“Reinvent yourself!” is an advice expat spouses are often told when they cannot find a job in Switzerland. You are a typical Gen X professional in New York, London, Frankfurt or Mumbai and in your 30ies or 40ies. You have a career image stamped on yourself.
At parties you say “I’m a Senior Consultant / Director / Lawyer / Doctor / Scientist” and with that you talk about the pleasure of long-distance travel in times of terrorism or you mention that your partner is away too often and that the kids know the nanny better than their parents.
Your professional reputation has fueled your ego and you did everything to improve it. You attended courses, webinars, conferences, networking events and you read everything you could about the topic on your commute to work. Not to mention that you had a routine of ensuring that your social media profiles reflected your success only and you ensured your name was published at least once a year.
Then out of the blue (or even because of following a long-term idea), your spouse gets a job offer in Basel, Switzerland or your job is outsourced to Pune, India. After the initial excitement or shock, you start to consider what a career change means for you right now. You might even consult blogs and books on the matter. From one day to the next, you worry about your branding as a professional. And you might even notice that you don’t really know what you want.
It is not so easy to find out what you want so I recommend you work with a career coach to develop a vision of your next role and probably a long-term career vision too. What I personally found even harder though is to let go of my old career image. I had acquired a status in HR and in my new roles I felt like a beginner again. In our cultural context here in Switzerland we say “Schuster bleib bei Deinen Leisten!” (Cobbler, stick to your last!). We are discouraged from changing our chosen career path.
Break in Your new Career Image
We know well that a shoe we have worn for a while is comfortable. A new shoe often feels too tight or too big for us to fill. If you imagine now you have to get out of your patent leather shoe and into a hiking boot that is comparable to the change you are going through.
You need to break your career boot in. You might know already consciously that the hiking boot is more practical, fits better to your personality and has more value on icy mountain grounds but you still feel the burden of a heavier shoe.
Let go of your old career image in seven steps
You need to throw your old patent leather shoe into the mental “Altkleidercontainer” (the recycling bank for old clothes and shoes). Here are seven ideas how you can do that.
- Write down all the advantages of the hiking boot. Think of every aspect of your new career and how it will look and feel. Run a meticulous research. Interview industry experts and speak to friends who work in this area.
- Work in your hiking boot, at least, one of two days a week by volunteering or finding a cause in this profession worth supporting. Get a consulting project before you commit full-time.
- Pretend you are already experienced in walking with the hiking boot, attend seminars and networking events wearing a batch with your new role on it and have business cards printed.
- Update all your biographies, social media profiles, and websites and show that you are wearing the boot already. Mention your new role and functional title. Be the career you want to be.
- Leave post-its in your office, in the bathroom and at home with a visual anchor. For example, if you want to become a scientist working in the pharma industry you could jot down a logo of a company that you find attractive or a picture of you with security glasses.
- Develop a space that signifies “productive work” in your new career for you. It could be an office or an area on your kitchen table. Make sure that this area is reserved for work in your new career only.
- Write down the story of your ideal client, someone who will depend on the results or fruits of your new labor. Who is that person, what is important to that person and how does this person live?
These are seven ideas how can let go of your old career image. Do let us know in the comments how you are handling it.