Career change: packing your own parachute

by | 31 October 2021 | Career development

Not all career change comes easily, even for those with a self-directed mindset. Executive coaching maximises efforts and reaps dividends.

During your early career moves no doubt you knew when you had peaked? You’d had an accelerated learning curve, performed for a year or more at your optimum level and knew it was time to move on, seeking new learning and new challenges ahead.  You found it relatively easy to let go of your sense of belonging to one organisation, package up your skills and expertise, apply for and land the new role of your choice.  To a great extent, the solution to career change and challenge lay externally.  And even better, you realised that you’d got a formula that worked and which could be repeated.  So far so good.

After several of these cycles, career moves can become more tricksy.  Let’s face it, everything changes.  You are no longer as young as you were, you have taken on more responsibility in work as well as outside, the stakes feel very much higher making you more aware of the impact of your career change both on yourself and on others.  At this point there is a real risk of entering the Career Doldrums.  Another move, whether sideways, upwards, within or beyond your current organisation doesn’t give you the high energy rewards that previous moves did and carries significant risk in terms of life disruption and your intrinsic sense of reward and of self.  An awareness of feeling stuck and sad is often an indicator of where you’ve got to.

I bet you’ve heard you should follow your passion? This common piece of advice for those contemplating career change has recently been revealed to be ultimately pretty unrewarding.  Goering and Li’s research published in 2021 identifies only marginal gains in happiness if you follow this advice solely, and suggests you should proceed with caution as far as your passions are concerned.  They are equally guarded about the “mobility mindset” – the constant search for new opportunities whilst ignoring the qualities of your current situation and the impact on your reputation of frequent role change.  Their top recommendation is to take control of your career, to “pack your own parachute”, for which you’ll need a self-directed mindset.

Good news. Being self-directed doesn’t mean doing all the leg – and brain – work alone.  The exploration of what it means to direct your own career, to identify your passions, to discover what kind of work renews or depletes your energy, is often best done in company!  Working with an executive coach can benefit you in many ways.  Primarily, a coach can take responsibility for the process that you are going through.  In order for time spent directing your career to be fruitful and effective, there needs to be process, but it’s hard to get started when you don’t know what you don’t know!  You can rely on your coach to guide the stages of your journey as well as make concrete contributions to your thinking.  This might include raising your awareness of your thought patterns, identifying your strengths, values, beliefs and blind spots, as well as building your reflective muscles and your confidence.

Warning: serious but enjoyable activity lies ahead! In their book LifeLaunch, McLean and Hudson refer to this serious investigative, exploratory development process as “Cocooning”.  If your idea of a cocoon is soft, silky or even padded and cotton-wool like, think again!  Inside that protective layer, a process of transformation takes place which requires intense activity.  Whilst there’s only room for one inside the cocoon, the external perspective provided by a coach keeps you focussed on your goal of self direction, and ensures that you are supported through the highs and lows of the journey.

If you suspect you’re heading into the career doldrums, do get in touch to find out how executive coaching can help you make the world of work work for you.

With thanks to the following people for their thoughts, words and pictures:

Image (c) Tomas Sobek on Unsplash

Goering, D. D., and Li C. S., (2021) Putting Common Career Advice to the Test, HBR, available at (Accessed 31 October 2021)

McLean P. D., and Hudson, F. M., (2011) LifeLaunch: A Passionate Guide to the Rest of Your Life. 5th edition. Tennessee.  Ingram