Superstar tennis player Serena Williams recently announced that she is shifting her time from sport to venture capitalism. While Williams still has the power to make a big difference in the sports world, she stressed that her new role will allow her to have more time and flexibility to be with her family, a decision that PEW says Many women have taken the last few years amid the pandemic and the Great Resignation.
Women are beginning to feel empowered to make bold career changes that benefit both their personal and professional lives, but many are still navigating this new territory. In 2019, a study conducted by InHerSight found that 73% of women are interested in a career change, and many are interested in switching industries entirely. In 2022, a study by Deloitte Global confirmed these ongoing trends by finding that more women will be looking for a new role in 2022 than in 2021, with more than half of the 5,000 women surveyed across 10 countries saying they hope to find their employer in the workplace next year to leave 2 years.
My 15+ years of work and research have shown that women aspire to take bolder steps, but struggle to translate those aspirations into action. As I discuss in Start bold, this gap between striving and doing is due to numerous factors, including “confrontation with self-doubt and endless analysis of work-case scenarios and outcomes”. These factors can contribute to women choosing the comfort of the known over the uncertainty of a career change.
But bold and brilliant careers are not made by playing it safe. Here are three tips on how to strategically approach a career change:
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Crystallize a motivation that matters
Answer the question, “What’s my why?” In other words, “What’s my motivation for changing careers?” Find out what’s important to you and identify a motivation that really matters. Serena was clear about her desire to spend more time with family. Remember, if it doesn’t really matter, it won’t really motivate you.
The harsh reality: Doubt and fear are inevitable with career changes. The question is not whether we will feel these emotions, but how we will recognize them and still make progress.
One of the best tactics for getting through times of doubt is to refocus on why. When you develop motivation that matters, it will help you overcome barriers to career transition. Motivation keeps momentum.
Consider the possible consequences of inaction
Instead of just asking, “What happens if I make a career change?” Also ask, “What happens if I don’t?”.
Inaction comes with a high cost that we often overlook. Because of the way our human brains are wired, we tend to evaluate the pros and cons of action rather than inaction.
However, when evaluating an opportunity, this is a mistake that skews our behavior towards seeing a career change as more risky than it is without considering the costs of not making a bold move.
As you approach a career change, make sure you assess the rewards and costs of both taking action and not taking action.
What is the potential reward for this career change? What is the potential reward for not making this career change? What is the reward I wish to reap?
What is the cost of this career change? What does it cost not to make this career change? What price am I willing to pay?
On the other side of opportunity is opportunity cost. Time is not infinite and all decisions have trade-offs. Everything you say yes to has an opportunity cost. Understanding this allows for better decision-making. Taking this opportunity, what do you possibly need to say no to? What do you perhaps no longer have time for? What other options do you have to give up? What don’t you leave room for? Understanding and accepting the trade-offs is essential to intelligent and strategic risk-taking.
Put together your endgame plan
When working with clients who are considering a career change, I emphasize that it is not about taking a career risk to minimize the likelihood of a negative outcome or loss. Instead, it’s about proactively preparing for a set of outcomes.
Instead of trying to reduce the risk of failure, put your energy into creating a plan for failure. If you’ve never failed, you’re not brave enough to take career risks.
Women who have successfully taken risks have some philosophies that they rely on. One is to always have a backup plan. When the risk isn’t enough, they have ideas on how to correct course, whether it’s by changing companies or returning to their previous position, or by using their savings and support network. They think about what they can do to improve the situation when their shift isn’t going well.
When you plan ahead for all possible outcomes, you’re taking an intelligent risk! If you lose ground or regress, that’s okay. If you’re prepared and have a contingency plan in place, you’ll still make strides you wouldn’t have made had you played it safe.
A top tennis player has a strategy for every game she plays, and her career game is no different. Like Serena, a strategic approach to career change can help you bridge the gap between your goals and your actions, and build a bold and brilliant career on your own terms. The ball is yours.
Christie Hunter Arscott is an award-winning consultant, speaker, and author of Begin Boldly: How Women Can Reimagine Risk, Embrace Uncertainty, and Launch A Brilliant Career. Christie is a leading expert on how we can harness the power of conscious risk-taking to create more dynamic and vibrant careers and organizations. Christie, a Rhodes Fellow, was named by Thinkers50 as one of the top management thinkers likely to shape the future of the business.
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