recognised me like this too and as a result, I found myself accepting and taking this identity on. However, what I have come to learn is that we have multiple identities; but the one I ended up sharing with the outside world was my career.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, yes it can be daunting but also it’s an opportunity to rediscover yourself and figure out exactly what you want from life. I didn’t want to be on my own, I didn’t want to go up the career ladder. I wanted to help others; I wanted to spend my time with people I cared about, I wanted to take my grandmother out for tea and cake and be the crazy aunty who my niece and nephews wanted to spend time with. Yes, I wanted a career, but I wanted a career that would enable me to achieve these things.
What I learned is this:
Let go of the past – It’s ok to feel lost, you will figure it out. To move forward though you have to let go of the past. That was another chapter of your life and you have an opportunity to write the next one so that it’s even better than the last.
Take control of shaping your future – You can choose to let others determine what you do next but you know you best and what will make you happy. Take time to get clear on what you want, who you want to be and what you want to be able to do. Once you have this clarity you can then build your life to help you move towards your ideal.
Get support – We all have that friend who believes in us and makes us feel like we can achieve anything. Talk to this person and share with them how you are feeling, don’t be scared to voice your concerns they don’t need to be your dirty secret. Let them help you right-size them and move forward. Knowing that we are not alone is powerful.
So what’s my new identity? I like to think its multifaceted partner, step mum, family member, friend, business owner, career coach, but most of all I want people to smile when they think of me because I made a positive difference to them.
Sometimes we need an independent person to help us figure out the next step in our careers. Someone who has walked in your shoes and understands the emotional journey you are going through. If you would like to know how I can support you through your career change and help you find a career that fits you then get in touch.